Prius Personal Log  #959

August 7, 2019  -  August 11, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 10/06/2019

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Watching Inventory.  Looking to the big Prius forum for feedback about that rise & fall video has been a problem.  The website is down for weekend maintenance.  So, there's no sharing of impressions amongst the group.  That knowledge-sharing venue is silent.  My own knowledge continues though.  I have been closely monitoring Prius Prime inventory.  It's easy, you setup the online app with saved search.  A quick refresh gives a basic oversight of activity.  Remember how I mentioned the available count climbed to 750 a week ago.  Late last night, it exceeded 1,000.  That number doesn't tell the entire story though.  You have to watch for drops.  Those represent sales.  In other words, not only am I witnessing overall growth, I'm also getting a general impress of increased demand... which is exactly what has been hoped for.  The careful planning to ramp-up both production & interest based around the timing of both a mid-cycle upgrade and tax-credit fallout is a very sensible business approach.  Toyota doesn't care about hype.  Toyota doesn't cater to enthusiasts.  Toyota's interest is changing their own status quo.  Seeing their fleet move beyond traditional vehicles is true progress forward.  That's why I pushed those so hard who endorsed Volt, but fought against GM spreading that technology to one of their own mainstream vehicles.  It was the move of an automaker simply not interested in actually making a difference.  Dependency on those federal subsidies was obvious.  There was no sincere attempt to configure a system with a competitively priced MSRP, something to challenge their own traditional inventory.  Volt, then later Bolt, were token offerings which bared no resemblance to anything GM customers expressed interest in.  Ironically, the result was a "halo" effect.  That's when a vehicle creates a draw to the automaker, but the vehicle responsible for that credibility isn't what people end up purchasing.  That's why the subtle approach Toyota is taking with Prime is so different.  Sales are not just listed within the "Prius" category.  There isn't a breakdown anymore.  This will allow Toyota to shift away from the no-plug model without much disruption.  Rhetoric for the supposed "fall" will be forgotten and the naysayers will deny the rise of Prius Prime was anything but inevitable.  Ugh.

8-10-2019 Mistakes.  This was the comment emerging from that rise & fall article that I chose to address: "Given the mistakes made with the gen 4, I am hopeful (maybe unrealistically so) that the next gen can attract more buyers by a combination of going back to it's roots and advancing technology."  That's exactly the perspective I expect to routinely encounter in the near-term from casual observers.  It's what we call anecdotal evidence.  They take the information they have collected to draw a conclusion.  Unfortunately, that means information is incomplete.  You cannot learn everything necessary to be well-informed without study of the past.  That knowledge comes from research, not anything you'd stumble across without digging.  However, there are people like me who attempt to provide that missing background:

The narrative of "mistakes" is one that doesn't recognize Toyota's approach.  Anyone who truly knows the automaker understands this.  Most people are blissfully unaware. For those who have studied the process Toyota has taught us, the term "Kanban" is quite familiar.  It's a totally different means of managing & improving.  There's an inherent aspect to taking risk as a result.  Failure is not looked upon as a mistake.

The reason why is simple.  You try something.  If it works, great.  If it doesn't, you try something else.  The key is to keep the scope of that change small.  Notice the careful rollout to select markets and within limited timeframes?  Toyota is always planning ahead, expecting one of many next steps to take place depending upon outcome of the previous.  That flexibility is what most people completely overlook... seeing the changes made along the way as a mistake. It's adaptation.

Toyota saw the market for sedans & hatchbacks crumbling... hence the amazing RAV4 hybrid.  This is why taking the risk of attempting to upscale Prius Prime a little by reusing the middle rear for comfort & convenience was worth taking.  If it worked, great. If it didn't, the uproar would indicate demand for the old is still strong.  At the same time, risk with the no-plug model had to be taken... knowing the plug-in model should become standard by gen-5.

Once you recognize the perspective Toyota has on the industry and how they have been applying it to their entire fleet as a whole, you'll see a very different picture than what the media has been painting... as well as antagonists, or anyone who wants to retain the status quo.

8-10-2019 Rise & Fall of Prius.  Media sources thrive on attention-getting material.  That often meant targeting Prius, knowing it would generate lots of traffic to their content.  Today provided a good example of that.  It was a 9-minute presentation about how Prius is now dying.  To believe that, you cannot look forward.  Limiting scope like that is how most narratives work.  Rather than just cherry-picking information, they formulate a seemingly comprehensive story to back their claim.  That old technique of "lying by omission" has been used to mislead since long before Prius was around.  But being such an online-centric formula for success, that exploitation of undermining opportunity has been popular... to the degree seemingly credible sources join in.  Basically, it's the fake-news phenomenon growing to the point where people have no idea what constructive journalism is anymore.  You'd think the evidence of not looking forward would be obvious.  It is not.  Needless to say, I'm quite curious what the posted comments related to it will be.  Here are my initial impressions:

The report forces a strange perspective.  You are led to believe the driving force behind any success is by pushing limits, rather than just simply selling a really good car at a really good price.  In other words, they only see market change in the form of breaking new ground... which was never what Prius focused on.  Not recognizing the purpose of Prius means not understanding what comes next.

Toyota's goal with Prius has always been to get mainstream buyers to change.  For those who have been paying very close attention over the past few weeks, you've noticed what has been happening with the 2020 model of Prime. Inventory is quietly building.  Toyota appears to be preparing to fill that void the others have left behind.  The supposed "leaders" haven't been able to reach ordinary consumers.  Prius Prime is designed to target that very audience.  It's affordable, reliable, and easy to sell.

Put another way, the video closes history on Prius for those who knew it.  A new chapter is about to begin, one that exceeds what happened many generations ago... reaching much further into the market of ordinary consumers than we've seen so far.  The approach of "elegantly simple" that Prius was so well known for is about to become obvious for those who are just looking for a good car with a plug.


Incentivizing Charger Installs.  Many online fall into the trap of rhetoric.  They'll follow a red-herring rather than do some critical thinking.  It's quite counter-productive... and sadly, quite common.  As a result, today's comments posted related to EV dominance timing completely overlooked what should be obvious.  I tried to interject some logic:  The fundamental flaw in tipping-point discussions is not looking at the entire equation.  Even if a miracle happened overnight and battery density/cost reached that level, it still would represent market change.  That potential for high-volume production & sales cannot be achieved until infrastructure is also upgraded.  Tax-Credits for the automakers should be allowed to expire.  In their place, we should all get behind federal subsidies going toward the encouragement of homeowners & landlords.  Incentivizing the installation of level-2 chargers where people park overnight will make a massive difference.  That's the key to drawing interest for plugging in.  In the meantime, we will all see a massive growth in the PHEV market.  A plug-in hybrid like Prius Prime is profitable and already has an audience to tap.  Dealers know how to sell Prius and the ability to simply use an ordinary 120-volt outlet for overnight recharges makes that promoting that next step an easy one.  During ownership, it makes the consideration of upgrading to 240-volt a far less stressful decision.  There's no rush.  There's no uncertainty It's a decision on their own terms.  There's also a greater likelihood they'll upgrade with enough capacity for multiple vehicles.  Despite seeing the meltdown of GM efforts and other automakers struggling to make something directly competitive with traditional guzzlers, no amount of in-vehicle technology will overcome the barrier faced still for overnight charging.  Don't overlook that challenge of simply plugging in.  With over 70 million new vehicles purchased every year, it makes a lot of sense to get a wide variety of PHEV choices to market as quickly as possible.  EV will naturally follow.


First Real EV.  There are some who now feel comfortable speaking out against what had previously been unheard of.  GM knew what it was doing and there was no possible way we could be better informed about the market... is the nonsense I continuously had to deal with.  It was basically a exercise in insanity.  They'd fight you in every conceivable way to discredit & dismiss.  It was an amazing example of denial.  Well, not anymore: "If GM had any ability to forecast trends, their first real EV would have been a compact SUV similar in size to the Equinox.  The Bolt is too small, and it looks and feels like a $10,000 sub-compact econobox despite costing more than 3 times as much.  The drive train is great, the packaging is not a good fit for the US market."  That is why I asked the "Who?" question over and over and over again.  It was madness.  Volt had no audience.  Even enthusiasts were moving on.  GM nothing viable to proceed with.  The design was far too expensive and there was no strategy.  So upon seeing a comment posted like that from the disenchanted, it's a bit difficult to reply with anything constructive.  All the bridges were burnt so long ago, there's to path forward anymore.  I don't have a suggestion to contribute, just observations:  Introducing Trax with an EV would have brought about chaos.  Worry about the Osborne effect has always haunted legacy automakers.  That's why their is so much hate from GM enthusiasts about Toyota... who has figured out how to deal with the paradigm-shift.  RAV4 hybrid sets the stage.  Corolla hybrid adds to it.  Both later becoming plug-in hybrids will help bring about a smooth transition to electric-only.


What The Numbers Tell.  That revelation happened.  Sweet!  I got thinking about what his "compliance" push could equate to.  Most arguments of this nature don't actually have any substance.  There is usually just some narrative being fed, rather than some source of issue.  Antagonists will just exploit a buzz word or manta.  Watch for that absence of detail.  Merit requires it.  I wanted to know what a compliance vehicle would deliver for the automaker.  What do they get from having to fulfill a regulatory requirement?  Knowing that GM hasn't been able to meet California minimums, being forced to purchase clean-credits from Tesla is a bit of important information evaded.  None of the enthusiasts want to acknowledge Volt & Bolt not being able to achieve the goal, that some type of compensation is needed instead.  In my search, I found the actual equations.  The resulting numbers tell a story.  I bet this will stir even more emotion:  In your haste to label the car as 'compliance" and me as "shrill", you overlooked something very important.  Like they always say, the devil is in the detail...  Bolt delivers a 2.88 ZEV credit.  [(0.01 X 238) + 0.50]  Prius Prime delivers a 0.55 ZEV credit.  [(0.01 x 25) + 0.30]  That looks tiny in comparison, until you come to realize just how many Toyota stands to actually sell.  The potential is enormous, knowing a profitable platform was used... quite unlike what GM did with Volt, which delivers a 0.83 ZEV credit.  [(0.01 X 53) + 0.30]  Think about how much that would drop trying to provide a Voltec version of Equinox, something GM costumers would actually be interested in.  In other words, labels are meaningless.  It's the numbers that really make a difference... and I'm watching the inventory of 2020 Prius Prime grow.  It looks like Toyota is preparing to take a position of leadership in the affordable plug-in hybrid market... far more than just compliance.


Propaganda.  When a supposed trusted source of information publishes this, you have to wonder: "In a PHEV, the internal combustion engine remains the main energy source, with the battery and electric motor used to improve overall efficiency; the PHEV is propelled by the electric motor when the ICE is less efficient and otherwise runs on the ICE. Again, during braking, the electric motor works as a generator, recharging the battery.  Since they rely less heavily on the electric motor, PHEVs can use smaller battery packs than BEVs."  This is when raising doubt is legitimate.  How could any reputable source spread such misinformation?  That is just plain wrong.  Fortunately, several people sounded off about it right away.  I joined in:  It has already been pointed out that definition is incorrect, being the definition of a hybrid, not a plug-in hybrid.  Everyone overlooked the final sentence though.  Less heavily simply isn't true.  A plug-in hybrid like Prius Prime propels itself entirely with electricity.  Unless you force it out of the default EV mode, the engine won't start (electric heat-pump operates in temperatures down to 15°F).  My entire commute is all-electric, just like an EV.  Just because it has a combustion-engine available for when the smaller battery-pack becomes depleted does not mean the operation while using plug-supplied electricity is any different from an EV.  It's really unfortunate we have to deal attempts to wash over detail like this.  Not all designs are the same.  Notice how few EV supporters ever bring up electric efficiency, treating all as if there was no difference?  Notice how the "kWh/100mile" rating is absent from discussions?


EV Misleading.  This attempt to mislead is getting old: "As we know, many who buy the plug-in hybrids do so for the tax incentive and the ability to drive as a need to ever plug it in."  I wonder who actually believes that.  Hmm?  With online posts looking for enablers attempting to push a group-think, I suspect its an on-going effort spanning any venue offering the opportunity to submit comments.  After all, most claims are never verified.  That's why I refine my rebuttal to be short, to deliver some type of takeaway detail, and to ask a question.  In this case, it was:  Even with just 25 miles of range, annual EV miles would be 9,125.  That is a lot of gas not consumed from just overnight charging using a standard household outlet.  Why are you making the act of plugging in sound like a chore?


Still Clueless.  When a post this this goes unchallenged, there's reason for concern: "In the i3 you just drive it any way you want and you're still 70% more efficient than a Prime."  It's that group-think taking hold again.  You end up with a bunch of enablers never questioning the merit of claims.  They just go along with whatever is posted, reinforcing a rhetoric nature.  The venue ends up becoming a source of fake news eventually.  That's exactly what I witnessed with the daily blog for Volt.  Grrr.  Not bothering to check validity of supposed facts should be a red flag.  I doubt my response will change anything.  I tried anyway:  Talking about not understanding how the consumption of electricity is measured and reported efficiency.  Whoa!  32 kWh/100mi = BMW i3 ReX.  25 kWh/100mi = Prius Prime.  It should be obvious how much more efficient Prime is in EV mode.


Labels.  Exactly as anticipated, he turned to insults & name-calling.  That's a textbox response and quite telling.  It reveals he has nothing to actually argue with anymore.  Every avenue of argument has been exploited already.  I felt vindicated and posted:  Doing everything possible to draw attention away from the topic, especially when that content is nothing but insulting the poster, confirms identification of a weakness or concern.  In this case, you see the potential that mid-cycle update for Prius Prime has on the PHEV market and recognize how powerful of a message it will send for RAV4 hybrid.  Seeing a plug added to an extremely popular vehicle is the dream for Voltec which GM was never able to fulfill.  Labeling the current offering from Honda as "compliance" and labeling me as a "shrill" won't change any of that.  The march forward for PHEV continues.


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