Prius Personal Log  #1165

September 5, 2022  -  September 11, 2022

Last Updated:  Mon. 9/19/2022

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9-11-2022 Around $30,000.  After waiting several days, I used this post for my reply to the abrupt change enthusiasts are struggling to deal with: "123 comments so far is quite telling.  The question is if the community is excited about GM or the less than $30k BEV with decent electric range?"  I know that audience.  It is a community fill with those who don't share priorities of ordinary consumers.  That's why they were constantly lashing out at anyone who pointed out they didn't represent what mainstream sales would actually be.  Enthusiasts don't like scaled back specifications.  That's how the hate for Prius came about.  Being slow & practical should not be a popular purchase, from their perspective.  I like to inform them otherwise:

GM's target of "nicely under $30,000" is 15 years old now and has changed to "around $30,000".  Will it finally happen?  Probably, but in limited quantity.  Attacks just a few months ago on Toyota, stating the range being to short as a primary deterrent, those very critics have suddenly grown silent.  They have back themselves into a corner with "decent range" statements.  It appears mainstream consumers don't share their opinion.

Fortunately, there is a market here for shorter range BEV.  We see that elsewhere and it is not emerging here.  VW is now producing ID.4 in Tennessee with a 62 kWh pack, delivering an anticipated estimated-range of 208 miles.  We also see a large ramp-up of DCFC plans, which will get a lot of attention the start of next month.  All those submissions of Statewide-Electric-Vehicle-Infrastructure-Plans for federal funding will be given approval notice by then.  That should reduce concerns regarding infrastructure investment.

That brings us to affordability finally getting attention.  The catch is there's a very real problem of the Osborne Effect.  This is where the hate for Toyota comes in with the anti-EV narrative.  Having a profitable & affordable PHEV at the ready allows them to sell 4 times as many plug-in vehicles in the event of a significant backlash against ICE.  Limited EV range works fine when there are many more places to recharge.  Consider the next-gen Prius Prime about to be revealed.  Consider how easy it will be for Toyota to convert Corolla Cross hybrid to a PHEV like they did with RAV4 Prime.

This is why GM tested the waters with a starting price "around $30,000" for Bolt.  Selling at an obvious loss is well worth exploring what market there is for a no-frills EV model of Equinox using Ultium.  Not having long-range or charging-speed of more expensive models likely won't make any difference if demand suddenly explodes.  GM needs something affordable with a plug.


Workforce Headwinds.  That was an interesting article title.  Reality is counter-initiative.  The way market contraction works is a great example of that.  When dealing with a shrinking audience, supply & production must also shrink.  That inevitably requires product/model consolidation, which results in an optimization yielding greater returns.  In other words, the effort becomes more profitable.  That flies in the face of beliefs like this: "Not like they have much choice as in 5 yrs they will have a hard time selling ICEs for a profit in the US, Europe and in 10 yrs for the whole world."  Think about the competition.  Other automakers supposedly going "all in" won't be that quickly.  If that were the case, you'd see Tesla scrambling to finally deliver something affordable... knowing the consequence of product cannibalism.  We're not seeing that.  In fact, we're not seeing much of anything from anyone with regard to their entire fleet or workforce... except from Toyota, ironically.  Hearing something from VW soon though is realistic, now that they have a new CEO.  I responded to that nonsense with:  Toyota is already transitioning the fleet to hybrid and already has a profitable approach in place to make them plug-in hybrids.  That means while other automakers will be struggling with remaining ICE sales, Toyota will have a means to sell compelling PHEV choices while also producing BEV in high volume.  That kind of flexibility allows Toyota to adapt to all the markets they sell in... Europe with aggressive transition... United States with political pushback and infrastructure challenges... and other locations unable to embrace change until well past 2030.  Of course, if you think the whole world will only take 10 years, you're in for a brutal blast of reality.  Last summer, I traveled to Tanzania for a safari trip. (It was awesome!)  Electricity for just day to day activity is quite limited and in some places absent.  Thinking they'll be able to build so much with so little in such a short amount of time, a rude awakening awaits.


Entry Model.  It's nice when others see it too: "I may be overly critical, but trim wise according to what we know, you get very little for your $30K entry model..."  That was always the problem with Prius.  It was well loaded.  That base came standard with what other vehicles would consider extra.  In this case, the compare was the base Equinox EV to bZ4X.  Do you really think that GM will come with a panoramic roof and powered retractable shade?  That's what Toyota includes.  There's nothing wrong with that difference, but it is blatant misleading to present the two as equals.  Consider what the smaller bZ crossover will offer and at what price.  People will focus on that as the vehicle targeting the affordable market.  Ugh.  Oh well, you sometimes have to confront the deception effort head on.  It's a game for many anyway.  So, you reply that way:  That's how the game is played.  We have already seen comments claiming it is $12k less than Toyota's offering while carefully avoiding detail, like the Toyota coming standard with a panoramic fixed-glass roof & power sunshade.  "Around $30k" doesn't actually mean $30,000 either.


Price?  I enjoyed posting this, when certain individuals discovered they were in a corner: "Talk to those who drew judgment just a few months ago.  Price wasn't in their criteria."  That reality of having set precedent which could come back to haunt them was never a concern, since no one ever expected such a turn of events so quickly.  Toyota was on track, keeping pace with everyone else... rather than scrambling to catch up.  Notice how the "behind" narrative pretty much vanished over night?  Having already delivered plug-in hybrids with full all-electric driving should have been a clue.  Enthusiasts tend to dismiss what they don't like, to their detriment.  So much successful EV design can go unnoticed, but it doesn't mean the experience hasn't been gained.  All those years of producing & supporting that hardware & software really add up.  Claiming use in plug-in hybrids doesn't count is desperate, but understandable.  They needed an antagonist.  Problem is, they weren't paying attention.  They focused on specifications, assuming a low price would justify less.  They hadn't anticipated how easy that could backfire.  Range is a wonderful example.  You can only justify carrying a large capacity battery-pack if there are very few DC fast-chargers available.  Once they become abundant, the criteria remains the same but the justification falls apart.  That need to travel 300 miles is unchanged.  It's the same trip regardless of vehicle price.  Convenience of recharging changes though.  You no longer require that much range... no matter how much they argued in the past.


How Many?  The topic of how many DC fast-chargers are actually needed is a new one, something most people have never given any thought.  That's why even among the EV community there is disagreement about what is necessary.  There simply isn't that much real-world experience for anyone to leverage.  All we hear is the continuous mantra of more.  It's never enough though.  Fortunately, while antagonists and enthusiasts are quarreling, we are beginning to hear from others.  I can reach new audience easy enough too, which is especially rewarding when turning the table on those who now feel backed into a corner.  They don't have solid position on that quantity unknown.  So much effort was expended on arguing, they never bothered to research.  Heck, some trying to say it was hyperbole still find themselves lost.  What is their position?  How much?  How many?  While they struggle with that, I point out what is happening.  That's was the secret to Toyota's success.  They just quietly advanced while others argued over issues of more.  Ugh.  Here's how I dealt with all that today:  Notice 50 kW stations popping up lately?  That's because it is reasonable to fund/subsidize several of them for a business to draw & retain patronage.  For places where you will stay an hour anyway... malls... restaurants... coffeeshops... parks... that speed is fine, especially for entry-level vehicles with smaller battery-packs.  150 kW will be looked upon as the standard expectation for travel, since the cost of faster hardware & service is difficult to justify.  More fast spots to plug in is a much greater draw than only a few superfast spots.  It's quite interesting to see how Toyota got ridiculed for their specs... FWD with 200'ish hp... 150 kW charging... 250 miles range... and now GM is aiming to deliver the same thing.  Supposedly, that was totally unacceptable, not enough to justify at any price.


Equinox EV.  A few details were revealed today.  As expected, there is some ambiguity at play: "The entry-level model starts at around $30,000."  What exactly does "around" mean and how stripped down with the entry-level be?  I suspect it will be the opposite of Toyota's approach, where even the base is well loaded.  This offering from GM will be in the form of 2 different size battery-packs.  The smaller will provide an estimated range of 250 miles.  Interestingly, it will be front-wheel drive.  That really messes up arguments portraying that as a terrible choice, when it was only Toyota offering such a configuration.  Now, GM will be too.  DC fast-charging will be capable of 150 kW... yet another supposed shortcoming, that will now be acceptable.  Horsepower will be 210... notice a pattern?  Needless to say, what had been so bad it was an instant failure even before sales began, is now what GM fans will be supporting.  Ugh.  The hypocritical nature of this is amazing.  I'm grateful though.  Despite the obvious contradiction, it is what we need.  The push for more just plain does not make any sense.  Want has already taken an interesting turn.  Unfortunately, it will be a little over a year from now before the first Equinox EV is delivered.  At that point, I suspect Bolt will be dead.  There's no point selling such an old model that was unprofitable and clearly not targeted at GM's own loyal customers.  Equinox EV will, especially the more expensive models planned for rollout.  It's a big step in the right direction, something looooong overdue for GM.


Give Up.  There are some who can no longer wait.  They are giving up hope of delivery soon.  That's understandable, but doesn't really work out in their favor.  The entire market is stalled and this recall really won't make that much of a different in the long run.  I pointed out:  Consider how long did it took for ID.3 and ID.4 rollouts from VW.  None of those initial issues really made any difference.  There are still long waits, people just fine with that.  In fact, ordinary consumers expect there to be issues at first.  That's why they wait a year or two before purchase.  This isn't like having problems later, as we saw with Bolt.  Rather than only a few owners and mostly undelivered vehicles to fix like Toyota, we see GM dealing with 144,000 pending repairs.  Far more buybacks took place; yet, purchases continue.  So, the judgment of "give up" really depends on perspective.  Think about the update itself too.  From those rare circumstances, we could end up with an upgrade looked upon as a gain in the end.


Absolutes.  We deal with binary thinkers on a regular basis.  Either the choice is this or it is that.  There is no in between.  All decisions must consist of 2 options.  Ugh.  The complex world of different priorities is beyond their grasp.  That's how you get comments like: "You automatically assume that Tesla won't diversify at all... You think they will sit by when their current products decline in popularity and simply refuse to roll out anything new?"  It was bizarre to see that.  I was posting about limited choice.  We'll get a pickup and some smaller crossover.  Adding that to the mix doesn't equate to much.  Tesla doesn't offer a real SUV.  Ask anyone at one of our public showings for the plug-in group.  When looking for something to replace their Equinox, they don't see anything from Tesla.  That's why GM is planning to pounce on that opportunity, as it VW.  I suspect it won't be too long before we hear about the plans for Toyota to offer something smaller that 4X, though the 5X is expected to be next.  Anywho, the point is it takes a lot of variety from a lot of players to fill in that void.  50% is quite a big chunk of the market.  Thinking beyond the early-adopter absolutes is required.  We must emphasize having a bunch of choices.  That makes enthusiast rhetoric extremely difficult.  The polarizing affect of their mindset is of no interest to ordinary consumers... those mainstream shoppers who couldn't care less about the priorities of early-adopters.  That's why I can push back pretty hard on those still trying to relive past online arguments.  Their nonsense doesn't work anymore.  I let them know it too:  No such absolute was stated or even implied.  That's just like claims of Toyota.  They said the goal of "50% by 2030" would not be met and that got perceived as "no EV demand".  It was a blatant effort to mislead by claiming such a misrepresentation.  Tesla will obviously expand their offerings.  But to imply a few new choices will profoundly increase sales is absurd. Tesla will grow, but claiming 20 million annual sales is not taking the situation seriously.


20 Million.  It sure is nice that others are finally sounded off about how absurd it is to expect Tesla to produce as many vehicles as VW and Toyota combined with such a limited product-line.  A market saturated with similar looking vehicles makes no sense.  People will seek something different... and obviously, something less expensive.  You'd think that would be obvious.  But when arguing with those who focused entirely on engineering, it is easy for the basics of business to be overlooked.  This is how I pointed that out this time:  You can't just crank out more and more of the same thing, especially long-in-the-tooth becomes undeniable.  Product diversity is an advantage legacy automakers have which Tesla has yet to address.  There's the very real problem of cannibalism too... as we have already witnessed with both S/3 and X/Y.


For Some Perspective.  I asked this question: Does anyone remember the "braking acceleration" issue?  There was silence, nothing.  Despite that being such a horrific situation, where we were all going to die, it is a forgotten chapter of the past.  This supposed "wheels falling off" situation never resulted in anything beyond being a big inconvenience, with a very nice payoff for some.  We have to wait.  That's it.  No one will ever experience it, quite unlike the actual braking issue.  True, the circumstances were very unlikely.  To make it happen, I really had to work to find the right set of circumstances.  The supposed "acceleration" was really a lack of rapid engagement, making it feel like the vehicle was suddenly surging forward.  It did not.  There was panic anyway.  That episode in history didn't last long and faded from memory quickly.  I suspect the same will repeat with this.  After all, new owners like me will stir new interest by posting real-world video.  If I am able to get the AWD model, it should come well timed for winter here... in Minnesota.  That will be a great setting to show what bZ4X was designed for.  Having a platform that got way more attention than ever intended should draw a wide audience too.  I'm really looking forward to sharing that information... some perspective we are clearly lacking at the moment.


No Demand.  Knowing your audience is good advice.  When pushing antagonists for information, you know you'll get feedback.  Just keep stroking their ego.  All that chest pounding, telling you about their "vastly superior" position, makes it easy to accidently share a weakness.  They'll end up revealing something about design of their favored vehicle that isn't as glorious as they made it out to be.  Be attentive.  Watch for it.  The effort pays off eventually.  I learned as ton that way... and have since exhausted that resource.  It is an audience of little value now, exactly what I expected at this stage.  It's a cycle.  We are nearing the phase which brings mainstream consumers into the picture.  That's the audience I will be able to focus on soon instead... especially now that my extensive research of what other automakers have done is complete.  That effort was very informative.  But when you step back and come to realize just how early of a stage DC fast-charging actually is, the hype about vehicle design gets put into perspective.  Some things enthusiasts stress as important fall much further down the priority list than I ever realized.  Infrastructure upgrade requires lots of education, for all involved... even the troublemakers.  This isn't the market they had envisioned; ironically, it is what Toyota planned.  It's all about appealing to the masses.  So what if we see lots of hybrids and plug-in hybrids during the transition?  You aren't taking the situation seriously if you believe overnight charging won't be a challenge.  Look around, beyond the obvious problem for condos & apartments.  Old neighborhoods have wiring expenses.  Sure, it can be done... but not quickly and without subsidies.  The paperwork effort alone is daunting to consider.  Anywho, it's stuff like that which prevents "demand" from materializing.  Sure, people will be interested when charging is convenient.  But until then, you have to be realistic about goals... as I tried to say:  The narrative of "no EV demand" is becoming rather weak.  The recent statement of demand not looking high enough to be able to meet the 50% goal by 2030 is a constructive observation, not any type of anti-EV sentiment.  To point out the possibility of falling short of a goal is critical thinking... that's good.  It's what you need to help address the problem.  By how much and why?  High cost and absence of diversity should be obvious.  Absence of a single plug (no standard here in the United States) is a hold up to.  What about DCFC prices & billing?  We cannot progress as fast as hoped when questions like that remain answered.  In other words, demand is complex.  Spinning that to mean their is none shows a lack of trying to understand what is actually being said.  Know your audience.


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