Prius Personal Log #937
April 29, 2019 - May 2, 2019
Last Updated: Sun. 5/12/2019
page #936 page #938 BOOK INDEX
Change. Most people simply don't pay close enough
attention to notice how change actually takes place. It occurs over a
long course of time, but they don't notice it until something grabs their
attention. In other words, they don't seek it out. That quest
would reveal the components at play, leading to an understanding of
influences & barriers. Instead, it is usually something like this: "Afterwards, when I had time
to reflect, I realized at least for me that was a ridiculous adventure to go
through to buy a car. One I will never consider again."
That was the comment posted following a chaotic hunt to find a Prime to
purchase. It's what happens when you jump without any preparation.
I sounded off, knowing he had already made up his mind, but to properly
follow up with the on-going discussion and to give others something to
Having mainstream expectations during this early-adopter stage will inevitably lead to disappointment. You need to be realistic about timeline. Paradigm shifts do not happen overnight. The industry is still just introducing first choices, experimenting with configurations while very much depending upon subsidies to get established. We are many years away from the ordinary customer shopping experience.
With the case of Prius Prime specifically, we know there's a mid-cycle update on the way for 2020. That means there's no benefit to ramping up inventory of the outgoing model... especially when you take the Osborne Effect into account. Making matters worse, the industry itself is faced with having to deal with fallout from Innovator's Dilemma... specifically the problem GM created by making Volt too specialized, causing market confusion in the process.
Think about what it takes to build vehicles requiring large quantities of product not scaled-up yet for high-volume. (Toyota sells over 10 Million new vehicles annually.) Think about what it takes to ensure salespeople & mechanics are well informed about the new product you are rolling out. That's a monumental challenge to do it right. Also making it both competitive and profitable requires a lot of time.
That everyday shopping experience you hope for will happen, eventually. Look at what happened with hybrids. You can now go to a Toyota dealer and choose between several different choices. Deciding between a hatchback (Prius), 3 different sizes of sedan (Corolla, Camry, Avalon), and 2 different sizes of SUV (RAV4 & Highlander) is now totally realistic. We will likely be getting the C-HR hybrid here in the not-too-distant future as well. All that took awhile though. T he same will be the case for plug-in hybrids.
What other legacy automakers will be offering anything in quantity anytime soon?
Expectations. Sadly, the reply back was one of little substance: "I do think Toyota's position as the acknowledged pioneer and industry leader in this technology has been diminished by their own doing - to my disappointment." This is where knowing your audience is necessary. Posting online among enthusiasts who border on crazy-fanboys from time to time, you really need to be aware how little they represent mainstream consumers. So when supposed controversy comes up, remind yourself how the typical consumer most likely will never be part of any of that. In fact, most what even understand what the supposed problem was. They'll just simply see the outcome as what was an obvious step forward. In reality, it's never that clear. This is why expectations must be set. No clarity about that path forward, no progress can be made. For this, we must define what "success" is. That's why I always ask for goals. It helps identify scope & timeline. The topic of "leader" is so vague, it could mean anything. We see that too. Different people have different definitions. So, what they expect differs. I made sure it was quite clear from my perspective: How leadership is defined is based upon product life-cycle. Upon the early stages (low volume, high cost), it is a reasonable expectation for a large manufacturer to be a pioneer. But as the product matures (several generations later), the expectation changes. Upon that later stage, it switches (high volume, low cost). Toyota is very much pushing to be the leader in that regard.
Real Change? Raising doubt is standard practice for
when attempting to undermine. When successful, that sentiment will be
passed along by others. For example: "I am beginning to wonder if
these vehicles aren't a publicity stunt or an attempt to carefully impact
overall fleet mpg rather than a true vehicle marketing attempt."
This is especially easy to see as the approach of an announcement nears.
In this case, we just cleared the fallout related to Volt & Bolt. That
first month of phaseout sales were just reported. With the tax-credit
no longer an option GM could exploit, it cleared the way for Toyota to take
a turn. In simply made no sense getting involved with those actions of
the past which clearly didn't pursue real change. Toyota's choice to
avoid that is one I wholeheartedly welcome. I spelled out the
That narrative is making the rounds. It's easy to get sucked into the belief of that being the case too... if you aren't familiar with Toyota's history.
The practice of intentionally limiting rollout is what we saw with Prius even before it rolled out here in the United States. That extremely limited offering, only available in Japan, actually had a plug. It was quickly dropped, since battery-tech of the time offered very little capacity to take advantage of. In fact, the rollout in the United States was came with an entirely new pack... so significant of an upgrade, it should have been called a full generation. Switching from D-cell packaging to prismatic was a really big deal. But back then, no one cared. It was just labeled as a mid-cycle update, despite the pack change, the screen changing from button to touch, the engine gaining more power, and the look itself changing.
That's not even the point of the story either. It was that Toyota continued to hold back. Cruise-Control was intentionally not included, a way of deterring those who weren't absolutely interested in purchasing a Prius. After all, there was no tax-credit back then. You could only get a tax-deduction, which equated to about $350 for most people. It was a blatant effort to attract only the devoted. We proved it too, by confirming cruise-control was part of the system already, only the stalk with interface buttons was left off... which you could have the dealer add later, if you were so inclined.
Toyota wasn't targeting mainstream consumers yet. They used early rollout as an opportunity to collect real-world data. This is why they felt free to experiment with Prius Prime. Knowing that it would only be offered in specific areas, feedback from those markets could be studied without having to re-educate later, should big changes be offered in a mid-cycle update. After all, Toyota knew GM was using Volt as a publicity stunt by attracting conquest sales with tax-credits, not even trying to draw interest from their own loyal customers. That meant Toyota has lots of time available. So, we saw this first half of Prime's product-cycle with a middle-seat swapped out for an arm-rest with storage and the cargo-area raised to offer more capacity.
That choice resulted in valuable real-world data. All that telematic activity provided a vital understanding of how the system would operate in true driving conditions, but without interfering with upgrade & diversification efforts underway at their dealers. Remember, it's about changing the entire fleet, the whole product-line, not just offering a token vehicle. That has gone well, as we see the upgrades to Camry & RAV4 hybrids and the introduction of Corolla hybrid taking place. At the same time, there's some tweaks to Prius Prime on the way.
In other words, taking the time to consider the bigger picture along a larger timeline, you can see what Toyota is really doing.
Ice Spin. Witnessing the anticipation of bad news is always interesting. We should be getting news of April sales today. That's the first month GM faced with a 50% reduction of tax-credits. Everyone knew Volt was doomed, but few enthusiasts were willing to acknowledge the destructive path it was on until the outcome was undeniable. Their hope of a miracle was far too much of a gamble to help with the ultimate goal of change anyway. GM had already reversed course by embracing the very approach they had worked so hard to fight. EREV was to be the "range anxiety" solution to EV capacity shortcomings. That never made any sense. Enthusiasts claim this outcome was inevitable, that it was the plan all along... despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That's why I documented history as it was occurring. Details written while events are playing out is how you find out what the true story was. There's no other good way to assess what expectations were after the fact. That makes the spin about ICE vehicles taking place right now a great topic to blog about. Who knows, that announcement I'm expecting from Toyota about a mid-cycle upgrade shouldn't too far away. All the signs are pointing to stage setup going well. This is how I stated the reaction to what's happening right now, in the moment, before we actually get the news: Using Toyota as a distraction to draw attention away from the automakers who haven't actually delivered anything affordable... Makes sense. There are many who refuse to acknowledge tax-credit dependency, who treat the early-adopters as representative of mainstream consumer demand. Reality is, even a small battery-pack will offer a dramatic reduction in consumption & emissions... and will make far more of an impact to changing the status quo than a few expensive token offerings. Camry, Corolla, C-HR, RAV4 all provide a means of reaching a wide variety of customers being offered as a hybrid with a plug. What other automaker has such diverse choices available? Toyota is setting that stage and you refuse to acknowledge it.
Trolling Pattern. It is sad to report that although websites hosting blogs are improving the political environmental is not. In fact, that particular venue is getting worse. The very activity I used to witness and deal with on a regular basis is now playing out in the daily news. We get sound bites of politicians outright lying over and over again. We get the same deceptive messages so often, you lose touch with purpose & direction. The same old nonsense is now repeating there. In other words, the pattern of trolls is easily recognizable in politics. Some simply don't care. They figure if enough join into that group-think, accountability won't be necessary... everyone will agree what is "truth" and what is "fanboy". In other words, they work really hard to enable dismissal. There's no need to justify your claim. You only have to refer to the next person saying the same thing. Thankfully, there's always a day-of-reckoning at some point. Catch is, a lot of collateral damage can occur along the way. Cleaning up that mess afterward can be a monumental effort. Look no further than Volt for a great example of that. What in the world will GM do now? There's no path forward. Preventing that from happening again with some other efforts starts by addressing shortcomings that allow trolls to thrive.
Attacker Info. Now that post history is available, the circumstances have changed rather dramatically. You can follow the activity of each participant. That lack of accountability was terrible. Certain individuals would hide behind an avatar. You'd never know who they really were or even what & where they were posting. That's why that awful daily blog for Volt thrived for so long. It attracted those who just wanted to win battles on a regular basis with no concern for winning the war. They only cared about small victories. Since the discussion threads usually died the very next day, it was easy to post the same rhetoric endlessly to achieve exactly that. They'd do everything possible to retain the status quo, learning how to prevent conclusions from being drawn. That type of behavior is what brings down the integrity of a venue. Some of those websites falling victim to such activity clean up their overall message by upgrading software to deter those determined to undermine. It works well. This is the latest example. Moderators made it quite clear there would be no compromise. Either you accept the effort to make people be responsible for their actions or don't participate anymore. Phew! It sure is nice to have improvements like that take place.
Blinded. Sometimes, the hate runs so deep nothing else is seen. In this case, it was yet another attack on Toyota. Rather than actually discuss the topic at hand, there was an obvious diversion of attention. That effort to evade is a undeniable sign they really don't care. All they want is for you to stop posting information related to the discussion. They'll do anything to change the subject. Ugh. I fired back to today's "Fool Cell" nonsense attempting to distract from the plug-in hybrid posts with: Really? So blinded by a resistance to diversity that you don't actually see the plug-in advancements taking place? With just an output of 68 kW, we already have a vehicle from Toyota able to drive as an EV. From just that small 8.8 kWh battery-pack, my daily commute in a Prius Prime is entirely electric. Complete with both electric A/C and the industry's most efficient heat-pump, it's a rewarding experience at an affordable price. Toyota simply isn't interested in playing the games you want. They are refining their technology as the market progresses beyond the early-adopter stage. Mirai is a great example; the platform delivers 113 kW of EV power. So what if the current power supply comes from a fuel-cell? Within the next year, a plug-in hybrid Corolla and an EV model of C-HR will be rolled out in China taking advantage of what they learned from Mirai. So what if they also pursue fuel-cell offerings? There's quite a bit of opportunity available for fleet & commercial sales. Are you so blinded by rhetoric of one-solution-for-all that you can't see the value of a business offering a variety of choices?
Full-Size Pickup. Quite vague, though impressionable, announcements about the intent to produce full-size electric pickups really shook the industry yesterday and today. Ford revealed their joint-venture with new partner and GM immediately countered with plans of their own. It was the usual substanceless rhetoric feed. You know, those ambiguous releases that really don't tell you anything. That complete absence of detail is so much a part of our normal approach to accepting plans, no one seems to care anymore. Merit is just freely given out without any expectation to actually be held accountable. That's why all the plans for VW shouldn't be taken seriously until something is delivered in quantity. Right now, it's all just empty hope. There's lot of potential and substantial investment, but that in no way equates to success. It will happen, eventually. Rushing out press-releases doesn't speed up the process. Yet, that's what we are getting.
Stop! It continued. There's a strong feeling of anger coming from certain individuals. This highlights their view: "Stop studying on it and make fully electric vehicles." That belief of having to deliver something right away is a theme we'll always have to deal with. If they don't see the entire vehicle, none of the technology exists. That's sad... and quite impractical. There's no effective means of achieving a rollout of that nature without extreme risk. Successful business requires sensible steps. You improve components, then implement using existing platforms. For example, that's how Prius got its two-speed hybrid system. It started in Camry hybrid. Another example is the AWD for Prius. Same thing, it started elsewhere. Not everything is offered immediately either. The fact that Mirai is using an all-electric propulsion system that would make for a great Prius EV later is further proof of doing things in stages. Imagine how expensive and how challenging it would be to provide that configuration now. Battery technology isn't up to the challenge yet. Facing the expectation of prices directly competitive with traditional vehicles simply isn't realistic yet. In a few years time, when the liquid electrolyte barrier is overcome, things could be profoundly different. That dramatic reduction of heat & fire exposures will really change the reach of fully electric vehicles... hence the value of studying. In the meantime, it's not like the rest of the vehicle isn't taking shape. Sadly, certain individuals are blind to that progress. Ugh. I tried to state the situation in terms immediately understandable. It probably won't to any good though. Some people just like to argue. We'll see: What other legacy automaker is making fully electric vehicles that are profitable, without dependency on tax-credits? Toyota's fully electric platform currently used in Mirai will make a nice EV platform, when battery cost drops to the level of realistic high-volume production. In the meantime, there's continued refinement and the spread of hybrid choices. Remember, that diversification is essential for plug-in offerings... something all the other legacy automakers must also address. In other words, Toyota is not sitting idle as the narrative portrays.
Compliance Car. Attacks from within continue. It's been a persistent message for years, passed along by a few Prius owners who absolutely refuse to accept the idea that time isn't vital. So, we get: "Prime is a compliance car." It comes from the mindset of having to deliver something as fast as possible. That message our society sends of needing to be first as the measure of success can have terrible consequences. You are being taught that not being first means you lost. Second place is not a winner as far as our highly superficial beliefs instill. That's really unfortunate. Taking the time to do it right should be the mantra; instead, the need to rush is perceived as necessary. Ugh. That makes drawing conclusions, like compliance, difficult to avoid. Many don't see any other option. You either go all out or you don't. When balance is no longer viewed as essential, problems arise. That's why the crazy attitude toward Volt was accepted as normal. Enthusiasts didn't see themselves as pushing an extreme. GM sacrificed too much to deliver something that wouldn't be looked upon as a compliance car. It proved a disastrous choice. Just imagine how much better things could have proceeded if an incremental approach had been taken instead. Small steps forward is progress. So what if it appears to just be an act of complying at first? I stated the method of advancement this way: That's just spin for those who don't like the concept of phased rollouts. Toyota tests the market by rolling out small allocations to limited areas. That real-world data they collect provides a powerful means of product alignment. The fact that it also meets California requirements is a benefit to the approach, a win-win situation for both.