Personal Log  #1047

December 16, 2020  -  December 18, 2020

Last Updated:  Sun. 2/21/2021

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Shames & Demands.  Some enthusiasts just declare themselves an authority, then push a narrative: "We expect much, much more from the leader."  They frame it to their own definition, in this case what "leader" should represent.  Then they attack the target they wish to undermine: "So, they should be shamed until they change their ways."  No data needs to be presented or considered.  It's all about scoring points online by posting what enablers will endorse.  Ugh.  They will continue endlessly.  All you can do is appeal to the lurkers who will read the posts, remaining silent but taking it all in nonetheless.  Again, that's a know your audience situation.  Sometimes, there are multiple types participating at the same time.  I try to interject some perspective to help those see all that's actually at play:  When sales are only just a tiny slice of the overall market and many are still with subsidies, there's no constructive way to already draw such conclusions.  This is all just typical rhetoric, impatient enthusiasts declaring winners & losers before mainstream consumers have even been had a chance to participate.  Ironically, what we have seen from Toyota is a common business sense plan for long-term survival.  They are phasing out ICE offerings (replacing them with hybrids) and existing hybrids are getting a plug upgrade.  Those plug-in hybrids are providing valuable exposure as a result.  Consumers see the move forward.  Dealers see the commitment to change.  Toyota itself gains priceless experience.  That is what we call true leadership. It's not about pushing for more range & power.  It's not about getting the most attention.  It's about finding a way to get those who would ordinarily resist to embrace change.  That's not exciting or rewarding, but it is genuine progress where it truly makes a difference.  Listening to the complaints of early-adopters disappointed that their agenda is not being followed is not.


Positive or Negative?  We keep getting speed & doom posts: "Affect positively or negatively, it all depends on the steps that Toyota makes and timing it correctly for each market.  If they don't electrify fast enough the may not be able to compete..."  When that happens, breaking of their undermining script can happen when you ask a thought-provoking question:  What does "fast enough" and "compete" actually represent?  For example, Tesla is looked upon as a leader.  However, the view of them for quality & reliability is quite low.  How do you introduce new models with a reputation not solidified yet?  As an automaker, there is still quite a bit of dependency upon investment-capital and selling carbon-credits too.  Neither one of which is a long-term solution.  Sustainable profit in conjunction with growth is required, a problem exacerbated by their lack of infrastructure (limited places to purchase & service).  So when it comes to speed or sales, how do you make a proper comparison?  Being ahead at the first milestone of a long race really doesn't us anything.  What another example, just look at GM.  Same type of praise for supposedly being fast & competitive, but that didn't actually pan out.  In fact, it completely fell apart.  It was the "Tortoise and the Hare" story playing out right before our eyes.  Heck, even timing is unclear.  With such a lacking infrastructure still and so much still needed for dealer prep, how should that balance with the inventory?  Poorly judging demand means losing money.  Enthusiasts tend not to consider that a priority.  Is that a positive or negative outcome?


Reality Check.  A discussion about studies and their cost came up.  Most people don't actually consider how they are funded.  Collecting that data requires someone to pay.  This is why we see far more advertising, where the seller simply tells you want to think instead of asking.  It's the nature of our market, rarely given any consideration.  People just take that for granted, as if that "is what it is" and no other option or approach is available.  That's why we rarely see a comment like this posted: "Though "Self-charging" is certainly a bold marketing claim, it's not nearly as bold as "Autopilot" and "Full Self Driving".  In other words, that's how you know a narrative has taken hold... when other obvious examples are available, but never get sighted.  That is the moment you need to get to.  It is when you do a reality check by asking why the rest wasn't ever noticed.  You realize at that moment the undermining worked and you fell into the trap.  Oops!  Sadly, that moment of awareness is rare.  You can try to get others to notice though:  An interesting reality check with that topic is how "Autopilot" and "Full Self Driving" do nothing whatsoever with regard to actual BEV operation.  They are wants, totally unnecessary to achieve electric-only transportation.  Attempts to create a stigma toward Toyota's clear attempt to distinguish non-plug hybrids from those that offer some type of EV drive are beginning to reveal themselves as desperate.  It is marketing that clearly works.  People have become well aware that "self-charging" means it does not have a plug... exactly that outcome the industry needs.  Something attention-getting was needed.  And as Microsoft was overwhelmingly proven, negative publicity can be quite an effective means of bringing about change.  As for lack of studies, many that have been published focus on early-adopter feedback.  That's exactly what you don't want when the goal is mainstream consumer acceptance.  In fact, that is the basis for Innovator's Dilemma.  They are listening to the wrong audience.


Market Readiness.  Phew!  We are getting a little sensible posting now: "I think Toyota could pivot to EV's very quickly.  After all, the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platforms was designed to accommodate a full EV drivetrain if needed."  That tends to happen as the rhetoric ramps up.  Antagonists basically push their luck to far, making the propaganda easy to spot and easy to disregard.  It becomes a "why are you wasting my time?" type situation, where the conclusion draw is clearly not based on the facts.  Gasp!  That's critical thinking at play.  Whoa!  You can't help but to get cynical at some point.  Are people really that ignorant?  Eventually, there a turn-around, when the efforts to undermine simply fall apart.  We're not there yet, but it is coming:  e-TNGA is on the way.  While that platform develops, components within are earning real-world credibility.  EV drive being experienced everyday from RAV4 Prime and Prius Prime owners is proving reliability... a component essential to growth many seem to dismiss as important.  This is exactly what Toyota did with gen-1 Prius.  They quietly built up reputation from consumers and trust from dealers.  That made the rather explosive demand for gen-2 Prius possible.  Toyota knows how important it is to set the stage prior to such a ramp-up of production.  In fact, they use "doom & gloom" articles just like this to gauge market readiness.  It's both informative & entertaining to read predictions of what is to come from those lacking that history.  Watch VW for an indication of market readiness.  Then look at how Toyota dealers for perspective on embracing change.


Wishful Thinking.  The hopes for "overnight" change were capitalized on with this: "Electric vehicles are coming up, yes... but they still need A LOT of time to get to where ICE has gone can't just replace a proven (inefficient is not the topic) technology overnight and Toyota is saying just that... 15 years to stop production on ICE vehicles, is in the grand scheme of things... an overnight wishful thinking."  Stuff like that should be common sense.  It's good to see others explicitly pointing out the facts, because some obviously aren't getting it.  That's progress, as is the culture of change.  Taking so much time, it almost goes unnoticed is a mixed blessing.  So, drawing attention to that isn't helpful:  Reality of the situation is ICE production will slow & shrink.  Toyota's phaseout of Sienna & Venza to hybrid only is evidence of the push forward.  RAV4 Prime success will lead to plug-in hybrid only becoming a next phase in the push.  All that sets the stage nicely for the ICE going away entirely. In the meantime, enthusiasts claiming overnight is necessary have no merit.  You can't just shutter production; however, you can reduce the size, weight, and demand for ICE... which is exactly what Toyota's approach is doing.  It allows them to shift over to producing motor electric-motors without business disruption.  In other words, the wishful thinking lacks any type of plan on how to actually accomplish rapid transition.

12-18-2020 Doom & Gloom.  There is a surprise from time to time, when you get a newbie to post their perspective on the situation.  That turned into an exchange by several others.  I homed in on this: "I do think you are right about the next gen being delayed but I wonder whether it will be delayed into oblivion.  Covid didn't stop them from releasing the Venza and Sienna this year and the Corolla Cross, a Prius sized crossover..."  Responding to comments like that are nice.  We actually get constructive dialog.  Gasp!  What a rare opportunity.  I jumped on it:

Studying Toyota's history, you'll find a lot of "doom & gloom" commentary whenever they focus inward.  Rather than going for something to spotlight as a push outward to garnish praise... which many of the other automakers thrive on... they just quietly improve their offerings.

GM is the prime example (an ironic pun), of this for plug-in hybrids.  They flaunted Volt and mocked Prius.  They did nothing to actually change their own fleet.  It was such a colossal waste of opportunity, the entire program came to an end without making any progress.  Look at their dealer lots now.  Same old SUVs & Pickups, but more of them and not a single one of them using the technology.

VW is heading down that path a lot faster than people have noticed yet.  They have an exciting new product, from the enthusiast perspective.  Most dealers couldn't care less though.  That extra time & money it takes to sell them doesn't show any promise of sustainable profit yet, so why bother?  The culture of change GM was missing is absent for VW too.

Meanwhile, Toyota is pushing hard from within to advance the entire fleet forward.  Dealers see the commitment.  Dealers are witnessing firsthand the potential.  Sales of Venza and Sienna will help to solidify those plans of ending traditional offerings.  Interest in Corolla Cross is already stirring new opportunity.  A variant sharing that platform could become the new Prius, an offering only available as a plug-in hybrid.

Take a closer look at those articles sighting reasons for Toyota's supposedly lack of vision.  Notice how binary they are, that none actually address a means to achieve change?  They claim short-sightedness.  Their long-term only perspective is an endorsement for chaos, as history has provided many examples of.  Sacrificing any type of transition plan for the sake of achieving some ambitious outcome which focuses on an ideology rather a path to achieve it is a recipe for disaster.  At best, it is very high risk.

In short, delay for a next Prius is fine.  Toyota is wise to capitalize on the opportunity this market stall from Covid has provided, as well as the obvious pause caused by industry & politics waiting to see what happened with the rollouts from VW taking place right now.


Demands & Excuses.  Yup, they are growing more desperate: "100k people die every year due to air pollution from transportation.  Hybrids are obsolete because they are polluters that must go away."  That was the start of a rant.  This was the conclusion: "Toyota has zero excuses."  When it gets to that point, no amount of reasoning will bring the person to their senses.  They have made their decision and refuse to consider anything else.  So, it's best just to sight some facts as exposition for others and move on:  You clearly have no clue how a SULEV or PZEV hybrid works.  Those emission-ratings indicate they are much cleaner than most traditional vehicles.  So even without the addition of a plug, the significant reduction of air pollution is undeniable.  You also have no understanding of the true scale.  Tesla has a tiny slice, delivering a little over 500,000 of the annual 90,000,000 new vehicles produced & sold each year.  That worldwide market is enormous and quite diverse.  Toyota's effort to phaseout traditional vehicles by replacing them with hybrids and plug-in hybrids is going well, getting cleaner vehicles out quickly and bringing about a culture of change at their dealers. Your demands are echoes from enthusiast wants, not necessities to actually change the status quo.  There is no excuse from you not to acknowledge the shortcomings still faced by the industry.


Obsolete & Stalling.  When you start losing an argument, you label and drawing conclusions: "EV technology is more than 10 years old!  Hybrids have been obsolete for 10 years.  Toyota is stalling!"  This comes back to the lack of perspective on timing... and having no patience.  This reminds me a lot of the rhetoric stirred by Ford's rollout of Energi.  Volt enthusiasts fought and fought and fought against Prius, never imaging an attack from C-Max.  Arguments complete fell apart.  So, they had to abruptly change arguments... but couldn't figure out what to focus on.  The best they could come up with was spinning the situation to make it sound like Toyota's technology was outdated.  No detail was ever provided.  It was just a meritless claim, repeated over and over and over.  Ugh.  All these years later, we're still facing that type of desperation:  Claiming "obsolete" is pointless.  It doesn't mean anything.  People still purchase DVD discs, even though that tech was replaced by Blu-Ray, then replaced by 4K-UHD.  As for a "stalling" claim, you'd have to be quite out-of-touch to think battery & infrastructure are ready for the masses.  Even at $100/kWh, that only makes expensive vehicles cost-competitive.  That doesn't mean they can actually compete directly either.  A high-volume "economy" choice won't be available for a very long time still.  With regard to infrastructure, public charging is very much just limited-location novelty and at-home charging a major logistical challenge.  There are very real issues with the lack of green electricity as well.  Look at "EV" technology itself, we see Toyota offering it already.  RAV4 Prime and Prius Prime offer full electric-only driving, just like a BEV.


Culture Of Change.  That lack of history really becomes pronounced at times.  We are definitely seeing that now.  It's all about scoring points online, not actually thinking through a process:  Trouble brews when trying to expand growth beyond early-adopters... the low-hanging fruit.  Appealing to showroom-shoppers is far more difficult.  It requires a culture of change to already be playing out.  This is when enthusiasts come to realize Toyota had taken the time to set the stage properly for change, rather than rushing into it as we saw fail disastrously for GM and looks far from certain for VW.  That work isn't exciting, but it does have quite a payoff for those who are patient.  We saw this first play out with gen-1 Prius.  To many, it seemed really odd that Toyota held back so much.  Why if they had such a revolutionary technology would they make it so difficult to obtain?  Sound familiar?  It wasn't actually until gen-2 that any push to sell took place.  Toyota tested the waters first, working on their dealer network prior to a major production ramp up.  Now, almost the entire fleet has a competitive hybrid model, 2 vehicles have stopped offering their traditional model, and a top-seller has a plug.  Toyota is sending an undeniable message of the status quo breaking.  That's the culture of change VW needs, one where the dealers see commitment across the board.


Long-Term.  It can seem amazing that some people have no sense of perspective, especially with regard to time.  But then again, you have to actually study it to have any basis of comparison.  You can't understand what you haven't been exposed to in some manner.  That's what makes a statement like this stand out: "For that to be true, Toyota would already have had a BEV here in the U.S. in production years ago."  It came about without any real context, just a conclusion that Toyota is doomed based on Tesla's position.  No history.  No background.  No detail of any sort to draw the conclusion with.  It was just rhetoric being echoed.  Ugh.  I bet this reply will fall on deaf ears:  This is Economics 101, a lesson in basic business.  Tesla is a small startup using the top-down approach (start with low-volume, high-price vehicles).  Toyota is a massive establishment using the bottom-up approach (start with high-volume, low-price vehicles).  So it makes no sense whatsoever for early-adopters (buyers during the subsidy stage) to make judgment of progress, knowing there are 2 fundamentally different approaches at play.  In fact, it is absurd to do a comparison.  Tesla has very little in common with Toyota.  Think about how many electric propulsion components Toyota is producing annually compared to Tesla.  In terms of vehicles, there is a 2,000,000 to 500,000 difference.  Toyota is producing far more and making a decent, sustainable profit in the process without struggle.  Tesla is pushing as much product as it can produce, resulting in far fewer vehicles and just barely getting by.  This is why Toyota can afford delay to take their time to do it right and Tesla is going all in with the best technology currently available.  Knowing that, claims of "behind" really don't tell us anything in particular about the long-term.


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