Personal Log #756
August 8, 2016 - August 14, 2016
Last Updated: Sun. 10/02/2016
page #755 page #757 BOOK INDEX
6 Years Ago. It's hard to believe so much time has went by since then... when I got to drive a prototype of Prius PHV. There is was in my driveway, without any supervision. They delivered the car and had me sign some paperwork. I could explore the technology on my own... and I did. Thankfully, the wait for my own to keep wasn't too terribly long. Battery technology still needed to mature. Cost was still beyond the reach of mainstream consumers. Energy density was a bit lacking as well. It simply didn't make sense for mass rollout back then... or the 2 years later when I made my purchase. Much could be learned though. That's why the prototype was getting driven my pioneer buyers like me and why the limited markets got inventory to sell. The teaching was quite extensive too. The mere existence stirred quite a bit of industry attention. Why in the world would Toyota try to squeeze out so much from so little? Why not just take the easy route of using a larger capacity battery-pack instead? After all, prices would be lower years later... right? Turns out, they weren't. The chemistry & production had many complexities to deal with. Consumers themselves did too. Prius PHV certainly delivered on the goals it set. Unfortunately, the market itself changed. Low gas prices were quite unexpected. Even more so though was the indifference to MPG improvement. Prius buyers were drawn to that. Those seeking the plug-in experience were indifferent about blending. That 100 MPG target aftermarket sellers had capitalized on didn't draw new interest. The market had been saturated. For Toyota, no big deal. Prius PHV was only a mid-cycle release. The next-gen would be on the way soon anyway. For GM, that was a big problem. Volt had to endure the wait of a full cycle and it wouldn't offer as much of a generational improvement. Upgrades would be incremental. It didn't have a hybrid counterpart either. That's why I'm so excited about Prius Prime. The introduction of a clutch to allow the second motor to contribute power, along with the vapor-injected heat-pump, is something to really look forward to. It's a new draw, taking advantage of market change... without neglecting that all-too-important priority of keeping cost competitive. Supposedly, that will result in a very attractive price. We'll find out in about a month or so. The first 6 years went by quick. This final wait is becoming a long one.
Adaptation, mistake. Pre-Rollout banter continues.
That's expected. We want to shake out concerns and address them
thoroughly, prior to sales actually beginning. Most consumers won't
take notice of any detail until early next year. Now is the time to
take advantage, considering this a practice opportunity to refine rebuttals
with well thought out points to reply with. Here's more to that end:
What I find telling is those who label the attempt for Toyota to expand reach as a "mistake".
We went through this exercise already with GM. The outcome wasn't adding an actual 5th seat; instead, they choose to deliver other configurations... which is what they needed to do anyway. How many here actually remember all those fights? Someone would call for diversification and it would get interpreted as an effort to kill Volt? It was absolutely absurd. Enthusiasts were in a panic state for years, fearing any suggestion of change was really undermining. They seriously believed another offering would dilute, rather than strengthen.
You recognize the early signs of that here?
It starts innocently enough. There are legitimate claims to use of that middle spot; however, scope is quite limited. Most owners never use it. On the rare occasion they actually do, it comes with an apology for the discomfort. That's why the option simply isn't realize for the masses in Prius Prime. Why not offer it elsewhere instead? After all, the effort of developing the technology is to use it.
Look at how Prius v has progressed. Sales have always been respectable. 30,000 per year is sustainable, but not desired. How will Toyota stir more interest? What if it becomes the Prius model to offer the 5th seat? After all, it offers a larger cargo area. That's the better family car. Wouldn't it make sense for Toyota to capitalize on that, recategorizing the regular model Prius in the process. After all, it now offers much nicer suspension... something that clearly wasn't necessary, but certainly is nice.
Prius v could also offer Prime version too.
It's the lack of wanting to consider Toyota's entire product-line that makes the arguments here & now a problem. It follows the very same problem GM supporters had with Volt years ago. The pattern should be obvious. That same "mistake" was repeated too. The first time around, it was called "Two-Mode".
Do you really think Toyota didn't consider those lessons learned before making the choices they did with Prius Prime?
Adaptation, opposition. That previous entry was my rant
post. I was annoyed by having received a reply so reminiscent of the
past. Of course, the confrontations now on the big Prius forum were
anticipated. That's one of the big benefits of having done the same on
the daily blog for Volt. That was practice, to identify all the
argument-points there we'd inevitably see here later. The pattern
repeats. GM failed to recognize that reality. The same disaster
Two-Mode has become is what they allowed Volt to become as well. To be
so naive as to think history wouldn't repeat without making any effort to
prevent it... ugh. Anywho, I'm not going to allow that to happen with
Toyota. Watching for the signs, then addressing them as early as
possible is key. Enthusiasts of Volt absolutely refused to acknowledge
Two-Mode's past. They figured that technology and those executive
decisions has nothing in common. They were wrong, very wrong. We
now have those experiences to learn from. Building upon successes,
even with the knowledge of what not to do, can be quite a challenge though.
Scaling up isn't as simple as refining a design, then making more.
There's were diversification comes it. People need choices.
Opposition emerges when decisions about what to offer don't appeal.
Not everyone will be pleased. That's all too clear with the seating
for 4 choice. Oddly though, we aren't with the raised floor anymore.
Seats down cargo room is still quite large. It's not as tall, but that
isn't often what owners will need anyway. And if it is, there's still
the extra height available closer to the front. Long story short,
there are opposing views. Some will not be happy. Point is, they
don't need to be. As long as one of the choices appeal to them, goal
Prius has matured to the point where it is so well proven and well refined,
the word "hybrid" has become synonymous with it. In other words, it is just
an ordinary mainstream vehicle at this point. Every few years, people expect
a variety of smaller improvements... but nothing amazing anymore. It
delivers well on specific goals. Gen-4 has nailed it. Done.
So, no matter how much some supporters push to retain the status quo, it's ultimately going to fail. Progress cannot be made that way. The established technology alone simply isn't enough. My technology observations over the past few decades tells of bigger change to draw new interest. In other words, the current market is saturated. To grow, something new must be tried.
Prius Prime is that... not a fifth-generation Prius or a second-generation PHV model. True, it builds upon existing technology... but that's the case for pretty much every combustion vehicle. They all take advantage of the past. But that's all hidden. Seeing that Prime different is a step out from beyond the box.
Sales from the first 2 years will indicate what is needed next. That's the opportunity mid-cycle updates provide. We won't know what those new customers really want (not need) until they are given a chance to decide. Most comments from existing PHV owners don't have the perspective required. They don't have "to the floor" EV acceleration. They don't have a vapor-injected heat-pump. They don't have a battery-capacity large enough entire commutes. We won't know the true value of those things until people actually experience them.
For me, I'll be going from impressive MPG to an all EV commute. That's new, no comparison available. The electric heater will be quite a treat. I can't imagine what it will be like approaching a car that's sat outside all day, yet is warm inside. And of course, I can't wait to find out what interest those on-the-fence about getting one will think of the stories I share.
It should be clear that the purpose of Prius PHV and Prius Prime are not the same, they do not target the same buyers, they don't even have the same scope. Like other well-proven technology, the time for a reset has come. Think of how desktop computers became smart-phones. That process was long, complex, and came with a few unexpected changes along the way.
Adaptation, growth. I didn't wait for a reply. I followed up shortly by adding: Speaking of adaptation, that was a grudge I always held against gen-1 Volt. There was no willingness to meet in the middle. That attitude of sacrificing all for the sake of EV didn't prove a draw. Loyal GM customers simply weren't interested. Oddly, gen-2 Volt retained many of the same hold backs. So, there's naturally a bit of a "compared to what" problem with many of the recent discussions. That's why we need to ask the "Who?" question. Having learned from Volt, it's absolute essential to understand audience. GM targeted enthusiasts... and did a great job appealing to them. Unfortunately, that wasn't the goal. Mainstream sales were never achieved and they still remain a struggle. Once the clearance inventory is sold in a few months, we'll be looking at a new market. Bolt will become available. Oddly, that 200-mile EV doesn't seem to be targeted at the mainstream either. To provide a large seating area, both cargo-capacity & aerodynamics were sacrificed. Who will be interested in a vehicle like that? In other words, what do the current owners of Malibu & Cruze really want from their vehicle? Same question for that of Toyota cars. Will Prius Prime appeal to Camry & Corolla owners looking for a replacement? For those who continue to complain here, their perspective is that Prius Prime is targeted at Prius owners. I disagree. I see greater appeal and potential. I see Scion owners having become older now looking for a Toyota to purchase. I see those who grew up with Celica looking for something modern with that draw from the past. I see those who like the perks of Avalon but don't want a car that large. Notice how Toyota is trying something new? Why insist that they retain a design aspect so few actually seek? Is it so bad to want a choice that doesn't resemble all the others? They are making an effort to adapt to the changing market.
Adaptation, luxuries. His response to my post was: "...and I'll say it again, but if someone is in the rear of my car, they are getting a free ride. I'm uninterested in how luxurious the rear of my vehicle is for those getting a free ride." So much for the comfort consideration. He clearly see a different audience. I wonder what this will stir: That's why you are not the intended market. Know the audience. Some people do want that. Some also see the value in a large screen, heads-up display, LED lights, and a double-wave window. All are luxuries. For that matter, so are the larger battery & plug.
Adaptation, success. It has been interesting to see where the "5 seat" discussions take us. A few believe Toyota made a serious mistake and will correct that in a few years by changing Prius Prime to accommodate a 5th person inside. I personally don't envision the many wanting a cramped, less comfortable spot in the middle. I consider the trade for buckets with a center-console an upgrade. Doesn't anyone ever think about their comfort? The shape of the seat along with a padded armrest is nice. Anywho, the most thought-provoking comment are coming from current Prius PHV owners. They look at Prius Prime as a gen-2 offering, rather than the fresh new approach Toyota has stated. Things change. Success means being able to adapt. I started with posting: Prius Prime is different than Prius PHV in a variety of ways, including who it will draw interest from. Most people don't remember the goals prior to rollout, back in 2010 when config had not be finalized. Things have changed since then. The market has shifted and Toyota is pursuing a new target. Adaption is a key to success.
Safety. We got detail today about Toyota's safety intentions. The price of Prius will go up a little bit. In return, some formerly optional safety features will become standard. That's great. Unfortunately, things like that go unnoticed by the typical consumer and exploited by those hoping to undermine. Specifically, the "Safety Sense P" package will now be included on all models. That consists of: adaptive cruise-control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic high-beam headlights, and a lane-departure alert system. The pricing increase ranges from $45 to $515, depending upon the model. That's really nice. It falls well into the category of delivering a well-balanced vehicle. Safety is clearly not being compromised for the sake of efficiency. Don't forget, we also get a major suspension upgrade too. That improvement to handling didn't contribute to an efficiency increase. In fact, the extra weight resulted in a minor penalty. Other aspects of design, like top-rated safety, are important too.
Battery Degradation. You can't do much more than share experiences, hypothesize about outcomes, and ask lots of questions. That's what is happening now... as a result of yet another vague press release from GM. The stated "fact" is that no battery-pack in Volt has ever been replaced due to degradation. The catch is, the state of degradation is never actually defined. The references to aging are so vague, they could be anything. That's the typical propaganda we've come to expect. They tell you something without really telling you anything usual. Oh well. This is what I had to say about that topic, on the big Prius forum: So... how does it work with Prius PHV degradation? Today's random errand running resulted in 11.2 miles of consecutive EV driving. Since the system supposedly only delivered 6 miles of EV in the first place, according to quite a few Volt owners, the opposite must have happened. The battery improved as it got older! (And yes, I'm quite pleased to have real-world data proving the naysayers were just spreading FUD.) I am actually seeing results that reveal an unexpected aspect of aging. According to the data from my recharges of the last 4.5 years, the amount of electricity to reach "full" has declined. Yet, I'm consistently experiencing the same EV distance as when still new. The thought behind that is the car itself is well broken in now (after 80,000 miles, along with 2,400 recharges) and the electrical resistance inside the battery itself has dropped. In other words, I'm not seeing a net change. Perhaps I would later, when the miles are doubled. But wouldn't I have already got my money's worth by then? And what if a new battery-pack was purchased? How much would that actually cost then? It would bring the car back to a near new status at that point too. Just think of how many more miles it could be driven still. Brushless electric motors keep going and going and going...
Who? The topic came up, yet again. This time
though, it was on a general green blog. No more Volt-only rhetoric.
Phew! That sure got old. Virtually all who pushed the
impossible-to-achieve promises have vanished. It's just a really bad
memory. Now, we address how most customers are totally clueless.
The very idea of plugging is overwhelming for them. They have nothing
basis of comparison. Being a totally new subject matter, it's hard to
know where to start. That's where I come in. With 16 years of
study and active participation, it has left me well prepped to begin the
process of addressing mainstream buyers directly. No more enthusiasts.
Those interested in actual change for the masses are dominating
discussions. Here's a contribution to that:
Understanding audience has been a fundamental problem. Think about how confusing MPG values were. Each report was different. Who found how much appealing?
GM made the mistake of targeting Volt enthusiasts... which wasn't a huge problem with gen-1, but the approach continues with gen-2. There's little to draw in their loyal customers. Those buyers of Malibu & Cruze will just replace them with new ones later, not even considering Volt.
Ford had the idea of augmenting their Fusion hybrid. That overcame some of the reluctance to change to another vehicle entirely, but introduced the problem of trunk room loss. C-Max had that hump in the cargo area to deal with, so that wasn't a help either.
Toyota has been the other player... but held back upon confirming the very problem mentioned here. Rather than rolling out beyond the 15 initial states, they decided to study the existing markets and adapt accordingly with gen-2... hoping to strike a balance that draws in new interest... those who didn't give Prius any consideration.
Prius Prime will fulfill that role. For the 35 states that never saw Prius PHV, it's an opportunity to start fresh too... an advantage neither GM nor Ford have anymore. The "to the floor" EV power will obviously be an easy characteristic to appeal to potential buyers with. There's a vapor-injected heat-pump and a driving recharge mode, both which each out the other plug-in hybrids, won't mean squat to them. However, owners will spread the word, which is far more effective than advertising or even salespeople.
That's the key. Like with Prius way back, well over a decade ago, it was endorsements from owners that played a major role in acceptance. It makes identifying audience easier. It's how a unifying message of purpose emerges too. Watch for it. Note what is favored and what is not by actual buyers, not enthusiasts. Knowing that is how market growth will be achieved.
For all, it should be easier this time around. In the past, promoting wildly varying MPG results only served to confuse. None handled that well. Lesson learned. Drives with EV miles, even if they are short or segmented, are what the typical car shopper will pick up on quickly. They'll understand the benefits of that engine-off experience.
Even small steps are still progress forward. With a market so complicated, so many choices, and gas so cheap, that's a really be deal.