Prius Personal Log #925
March 3, 2019 - March 8, 2019
Last Updated: Sun. 5/12/2019
page #924 page #926 BOOK INDEX
Kicking Gas. I'm on the offense now, unwilling to put
up with nonsense like this anymore: "They've been all over my twitter
feed with the “self-charging hybrid” and “doesn’t need to be plugged in”
rhetoric; I see no reason to forgive them if they change their tune."
It comes from the group-think that pushes a narrative so hard, that draws
attention and stirs participation... which contributes heavily toward media
sources catering to that particular audience. They thrive on the
obsession to feed traffic. It's a vicious cycle. I still
remember many, many years back how a well-hated antagonist attempted to
dismiss the influence such propaganda could have. He was using logic,
not realizing it was a situation driven by emotion. Needless to say,
that daily blog for Volt became such an influence... which led to a
self-destruct on an incredible level. No one expected GM to drive off
of a cliff in such a dramatic manner. Well, not everyone. I saw
it coming, simply by looking far enough ahead.... as this same circumstance
is playing out:
Change their tune? It's called marketing.
Toyota is currently targeting their customers who would otherwise just purchase a traditional Corolla or RAV4. Later, when battery cost drops enough to compete directly with those same traditional vehicles, we will also see advertisements for plug-in models. That's how traditional vehicles will be phased out. Hybrids will be available, side-by-side in dealers lots, as a choice along with the plug-in.
The short-sightedness of those who feel a legacy automaker must sell only a single product and send a single message is truly astounding. Don't they know anything about economics? A key to strong business is to diversify. That's absolutely essential when dealing with very high volume and lots of repeat customer opportunity.
Do you really expect them to turn their backs on the short-term & mid-term to focus exclusively on long-term? That's what many would consider unforgiveable. How does conveying an approach of "we're focusing on plug-ins you cannot afford" retain the loyalty of those shopping for a vehicle today help?
When I hear complaints about "self-charging", I see the hypocritical stance people take about turning a blind-eye to the guzzler advertisements we see everyday. How is that blatant disregard for seeing the whole picture constructive?
Stop whining and embrace change. So what if it doesn't take the path you want? It's still change for the better. Toyota is delivering well over 1,000,000 vehicles annually that utilize electricity for propulsion. So what if it doesn't use a plug yet? It's a very effective means of lowering emissions immediately and staging a wide array of customers for their next purchase to be a plug-in.
The attitude of early-adopters who cannot see beyond the reach of tax-credits has created a group of enthusiasts who really don't understand mainstream consumers. They have no idea what their purchase priorities are or how their approach to buying a new vehicle is influenced.
Patience. Some people don't have any. Some don't understand it's necessary. Some simply don't pay attention. You decide. Here's a sample: "Toyota management when full group-think on hydrogen fuel-cells. They haven't given up yet but it finally looks like they are at least hedging their bet by offering some EVs." That change of stance impression is easy to get if you haven't been following along closely. But then again, it's easy to not know how long things take or how much is involved. Whatever the case, that's what I face on a regular basis. Dealing with it is a challenge. You don't want any particular narrative to get out of control. People tend to take things at face value, rather than bothering to ask for detail. That feeds upon itself, where they just trust others have. I like to point out what gets overlooked: No, the group-think came from here. We have heard the narrative of one-solution-for-all so long, people don't question it anymore. Reality is, there will be a place for hydrogen and using a niche market as a test-bed is a wise move. Toyota has developed a very efficient EV system as a result, a carryover no one can deny. That 151hp traction-motor from Mirai would work great in an EV model of Prius or C-HR. Its vapor-injected heat-pump is already used in Prius Prime. So... what's wrong with spreading the technology as the price of batteries finally becomes competitive with traditional vehicles? It's really sad that group-think has such a powerful influence. Notice how just about everyone has turned a blind-eye to tax-credit dependency. How is that in anyway constructive? Who's willing to pay an unsubsidized price? Do you really expect the legacy automakers to sell at a loss? There are no bets to be hedged. Toyota has simply been refining their technology while battery advancements draw closer and closer to a competitive level. Remember, profitably selling over 10 million vehicles per year isn't by accident. It takes careful planning and a lot of patience.
Info Bits. Every now any then, a tiny nugget leads to the discover of massive treasure. Most enthusiasts don't bother following the opportunity. That's why they aren't supporters. They don't invest. No research means having little information to work with. Even a tiny bit of info can be a clue to more useful material. Other times, you strike gold simply by reading what other share. I was delighting to have this handed to me: "Toyota is able to produce enough batteries for 28,000 electric vehicles each year - or for 1.5 million hybrid cars." It came from Toyota's vice president of research and development for Europe. Here's the rest of that quote: "Put another way, the company is generating a more positive environmental impact by selling many times more gas-electric hybrid cars than it would by selling far fewer EVs (and therefore, far more fully gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles), while also providing its customers more practical vehicles (because of no range or charging anxieties) at more affordable prices. There are only so many batteries to go around, after all." That really makes you think, doesn't it?
Mitsubishi. As this automaker quickly approaches their 200,000 sale of the Outlander plug-in hybrid (after 6 years of availability, mostly elsewhere), news of an another emerged in the form of an Engelberg concept. That's a larger SUV, not available here I believe. Timeline was limited to a "in the next few years comment" without anything else. But from such a small automaker and not betting the farm like GM did with Volt, that's quite a different situation. In fact, it's taking the next step GM never did... rolling out to other vehicles after having upgraded the technology. It's progress without hype. What a concept... and a really bad pun. Sorry.
Jeep PHEVs. From the Geneva Autoshow, we got news about a Renegade & Compass plug-in hybrid coming to market. Neither is expected to be offered in the United States though. There's a possibility of becoming available later, but we are clearly not a favorable rollout location. This is the type of fallout some feared when GM first stated intentions with Volt. Having a repeat of the diesel debacle was a genuine concern. Decades back, GM screwed up so bad, it soured the entire market. With the mess they created now, it is obvious that history repeated. After 8 years and 153,000 sales here, most consumers have no clue how it actually works. So much confusion was created by the haphazard approach, Jeep isn't even going to bother debuting here. Other markets will get initial rollout instead. Remember how the United States was once the expected leader for legacy change? Anywho, the plans are to rollout both next year in various locations around the world. Plug-In capacity is thought to be 31 miles. That would pretty much mimic what we see now from Chrysler Pacifica. That totally makes sense. Spreading the technology to other vehicles is exactly what GM should have done... but failed to. Though likely expensive and not available here, it is still nice seeing electrification progress from other automakers.
Affordability. I was absolutely delighted to find this question in a post following the attempted attack: "If *affordability* is the key, then why does the Prius Prime keep losing to the significantly-more-expensive Clarity PHEV in sales volume?" It came from one of those who simply ignores the rhetoric, an individual wanting to keep progress moving along... not allowing antagonists to have a voice. I was pleased to contribute to the constructive discussion: Early-Adopter sales... those subsidized by tax-credits ...are not how you measure success. It's what happens after that stage, since that is when each plug-in faces their true competition. Clarity must compete with other Hondas on the dealers showroom floor, as Prius Prime must with other Toyotas. Anyone who thinks plug-in vehicles will compete with each other is out of touch with how brand loyal the typical buyer is. If there is any type of cross-shopping, it will likely be for a bargain on used traditional vehicle. In other words, you must look beyond "EV market" short-sightedness. That demand is just low-hanging fruit. The reality of high-volume profitable sales which can be sustained for years to come will most definitively rely upon affordability. Appealing to ordinary consumers depends upon it.
No Audience. That extreme antagonist appeared again. It was interesting to see how angry he was. I still had an audience. Some people are taking the time to ask questions. All he was ever able to do was stir group-think by spreading lies and attacking the messenger. So, he tried the same again. No one cared. I'm not sure if anyone still see those claims as accurate anymore or if they just aren't interested in rhetoric that doesn't accomplish anything. My guess is the death of his beloved Volt without any successor serves as proof that blind hope doesn't always work. GM's failure to advance broke the faith of even those most devoted. Some of the comments from former die-hard supporters make that all too clear. They accused Prius supporters of drinking the koolaid only later to realize they were wearing rose-colored glasses, which made the harmless water appear to be something bad. That's what happens when you approach something with a cult-like attitude. You get pulled in so deep, you don't notice as people leave... then eventually discover you no longer have an audience.
Voices From Long Ago. It's never a surprise when old foes come back for another battle: "What happened to those “self-charging” toyota hybrids which need filling like any regular car for the last century or two." Most of the time, they simply get ignored. Others recognize them as troublemakers and don't even bother. It's usually a wasted effort. They just plain don't care. They just want to win a battle. That's why time spent on your part baffles them. They don't see the bigger picture, how being patient and not embracing a want can be problematic. In other words, they don't recognize need. It's all about fulfilling their own particular desire. This is the reason most have no idea what I'm talking about. Being unfamiliar with a ubiquitous product will do that, since they only see the standout. In fact, that has always been the reason Prius wasn't correctly understood. Being blind to why it appealed to the masses prevented them from ever supporting something that would be able to grow beyond just a niche. Their priorities were mutually exclusive to what enables high-volume sales. Put simply, they were doomed from the start. I've always known that, hence the fascination with their self-deprecating efforts. That's why I try to keep responses to the extreme of those brief, as with today's encounter... with an ironic twist, pointing out acknowledgement of knowing who: Automakers must offer a variety of choices. To have a strong business (profitable & sustainable), diversification is required. The belief that all advertisements must send the identical message is a greenwash narrative. All customers are not the same. Again, know your audience.
Repeating Mistakes. Some people never learn: "They should have put in a larger battery and make use of the full 7.5k" I'm somewhat surprised to see that still. Oh well. Maybe they'll finally figure it out that really isn't a good idea: Those tax-credits are for each automaker to establish an offering to appeal to their own customers. GM wasted that opportunity by going after conquest sales. Suggesting Toyota should do the same is a terrible idea. Prius Prime already delivers a full electric-only driving experience. So what if the current battery-capacity doesn't serve the entire market. There are more than enough customers who will purchase this current offering. As the cost for more battery drops, more can be added later. That's a normal expectation for generation improvement. Reality is, Toyota is brave to take the risk of keeping the configuration affordable. Remember, the goal is to get people to stop buying traditional vehicles, not to drive electric-only. Having an engine run on longer trips is the point of it being a plug-in hybrid. Adaptation of the HSD system to us a larger battery-pack and a plug significantly reduces gas consumption. In my case, I'm averaging 125 MPG, despite several long highway trips per year and the cold winters of Minnesota.
Reliability. The bigger picture is difficult for many to see, especially when there's such an impatience growing. One of the more difficult things to establish that takes a lot of time is reliability. We saw the benefits of quiet rollout to smaller markets really pay off with the early days of Prius. Anticipating the same approach to be taken with Prime should be obvious; yet, many don't. That's probably from not knowing the history. So, we have to just point out the basics instead: "The Prime is also rated 5/5, much better than average, on reliability, which is better than Tesla or Honda." I was pleased to see that. It's those types of subtle endorsements from others that really go a long way. I added this to that discussion: There will be opportunity for Prius going forward. Toyota is already working on their all-electric reliability. Prime is demonstrating battery-pack confidence and Mirai uses a 152 hp traction-motor that would be really sweet for an EV model of Prius. It's basically just a matter of reaching a tipping-point with cost of cells, the rest is being established now.
Big Plans. What's worse, the short-sightedness or the single-mindedness? Having to deal with either is a pain: "RAV4-H is priced very affordably and they expect 25% of sales of RAV4 to be Hybrid. So they have big plans on hybrid, but not on plugin." I keep pointing out what they don't see... or don't want to see: Evidence is to the contrary. The recent next-gen upgrade of RAV4 positions it well for adding a plug. Remember what it took to make Prius a plug-in? Adding a one-way clutch was the only change to the functional part. That provided a means of delivering higher speed and more power to the existing setup, which plays a major role toward making it affordable. Sharing a large percentage of the components with the hybrid model is key, since it can take advantage of economy-of-scale cost-reduction. At that point, all you have to do is increase battery-capacity by adding stacks. And of course, include a plug. So, seeing RAV4 line-up reduce the number of traditional models and increase the number of battery-related choices is quite realistic.
GM History. I made sure some of it wouldn't fade away
GM knew an entire decade ago, back when Volt was still just being designed. Proof of that is the goal they set for pricing "nicely under $30,000". The reason for that goal was obvious even way back then. To be competitive with traditional vehicles, it had to be priced similarly.
GM saw the challenge Toyota, Ford, and Honda had with the "hybrid premium" obstacle for sales. Reaching mainstream consumers meant the hybrid system had to cost minimized, since most shoppers expected to break even. Sadly, that return on investment puts zero value on environment benefit. But that is the reality of the market.
GM failing to minimize cost enough to reach that goal became a very real problem when Nissan aimed for the same target and came mighty close, then Toyota actually delivered. Following that came Hyundai/Kia striving for that too. They all knew how important affordability would be without tax-credits.
GM deciding to abandon PHEV in favor of EV was obvious even before rollout. Emphasis on range, rather than being affordable, made that change of purpose all too clear. Notice how Cruze & Equinox got diesel rollouts instead of adopting the technology used by Volt? Adding Trax & Blazer as new SUV choices only made the bad situation even worse.
GM enthusiasts have become silent. Their exclamations of leadership & superiority have been humbled to... hopefully... a sense of objectivity. It sure would be nice for them to join the other players now, those who see beyond just the "EV Market", finally taking the problem of appealing to ordinary shoppers seriously.
Better Economy. What would you do upon encountering greenwash claims like this: "Better economy and reliability with the Tesla vs. the Prime, and the Clarity? Sure, fuel economy is better..." The same question of intent must be raised, yet again. Is the person poorly informed or intentionally attempting to mislead? Whether you find out the answer really doesn't make much difference in the end, since the damage is done regardless. The response could at least help prevent further spreading... if what you post is actually read afterward. The initial impact is felt regardless. It's quite frustrating. I posted this in return: Don't mix up range with efficiency. Electricity consumption-rating tells the real story. 25 kWh/100 mi = Prius Prime; 26 kWh/100 mi = Model 3 long-range; 27 kWh/100 mi = Model 3 mid-range; 29 kWh/100 mi = Model 3 AWD.