Prius Personal Log  #942

May 24, 2019  -  May 27, 2019

Last Updated:  Mon. 7/29/2019

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5-27-2019

Too Soon.  I liked this particular question: "How is the Volt being "Canceled" a way to rationalize that it's too soon for Toyota - when in fact plug-in's growth has been at a much faster rate then hybrids market begin to grow?"  Since it was the obvious cherry-picking to limit scope, answering was easy;  As mentioned countless times by me, the "EV market" narrative is not representative of what we will see once this early-adopter stage (clearly defined by tax-credit availability) comes to a close.  Statistical misrepresentation is a really easy trap to fall into, especially with generous subsidies involved and an ample amount of low-hanging fruit.  That next stage in rollout process is far more difficult and Toyota much better positioned to address that.  Anyone can build an expense electric-drive system.  Making it affordable and available on a wide variety of platforms is an entirely different matter.  Toyota's distribution of HSD is an undeniable example of that.  Remember, the upgrade to deliver the full EV driving experience only requires the adding of a one-way clutch.  Having the rest already in place provides a simple next-step forward.  Since there is no other platform using Volt technology available, Volt itself is no longer being produced, and no hybrid version of any SUV offered, whatever term you want can be used to describe situation GM customers now face.  Semantics is a moot point.  It is obviously "too soon" for GM.

5-27-2019 Warm Up.  It took quite a bit of posting from a number of active constructive posters to finally get this: "If "warm up" is a thing in the past, then the term "warm up" should not even be mentioned anywhere in the manual."  The new Prime owner wants to have a engine-startup remote installed, but not for the sake of either warming up the cabin or warming up the engine.  It was bizarre.  Why?  That quote became the missing clue.  He read that "warm up" was necessary.  I was revealed to provide the final puzzle piece:

Now, we are finally getting somewhere.  You made the assumption that "warm up" for a traditional vehicle is the same thing as "warm up" is for a hybrid. It is not.

For a traditional vehicle, the term "warm up" means to get the engine up to a temperature with enough heat so that the output of the propulsion system is normal.  A cold system will be sluggish.  Engine oil, engine coolant, and steering fluid all work better when there's some radiant heat energy circulating through the propulsion system.

That same definition most definitely doesn't apply to a hybrid like Prius.  It uses 0W-20 synthetic oil in an engine designed for rapid heat distribution.  The steering doesn't even have fluid, since it's electric.  Most power provided during the initial operation of the engine comes from the electric traction-motor too.  In other words, none of that heat is needed for driving.

The "warm up" with respect to Prius is related to the emission system.  For the catalytic-converter to cleanse emissions thoroughly, it must have heat to make the chemical conversion to take place... hence "gasoline engine may not stop" mentioned in the manual.  Remember, cleaner emissions than traditional vehicles is a priority for Toyota's hybrid system.  Engine warmth is used for that, but is clearly not necessary for propulsion.

So, what you see in the manual is a misunderstanding.  For Prius to be cleaner than traditional vehicles, it requires heat from the engine... hence the "warm up" mention.

5-27-2019 Yawn.  The emoji response was pretty lame.  I shoot back with:

That yawn response is an excellent example of a passive-aggressive enthusiast.  Showing indifference to such a serious situation is how we identify enabler activity.  That's what becomes a part of group-think, the very problem that contributed heavily to Volt's downfall.  Those sharing that attitude invited innovator's dilemma.  Essentially, they sabotaged GM's efforts by encouraging the niche.  It was progress, but the wrong direction and no one was willing to call out the mistake.

It was an error on a monumental scale.   All that money invested went to what? Remember, the intent with Volt was to be a high-volume seller.  It's not like Toyota's investment in Mirai that is produced at low-volume with clear intention to only sell at that small number and only in limited markets.  It's kind of like Tesla back when Roadster served as a real-world research vehicle.  Toyota has stated there is no mainstream intention yet with that generation.  Decisions will come later, exactly as their all-electric rollout has been presented.

So what if you don't care about the well-being of an automaker?  Very few actually do.  Most focus on what they see at auto shows, which has little reflection of what they end up purchasing. Tesla offers premium vehicles.  Whether or not you want to call them a "luxury" automaker makes no difference anyway.  Each automaker has their own audience.  Toyota's is much more reflective of mainstream consumers.  Their vehicles are ordinary... something most enthusiasts would yawn at.

5-26-2019 Change Precedent.  It is especially intriguing when someone with a constructive demeanor posts something like this: "The Volt was not abandoned.  GM is selling it in China under the name Buick Elite -- they have a new model this year and an electric model (based off the Bolt) called the Velite 6 MAV."  His message was clear & concise.  It didn't play by the rules of engagement though.  That approach of logic without context can be brutal, as I pointed out with the hope of some constructive feedback:

Volt enthusiasts established the precedent of separate markets, absolutely refusing to acknowledge worldwide efforts.  They fought and fought and fought for over a decade, fiercely attacking anyone who attempted to include Japan or China in activity that took place in the United States.  Now, they must reap what they sowed.  Making matters worse, some got to the point of hostility (offensive online posting) to divide the market here in the United States.  They fortified the narrative that "EV market" was all that mattered, that "mainstream consumers" would simply follow suit following expiration of tax-credit.

That was a brutal history I will continuously remind people here of... because we've seen that cycle repeat.  It started with attacks on Toyota's hybrid system with Two-Mode.  That went on for years and years, then finally collapsed when the technology proved unworthy to compete with traditional vehicles.  Sound familiar?  The very same thing played out with Volt, despite all the reminders and the "too little, too slowly" concern expressed over the bankruptcy recovery about the technology.

And sure enough, failure to spread the technology from Volt to something capable of sustainably returning profit is undeniable.  The opportunity to use tax-credits as intended (to help with the spread) was wasted.  Now, if GM really hasn't abandoned Volt for this market, the technology will have to compete directly against GM's own traditional vehicles (the true competition) without subsidies.

Remember, the point is to change what is offered at dealers, here.  Take a look around.  Each automaker faces their own set of challenges to change purchase choices for their own customers.  Notice how Toyota is doing an absolutely incredible job of pushing out traditional vehicles?  RAV4 hybrid is proving extremely popular.  That's paving the way for plug-in models.

So what if the narrative that "Toyota is still balking on EVs" is what you hear from enthusiasts?  They set a terrible precedent that is now coming back to haunt them.  Anyone who takes the time to look for true change will find it on Toyota dealers' lots.  It may not be the speed or approach that's excited, but it is an undeniable large-scale shift away from traditional vehicles setting the stage for more change.

5-25-2019 One Solution.  Most people have little background in business and pay attention to the market even less.  That absence of understanding makes seeing the bigger picture a hopeless battle.  All you can really do is provide information when that unknown is detect.  For example: "What I don't understand, though, is why they are spending so much on developing fuel cell cars..."  It makes sense that to be so uncertain.  After all, look at how few EV owners actually really understand the EV market.  There's just so much to be aware of and the perspective of United States information sources has undeniable bias... a narrative of what is hoped for, rather than what actually is.  Some of that comes from the aforementioned lack of understanding.  Unfortunately, some also comes from the political efforts to misrepresent.  With the hope of providing some useful view, I posted:

One solution for all, especially with so many markets to serve, doesn't make sense.  Hydrogen won't be everywhere, but commercial fleet use has strong market potential.  The electric drive system can be shared anyway.  So, there's a win-win.  Heck, even battery advances can be used by both.  So, delay with full EV and maturing the FCV tech in the meantime isn't a futile waste as many spin it to be.  We reap the benefits for PHV use along the way too.

Basically, it's Toyota thinking long-term & high-volume facing critics obsessed with limited scope returns.  After all, who's to say all the investment VW is doing will put them anymore ahead?  Look at Tesla, so much spending in charging infrastructure has left them very short on sales & support infrastructure.  Balance of risk necessitates diversity.  Notice how little Volt accomplished for GM.  That major investment in plug-in hybrid tech was just abandoned.  Was it good to cut-bait like that?

The answer to that GM conundrum comes from whatever the next step delivers.  If their learning experience results in profitable & sustainable sales from whatever Bolt becomes, then yes, it was good.  If GM just flounders and is unable to fortify their foothold in the plug-in market, then no, it was a waste.  That same logic can be applied to Toyota.

It all boils down to market impact.  What really affects the status quo?  Most of the hype garners much praise, but really doesn't achieve any real change.

5-25-2019

Cattle Cliché.  I hadn't ever actually heard this one, but it fit well into the sale graph discussion.  So, I added more in response to it:  That "all hat and no cattle" is an excellent way of describing the situation.  It doesn't matter though.  The first stage of rollout doesn't represent what will happen later anyway.  That graph is rather misleading too.  The separation of Toyota PHV gen-1 from gen-2 is rather blatant misrepresentation, since the same was not done for Volt.  But then again, the graph only tells the early-adopter story, since all the sale were subsidized.  That's a lot of low-hanging fruit, which is pretty much all gone now.  It's time for the cattle.  Think about how the market will look once those tax-credits are completely phased out.  After all, that quantity of 200,000 vehicles is much when you consider annual sales in the United States is still somewhere around 17,000,000.  Consider the extremes.  We have Tesla who strived to establish a profitable foothold prior to expiration and GM who simply exploited the conquest opportunity.  As a result, one built up some rather fierce loyalty and the other struggles to retain attention.  Realistically, it's how the dealers embrace change, not those who end up owning the vehicles.  Showroom shoppers are what bring in the sustainable profit.  That market has yet to be tapped.  There's a lot of potential, but a graph like the one provided doesn't represent how that entirely different audience will respond.

5-24-2019

Sales Graph.  Someone animated the sales chart for the United States over the past 7 years.  It shows month-by-month changes, allowing for a rather clever means of representing progress of the market.  It doesn't actually show progress of the industry though.  That limited scope is very misleading.  The fact that it also divided gen-1 and gen-2 of the plug-in Prius into two separate categories was rather blatant misleading too.  Enthusiasts would have screamed bloody murder if that had been done for Volt, but it wasn't.  Worldwide sales were completely omitted too.  It was obvious cherry-picking; nonetheless, it did stir some constructive discussion.  People are avoiding the topic of GM progress though and this was yet another example.  Playing the victim card for Volt isn't even happening anymore.  Bolt is just there, but nothing is happening with it.  Tesla was the rising star in that animation, but there's a gray cloud growing over its future.  With the final reduction to 25% just 5 weeks away now, that dependency on tax-credit for sales is obvious.  No one seems to want to discuss that though, just like what we saw with GM.  So, I reminded everyone of that recent history to be ready for some type of change on the horizon:  GM's heavy dependence on tax-credits only resulted in trivial sales with respect to the true competition, traditional vehicles.  That meant it was doomed once phaseout was triggered.  GM should have diversified long before reaching that obvious cliff.  No Trax or Equinox with tech from Volt was a terrible executive decision.

5-24-2019

Jumping Ship.  There aren't many Volt enthusiasts remaining.  Yet another just revealed he's jumping ship: "I'll be trading my 2017 Volt for a M3 in the coming months."  The hypocrisy is amazing.  They absolutely insisted conquest wasn't a problem, that GM was building loyalty with their commitment to EREV technology.  That fell apart to such an extreme, they cannot distance themselves fast enough.  Remember all those attacks I got on the EV blog, when I started posting there after the Volt blog died?  Even those came to an end.  It was futile defending a technology that had been "cast aside" without even so much as a tear.  To be told this would never happen...  Looking back at the nonsense I had to endure.  What was the point?  They fought and fought and fought without ever doing what I asked, to state goals.  I was about winning something, not actually getting the status quo to change.  I saw that from the start.  My question changed to "Who?" when it became apparent their was no interest in mainstream sales.  Appealing to ordinary consumers wasn't of any interest to them.  Just about all of them have jumped ship at this point.  Many followed glory, hoping to find it elsewhere.  The rest faded into nothing.  It's a strange victory.

5-24-2019

New Audience.  It never ends.  Spin from long-time antagonists always emerges as some point.  I was actually a bit surprised it took so long this time: "It shows that GM is serious enough about making a long-term commitment to electric vehicles to cast aside the Volt, GM's most successful electrified vehicle to date, and embark on an uncertain all-electric future even if it means some near term sacrifice."  That was amusing to read... since there hasn't been any long-term commitment actually made.  GM simply abandoned Volt when the tax-credits were used up.  It ended up being a waste of opportunity.  What was the point of joining an engine to a motor, especially with gen-2 refinements in hybrid efficiency, if the goal all along was an all-electric future?  Why not just do what Nissan did instead, just start with the preferred approach?  There is no justification to spend so much, then cast it aside.  Sacrificing such a massive engineering investment doesn't make sense if there's nothing to switch to.  GM itself told use profitable EV sales are still several years away.  Cutting losses is one thing.  But when you know that technology would work great in a Trax, why wouldn't you offer it?  Think about the size of that particular SUV.  Think about the convenient height for adding batteries.  Think about the propulsion configuration.  Trax uses a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to deliver 138 horsepower.  Volt used a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine to deliver 149 horsepower.  Doesn't that seem an ideal platform for the propulsion system to have been transferred to, rather than just abandon?  Anywho, the Volt enthusiasts have a new audience now.  They are trying to somehow convince them that's a terrible idea, that simply endorsing only Bolt makes more sense than leveraging all that refinement GM already delivered.  Huh?

5-24-2019

Priorities.  This is why I so often say "ugh" to some of the stuff posted in the forum threads: "Yes, yes, exactly..."  That was a vague agreement just for the sake of moving on to a preferred topic.  It's what happens when you nail down an element of importance.  Those efforts to keep things active can't be interrupted by a logical point.  The last thing they want you to do is draw a conclusion, since it will end their entertainment.  Annoyed, as usual, I still took the time to reply with something constructive:  With all that, you completely evaded the topic of MASS-MARKET sales.  That means MSRP near the consumer mean (not average) without subsidies, since it must be able to compete directly with traditional offerings.  The goal is mainstream volume with several models for each automaker.  Remember, the ability to achieve both profitable & sustainable requires a balance of priorities.

 

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