Personal Log  #747

May 23, 2016  -  May 30, 2016

Last Updated: Tues. 6/27/2017

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Being Competitive.  I posted the following sentence in response to an antagonist who absolutely refuses to acknowledge the true competition: Not liking Toyota's goal of delivering a design capable of competing directly with traditional vehicles once the tax-credits expire... which will be mid-cycle... is no excuse for not accepting it.  He's one of those who still holding onto the gen-1 banter.  He thrived in those discussions and this new market doesn't support that same outlook.  Change doesn't come easy for some.  It's also more difficult to see, sometimes.  For example: "Comments from Toyota on the elimination of the fifth seat were for keeping weight down and efficiency up.  The required structural and suspension changes for that fifth seat would be a small cost compared to the battery and charger."  He's so fixated the immediate issues, understanding new challenges isn't being taken into consideration.  I gave him a gentle nudge:  Did you miss the post about safety?  NHTSA has been considering the introduction of rating measures to indicate the safety of rear occupants.  Squeezing 3 adults in back is far from just a rare event when it comes to services like UBER.  Those passengers are touching hips & shoulders and have a good chance if smacking heads in the event of an accident.  Who's liable then?  Insurance companies want to know the level of exposure each vehicle poses.  This new topic of rear safety is something Toyota would already been well aware of and could very well be using Prime as the vehicle to test out consumer reaction to elimination of the sub-standard middle seating we've all become accustomed to.  Think about the cost of that safety.  Is it really worth it in a non-fullsize vehicle?


Safety.  This was particularly exciting to post:  Read through all the posts of this thread again.  At some point, a factor of consideration still not taken into account should be noticed:  * * SAFETY * *  How so many for so long could neglect such an important aspect of vehicle design boggles the mind.  Think about the number of decades it took before automakers were required to add a shoulder-restraint for the middle passenger in the back seat.  For that matter, how long did it take before even just lap-belts were required?  It's really sad that safety is rarely considered.  The topic of safety is sometimes fought too.  Anyone remember all the hoopla there was with the resistance to providing airbags?  With the case of Prime, it makes sense that it is testing consumer reception to the idea of not providing any type of seating in the middle anymore.  The possibility of upcoming new regulations from NHTSA requiring safety features for all in sitting back could really add cost to the vehicle, especially with the unique problems a seat in the middle introduces.  A low rating hurts sales too.  Personally, I cringe at the idea of a side-impact where the middle passenger is crushed up against the other 2 sitting in back.  It's unfortunate some will think of this as a scare-tactic for the sake of justifying an approach, but nonetheless, the topic is something to consider.  Until now, no one has.  This thread serves as some proof of that.  Avoiding safety issues & costs by sticking with 4 seats makes sense.  It puts Toyota ahead of the rest by embracing the idea early on too.


Hurt.  Disenchantment comes in a variety of forms: "It's obvious prime is intended to attack a new audience, one that is unfamiliar with pip hatch space and rear seat. it's just disappointing to long time prius/pip buyers who have supported Toyota's effort.  Ah well, you always hurt the one you love."  That's an effort to remain constructive, but an expression of expectations not having been met.  My reply was:  Having been a supporter of Prius prior to the United States rollout, back when original model evaluations from survey families and media reviewers was all that we had available (that's 1999 for those unfamiliar with the history), I had very different expectations.  I studied the market in great detail and actively interacted with the influencing factors as it progressed.  This will be the 6th major upgrade to the platform, with respect to the battery. It started with the D-cell batteries (gen-0).  Then came along the prismatic packaging upgrade (gen-1).  A much improved cell & pack arrangement (gen-2).  Toyota then figured out how to do even more with less, by reducing voltage and introducing a booster (gen-3).  Following that was switching to lithium (gen-4).  Then, capacity was increased and a plug added (gen-5).  With this rollout in the fall (gen-6), capacity will be increased even more, allowing much more power to be delivered for propulsion.  Each upgrade always strived to keep cost down.  It was a top priority.  I never had an expectation of the dramatic increase in EV range others had recently hoped for.  The history simply didn't support such a change in approach.  Cost would be prohibitive.  Does a parent expect a child who as always put a great deal of emphasis on being financially responsible to abandon those principles at some point?  Even when they grow up, look much different, and perhaps not be as practical as in the past, there isn't a belief that change will alter purpose.  That may "hurt" to see the change, but the ultimate goal remains the same.  Prime is designed to attract mainstream buyers.  It's not a Prius with a larger battery-pack and plug like PHV was.  It's that child venturing out on their own after having completed his or her education.  Some old friends will remain.  Some new friends will be made.  The next step is being taken away from "home".  Love hurts, eh?


Garbage.  Sometimes, you just have to call it like it is.  Upon reading this, I felt empowered: "Considering how far the Volt has come in terms of battery size, packaging, and cost, what we were shown at the unveiling of the Prime was disappointing.  For a battery pack of less than half of the capacity of the gen2 Volt's, the Prime appears to have the same level of compromises."  As usual, it boils down to who.  The consumer may see a great deal in the short-term, but once those incentives, how will it sell?  I jumped at the opportunity to sound off:  What kind of load of garbage is that?  Volt doesn't stand any chance of competing against traditional vehicles without tax-credit help.  Profitability from a vehicle offering a battery-pack that size just plain isn't realistic.  Volt is smaller on the inside and doesn't get as gas depleted efficiency either.  Prime's configuration will allow consumers even with a long commute to take full advantage of the power & capacity its battery-pack will offer.  And for out on the open road, depleted efficiency will be outstanding.  8.8 kWh pack will cost much less than the 18.4 with liquid-cooling.  The Prime hybrid system will benefit from a number of components shared with Prius.  It's a formula with business sustainability in mind.  You can spin "disappointing" all you want.  Consumers shopping the showroom aren't going to bite.  In fact, they won't even know about the claims of much greater capacity expectations even existed.  Some of us hoped all along Toyota would stay true to principle, not sacrificing affordability for the sake of catering to a want.   Toyota's fulfillment of need has been a principle approach for decades.  We've seen that with Camry, Corolla, and Prius.  Why should Prime be any different?


Core Functionality.  I really like reading posts with comments like this: "...the Prime is giving us a bit more (and better) AER, but at the expense of doing exactly what the PiP didn't - compromising core functionality."  In other words, some don't deal with change as well as others.  It seems a confusing mess.  That often comes from groupthink.  You fail to see the bigger picture as a result.  That narrowing of scope comes about from the need for clarity.  Unfortunately, that can me purpose is forgotten as a result of getting side-tracked by smaller goals.  That's why stepping back to consider things like core functionality are so important.  However, those can be forgotten too.  I provided a reminder:  That's called not understanding purpose... which is interesting, since the problem is usually not understanding audience.  Anywho, availability of short-term middle seating was never on the priority list.  That higher & harder cushion wasn't sighted as necessary.  It was a "nice to have" though.  Prius focused on need.  The fact that it also delivered a few wants is what pushed it into the mainstream and kept it there... profitably, without any special incentives.  Core functionality was: Reliability, Affordability, Clean Emissions, and Great Efficiency.  Later came the ability to transport cargo much larger inside than you could using a vehicle with a trunk.  All that still holds true.


Window Sticker.  Ugh.  Knowledge from the past sometime isn't passed on.  The means of doing that can be a challenge.  Of course, if you read blogs like this, there's a chance of preventing mistakes from being repeated.  The other hope is to not waste time on ineffective attempts to educate.  Sadly, we've learned that mainstream consumers do very little research and are prone to quick decisions with important matters... like purchasing a vehicle.  The good intentions of those online often fall apart upon first attempts to share.  The short attention-spans and lack of background-knowledge prevent much progress.  In other words, the selling of a vehicle like Prius to an ordinary run-of-the-mill buyer is a touchy matter that's prone to failure.  That showroom experience should not be ignored.  Salespeople have little opportunity and little incentive.  At least with Prime, there's a chance of enticement by suggesting a test-drive.  We know that Prius often wins the heart of uncertain buyers once behind the wheel.  EV should make it easier to stimulate interest.  In other words, don't expect much searching or study to take place.  I pointed out the problem this way:  Know your audience.  People don't read the fine print on the window stickers.  It already points out results vary based on driving conditions.  What would get them look at more information?  A major contributor to the problem is they don't understand the factors at play, so providing additional data won't accomplish anything.


Cost.  I'm tired of the nonsense.  This should speak for itself:  The shortcoming with most EV promoters is they aren't able to focus on COST, yet... which forces them to just accept current PRICE with heavy dependency on tax-credits instead.  COST determines successful sustainable sales that actually delivers a profit. That's vital and certainly not taken seriously, yet.  Take a look at the COST numbers.  Best case scenario is $145 per kWh.  Most realistic efficiency is 4 miles per kWh.  That works out to $3,625 for the cells delivering 100 of range, with no longevity buffer.  Accounting for a usable capacity of 80% means adding another $900 to the COST.  There's also the need to add COST for the casing, connectors, controllers, and cooling.  Who knows what that comes to; lets say roughly $500.  In other words, the COST of 100 miles is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,000.  That COST makes the 200-mile EV unrealistic for reaching those without disposable income available.  The 100-mile EV has a market.  Those without the long-distance requirement would choose to pay less.


Great News?  This was addressed with mixed feelings: "The Toyota Prius has just netted the best gas mileage of any car in Consumer Reports' history. The influential product testing magazine netted 52 mpg overall on its test cycle, a huge improvement over the last generation's already parsimonious 44 mpg."  How their testing could result in such low MPG over the years had us scratching our heads.  The thought was they did a lot of hard-accelerations and braking too hard to allow regenerating.  The system wastes gas when you drop the pedal to the floor to get going and goes straight to the discs when stopping abruptly.  True, that is proper validation of system potential, but in no way representative of actual driving conditions.  An owner simply wouldn't experience those conditions... which is why they observe so much high MPG.  With this newest generation of Prius, that still holds true.  However, results from testing aren't as low anymore.  Toyota took that type of driving into account too.  The report published today clearly confirmed that.  52 MPG is still rather misleading.  But knowing owners will get even better is nice and the published value is appealing to those not as well informed.  However you look at it, you'll see the news all over.  It was a very popular topic online today.


That New Look.  This was exciting to post:  I saw my first commercial use of a gen-4 today.  It was white, wrapped with the business's logo.  That looked nice.  It certainly wasn't the plain business car you'd usually see.  Think about how "not normal" the regard for Prius has been over the past +15 years anyway.  Why not push the styling further into the unique category.  That's where the industry is going.  Notice how front & rear lights are rapidly taking on distinct looks?  Heck, the EV will no longer have a grille, which was only cosmetic to make it look like other vehicles.  Think about how boring the SUV has become. The small ones all basically look the same now.  What's the draw to that?  The age of "normal" is coming to an end.  Hooray!  I miss decades ago, when we saw the same cycle from blah to whoa. This time around though, there's fancy technology too.


Stop & Slow.  It was a refreshing change to discussion commutes today: "I hated driving the miata in stop and go traffic.  Leg pain unbearable after a while.  Prius is a pleasure in that department."  Contributing to that was a pleasure:  The unfortunate greenwashing effort currently at play, attempting to undermine the success of Prime, is to disregard the benefit in stop & slow commuting.  They spin it to make people believe EV range must cover the entire commute to be effective.  In reality, there's a huge payoff where highways intersect and where bridges cross.  It's a nice perk to have EV for full drive.  But the 50 MPG without plug-supplied electricity is far more than what others get when cruising.  And the 999 MPG when stuck in that heavy traffic from intersections & crossings is fantastic.  My commute includes recharging at work.  That makes my capacity now in the PHV equal to what it will be with a single charge in the Prime.  Averaging 125 MPG currently is great. How can that not be a selling point for Prime?  Of course, I'll continue charging at work.  The 85 kWh solar-array is great for that.  It will bump my entire commute to that 999 MPG.


135,000 Payments.  Strangely, only 135,000 of the 2 million GM customers with incorrect window-stickers will be getting compensation.  That sounds wrong.  How could so few be the only ones?  Whatever the case, the payments going out will range from $400 to $1,500 each.  Will that be acceptable?  I suspect owners will just accept that money without question, since gas prices are still low.  Later on, the vehicle could become painful to fill.  It's hard to tell what the future holds.  Resale value dropped.  This will just turn out to be another note in our history of guzzling.  We've seen other automakers with similar misrepresentation problems.  Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and Ford examples would be significant... if it wasn't for VW with the diesel not only misstating MPG, but also being much dirtier.  I guess we can be grateful none of the others had that problem.  It's too bad stuff like this happens.  No wonder Toyota understates.  It's better for customers to discover MPG averages are actually higher rather than lower what's stated on the window-stickers.


9,000,000 Hybrids.  What else needs to be said?  I summarize it with one word: "remarkable".  Toyota shocked the world back in October 1997 when it revealed Prius, telling everyone that was a production model that would be ready to begin sales late that same year.  The other automakers were working to deliver prototype high-efficiency vehicles in 2000.  Toyota beat them to market by such an extreme, they were left baffled.  Sales did indeed begin in December 1997.  The first upgrade was rolled out last August 2000, again beating the other automakers to market... all except Honda... who struggled.  Ford did too.  GM gave it several tries.  Others joined in eventually.  Nothing has compared to the success of Toyota though.  Today, it was revealed that 9 million of Toyota's hybrid systems have been sold worldwide.  Think about how many that truly is, especially the number of models.  So many choices.  Heck, just Prius alone offered quite the variety.  But that pails to the upcoming potential.  The system is well-proven already in larger vehicles.  Highlander is the premiere platform for power.  RAV4 is smaller and sales are starting out really strong.  Someday, a Prime model may compliment it.  Think about how popular the Mitsubishi Outlander has been over in Europe.  Imagine something of that nature here.   The improvement of adding a plug & clutch along with a larger battery-pack will be demonstrated later this year.  The expectation of growth in the hybrid segment is quite promising... well, for Toyota anyway.


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