Prius Personal Log #951
June 30, 2019 - July 3, 2019
Last Updated: Mon. 7/29/2019
page #950 page #952 BOOK INDEX
Statistics. That's what we called them ages ago. That
has since become "fake news" fodder. Stuff like this is the
source: "Most people after driving a PHEV for 3 years will buy a BEV as
their next car. So I don't see PHEVs ever gaining much market share..."
Often, the origin of such a claim is unknown & outdated. The method
for drawing such a conclusion is questionable too, especially when it is so
vague and without any references. Passing that claim along without
question is the hope. Rhetoric builds upon beliefs that cannot be
substantiated. Ugh. I punched back with:
A statistic based on an extremely limited sampling with a market skewed by limited availability and the scramble to take advantage of tax-credits before they expire tells us nothing constructive. In reality, mainstream consumers will flock to PHEV choices that are competitive with traditional vehicles. EV will come later simply because they are ready for a second vehicle with a plug, if they have capacity available. That PHEV will remain in their household.
Key selling point is that fact that many households have capacity challenges. Starting with a 120-volt connection is what will make things easy for both dealer & consumer. Making one dedicated high-amp outlet available is something that will come later, after the PHEV has been purchased. Getting a second line to a second vehicle is a topic "most people" avoid discussion about. Know your audience.
As for market share, that's also a limited scope issue. It will vary wildly from automaker to automaker. Toyota will thrive in that market because they have a very strong hybrid product-line already, showing increased growth and sustainable profit. Migrating to plug-in hybrid is an easy step salespeople will embrace. It's a simple upgrade option to sell, so why not? EV models take far more effort to sell to a showroom shopper.
No Substance. That discussion shifted from Toyota to GM, the expected outcome when cornered. In this case, it's to spin a rosy picture of the future. Trouble is, GM is terrible in regard to promises. They are vague & ambiguous. The more you dig to get detail, the more you get conflicted & misleading messages of intent. It's been that way since Two-Mode development began. You had no idea what GM actually planned to deliver. Enthusiasts don't care though. They spread meritless hype, like: "Actually I think GM is starting to show so real commitment to the Bolt EV. Inventories have remained high and prices at dealerships have come way down but GM keeps shipping new Bolt EVs out of the factory." That's a complete disregard for the market. It focuses entirely on a single vehicle without anything quantitative. The hope is to set an expectation based on assumptions the reader makes, rather than something that can actually be measured to definitively gauge progress. There's never any accountability either. When a promise isn't delivered, the response is always one of misunderstanding with the claim. What was said isn't what was actually meant is an effort to evade. Notice how "real commitment" and "remained high" aren't defined? Vague references like that are red flags. When pushed for detail, any type of ambiguous response is confirmation of no substance. I did exactly that, then posted this upon getting the confirm: Real commitment would mean putting it up against the true competition... other vehicles sharing the showroom floor. Remember, purpose is to actually change the status quo. No impact to that comes from conquest sales. Focus needs to be on GM influencing their own loyal customers, those looking to replace their old GM vehicle with a new one. Seeing the complete absence of any type of green SUV, the dominant GM product, is confirmation of no current commitment. Trax, Blazer, Equinox, Traverse, Tahoe... why aren't any of them offered as anything other than a guzzler? Two-Mode was rolled out over a decade ago. What happened to it? Why is there still nothing for the SUV line-up? Notice all the hype on GM's website now? There's a lot of electric & technology stories, but nothing of any actual substance.
Too Bad. Exactly as predicted, there was no effective mean to rebut. Instead, he just got really angry and lashed out with a personal attack: "Toyota is anti-EV. Don't spin it, Toyota fan boy." I was quite pleased about getting such a clear indicator of having nailed it. I found a weakness in their arguments I could indeed exploit. That was always the hope of letting them set precedent... since that often leads to them backing themselves into a corner. That pattern of antagonist behavior, which is often self-deprecating, is quite common. They provide there own material for defeat. That's why I push so hard, allowing them to fall into their own trap. It confirms their stance is not well balanced. Overlooking the bigger picture is most often their tactical error. With this exchange, that confirmation was provided: That evidence showing they are not clearly struck a nerve. Now, whenever you try to spread that narrative, you'll get a reminder of the facts. All along, it has only been timing. Ramp up doesn't need to happen yet. Toyota continues to refine its EV tech by using their PHEV and FCEV platforms. So what if my 80 mph electric-only ability comes from a small battery-pack currently. It's an EV in disguise. So what if the carbon-fiber hatch isn't seen by anyone. It's very effective why reduction. So what if most don't know about the vapor-injected heat-pump. It's an extremely efficient means of cabin warming. Toyota is a legacy automaker that will emerge with a strong showing, right there with Tesla, but serving a different audience. Too bad if you don't.
Rush To Market. In the past, arguments to disparage Toyota pretty much inevitably ended up with a turn to fuel-cell investment. It was an intriguing pattern of attempted undermining... since they were establishing a precedent I could turn on them later. For example: "Toyota will go full FCEV before full electric. At least that is their plan." I took that bait... but didn't respond with the hoped for rhetoric type response. I hit back with cold, hard facts. This is the type of information that makes them cringe, because there's no effective means to rebut what just go posted: The name of that vehicle is Mirai. It uses a 151 hp electric-motor, which isn't a coincidence. That's a size perfect for an EV model of Prius or Corolla in this market. Toyota is being clever by dual using tax-credits, taking advantage of the FCEV opportunity to help bring about a means of achieving economy-of-scale savings for upcoming EV offerings. It's a interesting win-win situation that many here overlook or don't understand. Why not gain experience for something with so much potential, refining the technology before ramping up? After all, we have already witnessed what rushing to market did for GM.
Do The Math. He failed to consider the big picture, but it was a welcome change of pace. This was a discussion about charger setup at home... the very balance I had been arguing for in that other thread. It came to this: "There should be some math to back up this analysis." That's usually how most of the posts progress. They get deep into the math, completely missing the point of contributing to green infrastructure. When reduced emissions is give a value of $0 in those analysis, you are very likely to experience a pushback to anything related to doing-your-part consideration. So, mention of helping a local electricity co-op or a local electrician shop by provided some real-world hands-on opportunity for them is pointless. They simply don't understand the benefit that provides. It's really unfortunate. This is what pushes me to find new approaches and new responses. In this case, it was simple. Debating between sticking with the existing 120-volt connection or having a new line & outlet installed for 240-volt power overlooked something which should be obvious. What do you do for the second vehicle? Households tend to have at least 2 vehicles. Not looking forward enough to realize there's only 1 outlet available is quite shortsighted... especially when these discussions amortize cost over the span of many years. That level-2 charger simply becomes a requirement for the purchase of a second plug-in vehicle. It makes no sense running a lower gauge wire. If you have to go to the trouble of installation anyway... Since those arguments insist upon math being the primary means of justification, I simply showed my response as this equation: 2 cars + 1 outlet = L2 needed.
Well Timed. Naturally, the attempt to draw attention to sad state of infrastructures and how those challenges are being ignored turned into an attack on Toyota: "Toyota foolishly burned up nearly half their tax-credits on little PHEVs. By the time they go full BEV, they might not have much tax-credit left." There's so much of an obsession with delivering a BEV, they simply don't care about anything else related to mainstream acceptance. It's a fundamental mistake to evade balance, which is an essential to sustainable profit. It's what happens when group-think takes hold. They lose touch with the basics, choosing to lean on distractions as justification. That's sad. I point it out, but they really just plain don't care: Toyota won't need tax-credits for BEV offerings. That supposed "foolish" use for PHEV has already produced a remarkably efficiency system. Cost reduction is well underway. Battery refinements are pushing forward. There's even weight improvements coming from carbon-fiber. There's simply no merit to claims of having missed opportunity. Real-World data collecting from the plug-ins rolled out is serving its purpose well. Toyota is using that information to advance the entire fleet forward. So what if an EV doesn't come until the next stage when subsidies aren't available? At that point, the business of selling plug-ins would have been established anyway... which is the point of that money.
Down to 25%. Big news today is that Tesla tax-credit
phaseout drops down to 25%. That has renewed the rhetoric. But
with the death of Volt, there's no real substance to those arguments
anymore. As a legacy automaker, there was some leverage from GM on the
topic. With Tesla though, it's basically find a different means of
subsidizing progress. So, I was intrigued how the new discussion
thread would progress. This is the quote I homed in on: "No, the per manufacturer number
is idiotic. A common pool makes sense. The pioneers don't get penalized and
the laggards don't get rewarded. There was a lot of work to bring up the
technologies, supply chains, and marketing to bring forth these products. The laggard companies did none of this work and still enjoy plenty of
credits." Knowing there's so much neglect & overlook related to
the rest of what it takes to advance the technology forward, I had much to
The narrative of laggard fell apart when it was confirmed that GM exploited their tax-credits for conquest sales, rather than using them as intended to change what their own loyal customers would buy. There's simply no way to argue that either Volt or Bolt actually changed the status quo. We see those with old GM guzzlers simply replacing them with new GM guzzlers.
Each automaker being given an allocation of their own meant taking the time to do it right. GM's rush to market was wasted opportunity. Pioneer means you do something with whatever ground you break. GM didn't. We still doesn't see any model of SUV with any type of plug. That was the point of getting such a generous government subsidy.
Remember, the goal is to deliver something that can compete directly with traditional vehicles sharing the same showroom floor. That means each automaker must develop technology to appeal to their own shoppers. Retaining loyalty is a vital aspect of legacy sales. Those dealers depend upon repeat business, which requires an easy sales with a reasonable profit.
Of course, focus on "bring forth" is misguided. It implies we're stuck in the early-adopter phase still and nothing was accomplished. That's a load of garbage. Subsidies are not needed for the vehicles anymore. New tax-credit offerings should focus on the next stage: INFRASTRUCTURE.
Just imagine how well spent the money would be getting homes upgrades to offer L2 for each vehicle parked there. That would do far more to move mainstream consumers forward than just giving more to buyers already set on purchasing a plug-in vehicle anyway.
Just imagine how well spent the money would
be getting employer... and businesses... and ramp owners.
Mass-Market or Luxury? The question of "Who?" got asked more and more as GM's struggle for sales got worse and worse. The reason was simple; they were all about conquest but we couldn't figure out with who. Supposedly, the purpose of Bolt was to compete directly with Tesla. That seemed a bit odd, but made more sense than the split-personality of Volt going after both Leaf and Prius PHV. That was still a problem though. It made the assertion that Tesla was seeking a mass-market audience. With the price for Model S and Model X so high, it meant everything would be based upon Tesla somehow achieving that hyped $35,000 price-point immediately upon rollout. Even then, market saturation was a very real issue. That's far above the mainstream expectation. All this depended upon sustainable sales being achieved quickly too. None of that happened. Both GM & Tesla are in challenging positions now. Fundamentals are now being analyzed too: "It doesn't matter whether Tesla delivers 90,000 cars or 900,000 in the 2nd quarter - what's more important is whether Tesla goes mass-market or stays luxury." That article opener really caught my attention. It emphasized what I had been raising concern about all along... audience... who? For GM, we know they have a heavy base of Pickup & SUV owners. That means the category of luxury is a bit skewed, since that category is typically sedan-centric. Coming from the Chevy brand, that makes no sense whatsoever. What about for Tesla? Those sedans which their current customers find absolutely stunning for looks are all early-adopters. They don't represent the mass-market. Is that a problem for Tesla? Disappointingly, the article didn't mention that at all. It's entire focus was on what volume was the correct level for the proper profit-margin? Balancing capacity with capability is a challenge. You really need to understand a large amount of influencing factors to get that right. With so much investor interest at stake, that's a very real problem. Remember what contributed to GM's bankruptcy? See those same elements at play now for the legacy automaker? That leaves Tesla in a difficult position of how to integrate as a new automaker into an aged & troubled system. To compete with ordinary consumer choices, price still needs to drop dramatically. Operational cost is wonderfully low for EV early-adopters, but that isn't something as easy to appeal with toward the shopper who focuses almost entirely on the out-the-door cost. Purchases don't often include fuel expense. In fact, that's why guzzlers remain so popular. Gas is cheap enough. So, consumers don't give it any priority. That's why the much lower cost for electricity is such a hard sell. Mass-Market appeal means far more potential. So, it's a really big deal to make intended audience clear. GM didn't and failed as a result. Tesla must now make the decision.
Innovation. From that discussion focusing on GM's
fall came this: "The problem with legacy, run-by-committee,
focus-group-driven companies is that they don't innovate. They try to
give people what they think they want. Unlike visionaries like Jobs
and Musk, they don't deliver what people don't even know they want."
It was a thought-provoking comment about want, not even bothering to bring
up need. I liked that. But rather get into the subjective aspect
of advancement, I kept focus on the innovation effort itself with:
It's not a matter of getting legacy automakers to innovate. It's how to appeal to their true customers, their dealers. Remember, this is a for-profit business with a long history of resistance to change.
GM had a disastrous run with Volt. Design suffered from group-think fueled by exploitation of tax-credits. That's easy to see now, since feedback was from enthusiasts rather than ordinary consumers and cost-reduction efforts were far from target pricing. It's too expensive and doesn't appeal to their own showroom shoppers. But back then, leadership given despite that. It was a denial path to nowhere, which is confirmed now by that technology not being spread to make it profitable... the very purpose of those tax-credits. Lesson learned is innovation requires acute attention to audience.
Toyota is constantly ridiculed for focusing on hybrids, despite the overwhelming evidence they are setting the stage for high-volume rollout of plug-in models. We see Prius with that plug-in upgrade worldwide already. Corolla hybrid offered as a plug-in hybrid later this year in some markets. C-HR, which is a hybrid in Europe already, will be offered as an EV in China for 2020. What is compelling Toyota to push forward with their fleet transformation? It's their understanding of how to appeal to their own audience and not listening to early-adopter rhetoric.
We can see the obsession with SUVs here is making the RAV4 hybrid a strong seller. That's a terrible platform for efficiency; however, it does make for a compelling plug-in hybrid. Toyota has an affordable means of delivering that too. It's a next step forward dealers can easily embrace... which is a key component to making any innovation effort a success.
In short, look beyond just the technology itself.