Prius Personal Log  #943

May 27, 2019  -  June 4, 2019

Last Updated:  Mon. 7/29/2019

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Codependent.  What happens when 2 automakers become dependent upon each other?  Turns out, that has been playing out right in front of us.  I questioned how Tesla was able to keep funding new builds.  It seemed bizarre that so much capital remained available.  How many stock was actually being purchased?  Similar suspicions came about for GM.  What had the automaker been ok with the abrupt abandonment of plug-in efforts?  It seemed bizarre that emission requirements were somehow still being fulfilled.  Remember all the clamoring of Volt related to HOV stickers?  Each sale resulted in some carbon credits.  Without those sales now, how was GM getting enough?  Bolt certainly wasn't going to deliver and there aren't any hybrids for that.  Guess what.  Tesla has an abundance and was more than will to exchange them for money from GM.  Eek!  That's not a sustainable business model, knowing Tesla is still investing heavily and Model 3 is starting to see hints of market saturation at its current pricing.  It's a relationship likely to be strained and with no guarantees.  This situation is bound to get interesting.


Between?  On that same thread as the nonsense post, we got this: "Now that the Volt is all but gone, it is a greater separation between EV and PHEV."  It was apparently an effort to push the two apart, kind of like the failed effort to define EREV.  Posts on that topic were both vague and contradictory.  They changed over time too.  So, any lack of clarity on it now meant future replies would be even weaker.  It's yet another attempt to market by clever wording rather than clever engineering.  Ugh.  When you look at deal, even if vague, those categories will stir discussion to reveal shortcomings.  I started my rebuttal with:  That's just nonsense.  PHEV like Prius Prime have EV up to 84 mph, electric heat-pump, electric A/C... what more do you need?  Reality is, the PHEV has a much smaller capacity battery with charging that isn't a fast.  The driving experience is no difference.


Nonsense.  This closing statement was a real head-scratcher: "...and a lot of the advantages of a pure EV are lost."  It was supposedly a rant about PHEV being nothing but a short-term bridge to the future.  Remember all that "stop gap" nonsense years ago?  I wondered if that was more of this.  Unfortunately, none of the paragraph preceding it provided any clarity.  What could possibly be a strong argument point?  It eluded to nothing and Volt enthusiasts worked hard to demonstrate there was nothing lost.  So, I really wanted to know what in the world he was referring too.  The answer to follow my post was a big disappointment though.  Turns out, he had mixed up the two terms and not even noticed.  That left me wondering about context.  Something still wasn't right.  But like many who get caught posting something misunderstood or in error, you rarely ever get constructive follow up.  So, I didn't bother.  This is what I originally posted:  My entire commute in my PHEV is entirely electric.  I enjoy the silent cruise on the highway in total comfort without using any gas.  Advantages of the all-electric drive is quite obvious.  Claims about that EV experience somehow lacking something is nonsense.


Real Change.  This was another that caught my attention: "Dead-cat bounce?  Follow the number back a decade or so, hasn't it slowed appreciably."  People look at sales from various perspectives.  I'm often dealing with the difference between micro & macro.  That, in itself, represents enormous variance.  Each has its place, yet still related, while telling stories of outcome that conflict.  Since most online don't ever bother to take the time to really understand and even fewer make an effort to be clear & concise, it's basically a hopeless battle.  Opening eyes to see what could be requires that.  Most don't see the problem until it's too late though.  Volt was the ideal example.  Enthusiasts fought and fought and fought, claiming I was making up stuff with the intent to undermine.  That took an monumental amount of denial.  They worked so hard not to see what was obvious to so many.  Oh well.  That's over now.  GM failed and will hopefully move on.  The effort to actually make an impact isn't just a matter of squeezing in a much battery as possible.  Did they really think that would actually work?  Anywho, I posted this as my reply, pointing out a great example of progress:  Very, very, very different market back then makes direct comparisons impossible.  The measure of success is based on the progress of traditional vehicle phaseout.  RAV4 hybrid is reaching a new audience.  That impacts the status quo.  Real change is happening.


11-20 Years.  I found this quote today intriguing: "People now care much more about reliability & resale value for years 11-20 of a car's life."  It is pretty much just a moot point though, as I explained:  There's an interesting twist to that.  Yes, they do indeed care.  But when it plays out, they don't actually keep the vehicle that long.  It is statically extremely low (at least here in a northern state) for vehicles to survive that long.  The seasonal changes age the vehicle to the point where upkeep to keep a guzzler going simply isn't worth the expense.  There's also the reality of human nature.  Desire for something newer compels many to replace, even if there are a few years left on the vehicle.  Those end up in the used market, skewing the ownership trail.  Dealers will sometimes dump those vehicles on buyers who purchase in bulk for resale elsewhere.

6-01-2019 Uncertain Future, part 2.  Here is that post:

Rewind to the end of 2008, back when GM was preparing their bankruptcy recovery plans.  At that point, the Volt concept was 2 years old and this blog was quite active.  I was among the top participants (as listed on the homepage statistics) and was known for my concern about GM not actually following through with their intent to deliver a high-volume profitable plug-in technology.   In fact, I shared the same sentiment later expressed by the bankruptcy recovery task-force: "too little, too slowly".

Enthusiasts of Volt assured me there was nothing to worry about, GM was investing heavily in Volt and believed strongly their approach would squash both HV and EV offerings.  It was to be the industry leader, that technology would grow to levels of acceptance yet to be imagined.  I continued to push concern, raising issues over the years about the absence of diversification and catering to niche interest.

There was only a finite quantity of tax-credits available, opportunity was being lost.  So reason for the push to move forward was genuine.  Volt rollout proved to be a disastrous misalignment of priorities. It was impressive technology poorly implemented.  The form & function didn't appeal to GM's own loyal customers.  That path to sustainable sales for their dealerships has been jeopardized for the sake of image.

The promise of that push to develop a portfolio beyond Volt wasn't going to happen.  That was overwhelmingly confirmed upon learning what gen-2 of the technology would deliver.  GM followed the path of praise rather than taking the business situation seriously.  No variant in a form similar to their current fleet was to be delivered.  Status quo would remain unchanged.

8 years following rollout, word was shared that Volt production would come to an end without any successor.  No progress would be made by GM to advance their plug-in hybrid technology.  It was to be abandoned in favor of the antithesis they had promoted so hard against, full electric vehicles.

Say what you want about this summary, from a participant who was their on the front lines from long before Volt's concept reveal.  Call it online spin.  Claim it is a narrative.  There is no hiding the reality that a plan forward from GM is still needed.  How will the automaker quickly transform a bulk of their fleet to something other than guzzlers without any type of battery-pack?

After all these years, the efforts to electrify haven't resulted in actual change on the showroom floor.  Loyal GM customers go to dealers to replace their aged traditional vehicle with a new traditional vehicle.  No hybrid.  No plug.  Nothing by the same old guzzlers.


Uncertain Future, part 1.  Constant attacks on Toyota make it obvious those enthusiasts lost without that daily blog are struggling without a plan.  Having been caught in lies to cover up reality crashing down on them clearly had the long-awaited impact it should.  Each time a goal was missed, there was downplay & deception.  It was nasty at times.  Focus on just engineering alone was a flawed approach.  Combined with the overkill attitude, precedent was set.  Failure to deliver business need was inevitable.  I was annoyed from the start.  There was such an obsession with speed & power, the claim of leadership was nothing but vanity.  I coined it the "trophy mentality" problem.  Want clouded judgment.  Their desire to project beliefs they had were actually needs for everyone never had merit.  That doom took a very long time to play out though.  GM milked it for all they time they could drag it out.  200,000 sales is quite small, especially for such a large automaker.  I still remember Toyota setting their annual hybrid goal for 300,000.  It was for 2005, which was 8 years after rollout.  That was not only achieved, it was exceeded.  There was no tax-credit available here in the United States back then either.  For the 10-year anniversary, the goal was bumped up 40%, to a level 430,000 annual.  It seemed quite realistic, since 2006 sales actually reached 315,000.  When the goal for 2007 was achieved in late 2007, we were told by Toyota about their next goal: 1,000,000 by 2012.  Well, you know how the story goes from there.  That goal was achieved and annual sales continued to grow.  Now, we have a vast array of hybrid choices and a stage set well for plug-in hybrid opportunity.  Meanwhile, we haven't heard anything at all from GM.  Even the enthusiasts are dead quiet.  The daily blog has resumed posting too.  So, I'm going to find out what's going on by attempting a post myself.  It's difficult to tell if that will be allowed.  There are only 4 messages and those were from hard-core participants.  We'll see.


C-HR EV.  There was an unveil today.  That ended rumor, speculation, and doubt.  It leaves antagonists in a pickle.  Of course, they'll come up with something else to complain about.  Losing their favorite scapegoat leaves damage-control efforts a mess.  It's all about setting realistic expectations.  They don't... hence being enthusiasts.  A true supporter won't do that.  They'll make a sincere effort to really understand the market.  They don't operate on hype & hope.  Toyota doesn't either.  We'll eventually get that C-HR or something similar here.  That's the way Prius started.  In a less fickle market, shaking out refinements takes time.  There are tradeoffs which need to be measured in real-world driving.  Both engineering & management have choices to make based upon that feedback.  It's how you reach the wider audience, beyond just enthusiasts.  Toyota doesn't want a niche disaster that GM had with the now dead Volt and still has with Bolt.  In other words, we're in that limited rollout stage.  Think about how much that did for Prius PHV, since it was just a mid-cycle offering and only made available in 15 states.  We're witnessing the same now with Prius Prime.  Toyota limited rollout to select regions, without any real push.  It was clearly an effort to collect real-world data for the mid-cycle upgrade.  Once that is in place (the 2020 model), we should see it nationwide and in much greater quantity.  Patience pays off.  Unfortunately, few online are willing to practice such waiting.  They want it now.  Gain in the short-term is an unfortunate expectation with sometimes terrible consequences.  Thankfully, Toyota doesn't play that game.  Being "late" to a party you don't actually want to be part of isn't so bad.


Ford Escape 2020.  We actually got a little detail today.  This new upcoming hybrid from Ford will use a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine and will have a starting price of $29,350.  The estimated efficiency is 39 MPG combined.  Sounds like they'll have a popular choice.  Hearing that is on the way provides a glimmer of hope.  Such silence from Ford was painful.  Nothing seemed to be happening.  It made sense though.  Why do anything that resembles GM behavior?  Not having anything green whatsoever in the SUV category was an indication of trouble to come.  There's simply nothing to argue about.  No attempt to change the status quo is a very real problem.  Something at some point will give.  This is good news.


Paradigm Shift.  This troll just keeps at it: "yes, but the sales weasels don't. they only see the bottom line".  His style was reflected well with that... never change.  It's quite annoying, as is his approach of all lowercase, never quoting, and being exceptionally vague.  This is one of those situations where anything different is unwelcome.  In other words, he just likes to complain.  You know the type.  Fortunately, the world around him is changing.  This time, it's going to be rather big too.  The pattern of stereotypes & misconceptions only lasts so long.  I pointed out:  That misconception of "tough sell with little to gain" needs to finally be squashed. RAV4 hybrid is proving the very assumption you just contributed to incorrect... hence the next class.  Far too often, we see discussions online focus entirely on micro-economics with no regard to macro-economics.  They focus on doings of the automaker only with respect to a very narrow scope... like a single vehicle for a limited audience.  At this stage, that's harmful.  It holds back the work needed to grow the market.  In other words, don't be an enabler of the status quo.  We now need to move beyond the stage you had been part of.  This next one... mainstream acceptance... is very, very different.  That means really making an effort to understand the new situation, known as a paradigm shift.

5-28-2019 Marketing.  This is difficult to understand: "Perhaps if Toyota made some sort of effort to sell their hybrids??  What would happen if the Toyota marketers got with some of us here on PC and we could coach them on these amazing cars?"  So, providing the response got a little involved.

They are!  This is why "know your audience" is so vital.

2019 brings about 4 new hybrids.  Prius AWD was introduced early in the year, but has a focus on winter driving... which won't arrive until late in the year.  RAV4 is a next-gen rollout, so it's facing sold-delivery & back-order situations.  Corolla is a brand new hybrid for this market, so there's a lot to address simply from the dynamic that introduces. Highlander next-gen won't be available until later this year.

With all that going on, in addition to the mid-cycle upgrade of Prime and the introduction of the new look for Prius, we can see that Toyota's effort to sell is well underway with dealers... who are their primary audience, since they are the ones who actually purchase Toyota vehicles.  The dealers will be working to get their salesperson trained to handle marketing later done by us... who are the secondary audience, since we'll be doing a bulk of the promotion.

Near year end, we'll very likely be getting ordinary advertising.  Getting all that in place in the meantime is a major undertaking, to even just properly address the final audience... who will be driving home in one of those new hybrids.

Remember, there's a major shake-up in the EV sector right now.  That will most definitely impact the rest of the automotive market.  So, steering clear of that... simply by doing other stuff (like dealer prep) in the meantime... is a wise use of that beneficial delay.


Someone Asked.  I responded to inquiry with:  Once upon a time, there was a blog for Volt.  It innocently started out as a fan website, but over time became a source for fake news.  This was long before the term had ever been coined or the understanding of how much damage such a entity could cause.  It was a group of enthusiasts who because masters of hype.  Making ambiguous automaker releases into unrealistic expectations people would believe became a daily ritual.  They would fight anyone who questioned their ways.  The ability to hide behind an anonymous posts made it especially inviting for those who just plain didn't care about integrity.  Fortunately, it was doomed to ultimately fail... and finally did.


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