Personal Log #764
September 26, 2016 - September 29, 2016
Last Updated: Mon. 10/03/2016
page #763 page #765 BOOK INDEX
That Daily Blog. Discussion of Volt there has almost
entirely vanished. Bolt's dominance is obvious. It has taken
over. So, getting back to the topic of plug-in hybrids today was
something I had been looking forward to. On the parent website, an
article of regular Prius phase-out potential had been published. That
meant the possibility of the blog getting it too was realistic. It
happened. I jumped in right away with:
The keep-cost-low approach Toyota chose to take has been mocked relentlessly over the years. It's good to see the purpose of that finally getting acknowledged. Leadership is getting the masses to change.
Delivering a vehicle for them requires affordability to be the highest priority. There's simply no way to achieve high-volume profitable sales with tax-credit dependency. Finding a way to offer a plug without necessarily having the most elegant packaging or largest EV range has been key.
We see Prius Prime fulfilling those requirements. You get a full EV driving experience for the average commute. You get outstanding MPG after the plug-supplied electricity is used up. You get a design with production-cost low enough to be able to compete directly with traditional vehicles.
Within this generation, tax-credits will expire. Sales must grow to sustainable levels, despite the subsidy loss. Overcoming that and setting the stage for discontinuing the regular Prius means achieving & sustaining mainstream quantity for Prius Prime within the next few years.
Sales always have been the measure of change. Ordinary showroom floor shoppers are much more difficult to appeal to than car enthusiasts. Watch how mainstream buyers respond to Prius Prime.
Published Early. Oops! There was an article published 2 days ago that abruptly vanished. It was about Prius Prime. The new photo in the preview caught my attention. I was intrigued. But try as I may, the link wouldn't open. Yesterday, I discovered it was an embargo violation. A media source privileged with the opportunity to access advanced information ended up leaking it by publishing early. We all must wait until next Monday, an entire week later. Oh, the agony! Unfortunately, what happens on the internet doesn't stay on the internet. Now I cannot upload this blog entry until then... because I know how to find out what got published. Doing a search on cached history revealed a copy of the webpage which had been promptly been taken down. The information within confirmed what I've been saying for years. Toyota has placed a very high priority on keeping cost low. The design supports decisions being made in that regard. We only needed price to prove it. There it was. $2,860 lower then Prius PHV's base, despite the larger capacity battery and much refined system. Prius Prime comes with added safety features too. That's absolutely fantastic news! Even better was the discovery of yet another improvement. This generation will include a battery-warmer. Temperatures below freezing cause electrical resistance within the battery to increase. That means more electricity is consumed to drive in Winter conditions. To improve overall efficiency, the system will now keep the battery warmed to 32°F (0°C). Unnecessary, but beneficial, upgrades like that are what we had been hoping for. It's very exciting to find out new information of that nature. Though, it would have been totally worth waiting for. Oh well. The leak wasn't a terrible thing. Only a small few noticed and we're all keeping quiet about it, especially since we only have to wait 5 more days.
Greenwash Attempts. How much more will we have to deal with bogus claims like this: "The Prius switches to the gas engine when it reaches 55 mph for efficiency." That is blatant greenwashing. There is no switch. At 62 mph (not 55 mph), the engine will join in to provide some propulsion power. The draw from the battery-pack does not stop, as the statement implies. It is only relevant to Prius PHV too. The next generation Prius Prime bumps that threshold up to 84 mph. It's that kind of intentional misleading we've had to find ways of overcoming for years. Certain individuals just plain don't care. They think nothing of spreading lies. The new venues discussing Prius Prime now bringing back those problems all over again is annoying. That is telling though. Choosing to post dishonestly informs us they have nothing of merit to rebut with. It's confirmation of shortcomings they hope to avoid revealing by keeping the attention on perceived weaknesses of others. They call it spin upon being caught. I see right through the deception. Hopefully, unknowing readers will notice what's going on... because those greenwashing attempts show no sign of ending.
Phasing Out Hybrids. Talk of Toyota's next generation
Prius only offering a plug has already begun. As expected, that has
stirred a wide variety of posts. I sounded off with this on a generic
automotive website discussing the topic:
The immediate reaction to reading this news is for people to compare to Volt. Why? Target audience is completely different. Cost doesn't have the same priority. And sales remain low & flat. What is there in common? What goals do they even share?
What's most troubling is the blatant spreading of incorrect information, since some of it is intentional. There is a bit of encouragement though, because people will recognize the new generation provides improvements. So, they'll question if what was claimed is outdated.
To the topic at hand, name other automakers striving to reach middle-market without tax-credits in their current generation. That's a major undertaking not being discussed seriously. All we get is boasting about more EV range, which hasn't resulted in large sales growth.
Look closely at Prius Prime. The effort to deliver a choice with potential to compete directly against traditional vehicles should be apparent. The benefit is huge. Dealer interest has been a fundamental problem for GM. Toyota is working hard to overcome that.
Cheap gas and the lack of interest in oil dependency present monumental challenges. There's the outright dismissal of carbon & smog-related emission problems too. Enticing customers who aren't the slightest bit concerned to consider a vehicle with a plug is a major undertaking. It takes far more than the overly-simplistic portrayal of delivering more EV range being enough to sway them.
When? Talk of this generation has been a sensitive topic. Volt enthusiasts lash out with resentment when you mention tax-credit expiration happening during this product-cycle. They see the end approaching in less than 3 years, well before the next generation will be available. That emotion comes from seeing how Toyota has prepared for it. Prius Prime may not offer the most elegant battery fit currently, but the purpose of that is clear. It was to ensure the system would be affordable. It is also recognized that the physical size of the pack could shrink mid-cycle. This sets up Toyota nicely to be able to deliver high-volume that's profitable and sustainable, even without subsidies. That's a very, very big deal... one that enthusiasts have been blowing off as unimportant... but have trouble doing so now. They see the desire to phaseout the regular Prius. When? That would be the next generation. With the newest delivering the highest thermal efficiency engine in the industry, as well as the most efficient hybrid system, it only makes sense that low-cost plugging becomes a target. Offering something for the masses has been the ultimate goal all along. That's why I held so much resentment for GM's approach with Volt. It catered to enthusiasts, not mainstream consumers. That's pretty easy to see now too. The gen-2 model confirmed a niche had been targeted. That's why support has shifted over to Bolt instead. Meanwhile, Toyota is preparing for a historical rollout. This very much resembles what we witnessed (and I participated in) back when the Classic Prius was replaced by the Iconic model. Yeah! Next year will be a lot of fun ramping up interest. The early buyers have much to do. There will be a great deal of discovery, then sharing. It's very exciting to anticipate.
Who? Now that the daily blog for Volt has turned into a venue for discussing Bolt, there's no reason to participate there anymore. After all, the start of that was to find allies and to squash greenwashing efforts. That's over. Everyone has moved on. I followed. The popular posting there doesn't allow voting. That's a huge improvement. So, when there was a thread posted about the Prius Prime sales goal, I jumped in to respond to this: "They'll need to upgrade at least the battery to make it more competitive in a year or two." It will be intriguing to find out what the reaction is to my sound off: That's only if you believe the competition is other plug-in vehicles and the target audience is Prius shoppers. Toyota does not, hence the anticipated growth. The regular Prius is for those who seek outstanding efficiency from their gas fill-ups. The improvement to the handling and system refinement make it a serious contender for those with that goal. Sadly though, gas prices are so low, sales are quite difficult. Nonetheless, Prius is still delivering mainstream numbers. Prius Prime targets a very different audience. It's those who seek a no-compromise EV experience. You get to-the-floor EV acceleration with a range enough to cover most commutes, yet not break the bank. It's affordable enough to survive on its own, without tax-credits... especially with a worldwide sales goal of 1,000,000 for this generation. Following depletion, you still get outstanding efficiency. Prius Prime also offers unique draws, like the dual-wave rear window and the distinct LED lighting. The 3.3 kW charge-rate allows the battery to be replenished quickly too. It may appeal to some considering Prius or another plug-in, but that isn't Toyota's primary goal. They want to phase-out production of traditional vehicles. That means finding ways to entice buyers of Camry & Corolla, not simply attracting those wanting to be greener.
Appealing To Wide Audiences. The word "compromise" has been given a stigma. Rather than representing an effort to deliver balance solutions, it became a sign of weakness. When you compromise, people now see that as failing to stand up for what you believe in. That's sad. It's no surprise though. When things go wrong, those who failed to reach goals will attempt to spin results. They make it seem like the outcome for the winner wasn't actually a success. That's what I've been dealing with for years. Toyota stayed true to the mission of offering a product for the masses. That's not exciting. Cars that are affordable & reliable are often labeled as boring. Being green makes that perception even worse. Yet, that's what draws ordinary customers to purchase so many. Those are the business-sustaining vehicles, so common, they get little attention. Prius Prime is an attempt to deliver both, a compromise of exciting EV and extras without exceeding the affordable criteria. That's a tough one. Fortunately, the reliability part is already taken into account. The hybrid system is well established from Prius and the assortment of other HSD vehicles. The lithium battery is well proven from PHV. It's a winning formula, if well balanced... which I see. Hopefully, others will too. It's just a matter of getting one, they sharing stories. No complicated or massive advertising campaign is necessary. The basics will do. That's all the wider audience will understand anyway. Details of operation are only the concern of enthusiasts. Buyer of profitable high-volume vehicles don't seek out that information. They just want what they can glean from showroom shopping and a few online searches. KISS... Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Playing To Your Base. How many times did I ask: "Who is the market for Volt?" That question was posted over and over and over again. The reason should have been obvious. GM was listening to enthusiasts, not supporters. They were playing to their base, rather than reaching out to grow. Market expansion is absolutely vital. Yet, none of those persisting in that daily blog would accept that. It's the reason why so many supporters abandoned it over the years. They didn't want to be associated with a group so enthusiastic, they weren't taking the situation seriously. So, even their own base kept getting smaller and smaller. That's why I was so confident about the outcome. That's why I'm talking about the aftermath now. Seeing the big picture was easy. You won't win if you don't understand your base. They didn't know their audience. They assumed others were share their beliefs, it was only a matter of being able to convey the right information. In other words, they kept repeating rhetoric, rather than addressing facts. Dismissing what you don't like is a fundamental mistake. Ironically, it's the very same problem a presidential candidate is facing now. At last night's debate, he played to his base. That worked well for getting the nomination. But that's a terrible strategy for when the goal is to increase your appeal. He said virtually nothing to sway the undecided. It was just more of the same spin & disregard. Many sources are calling him on that to. The next-morning reports are overwhelming confirming those mistakes. Sound familiar? It's just like what we saw with GM... over and over again. They remained focused on refining what already worked, instead of improving trouble areas. For example, 40 miles of EV was enough for Volt. Rather than the increase to 53 miles, battery size should have been reduced. The cost, weight, and space gains from that would have increased appeal. Only enthusiasts were requesting more EV. Ordinary consumers saw a small, expensive vehicle without impressive MPG following depletion. Supporters noticed... and became disenchanted. Mainstream buyers... didn't buy. Sales have remained flat. Growth has not been achieved, despite the generational upgrade. See the problem? What now? For who?
Aftermath, charging. As the dust settles, we are learning more. Remember, the point is to find a way of building a relationship. That means looking for things in common, even if they come from troubled starts. For example, Volt started with "Mountain Mode". It provided the ability to retain 15 miles of EV range for later use, rather than using up the entire plug-supplied capacity first. Enthusiasts claimed that was all anyone would ever need. The reason was simple... Prius PHV offered a "Hold Mode". Why would GM ever want to do something that Toyota did first? Ugh. Needless to say, that was a good idea and it later was added to Volt. Enthusiasts were thrilled... and didn't care about how hypocritical their posts had been about the feature's value. Oh well, at least they overcame their pride with that one. You think that will happen with this too? I was able to get a photo from a Prius Prime prototype. It had a "CHG MODE" indicator light illuminated on a screen. We think that is invoked using that "Drive Mode" button, the one next to the "HV/EV" and "EV Auto" buttons on the console. Will this help push Prius Prime into a respectable position? The goal is to finally be taken seriously by those who didn't want an ally. Bragging about being superior & ahead accomplished what? This aftermath commentary highlights how wasteful that effort was. The competition was traditional vehicles and still very much is. We're supposed to learn from each to figure out how to overcome that competing force. They refused to cooperate. Now, they have no choice. They must, because sales haven't grown. It's that simple.
Aftermath, light-years ahead. My favorite snippet from the extreme exchange last week is: "GM is light-years ahead in plug-ins". He declared that, but absolutely refused to explain how. No detail whatsoever was provided. It was just stated as fact. That's just like the crazy candidate we have running for president. All you get is vague claims. No substance of any kind is given. Do these personalities actually believe people won't want validation of some sort? Blind acceptance is nuts. Then again, so is making such a wild exclamation of position. What purpose does it serve? Being vastly superior accomplishes what? Well, let me tell you. Toyota's hybrid system is able to compete directly with traditional vehicles. It's a huge challenge with gas prices so low; yet, the technology remains viable. That same extremist claims it took Toyota 17 years before earning a profit from Prius. That's just plain not true, even with all costs ever involved amortized in full. It simple doesn't matter. Detail reveals that Toyota is about to start year 20. Prius is profitable. Period. Without any tax-credit help. How is that not ahead? The plug-in model will leverage upon that technology. Only the door panels will be shared for body parts, but the hybrid system underneath will be nearly identical. Different battery-pack. Added charger. Added clutch. I'd say that is ahead, especially when you consider how refined the engine is. Think about how much lithium cell production is already taking place. How much ahead is yet to be determined. That comes from sales. Penetration into the mainstream is our gauge of success. It's the direction needed for progressing actual change. Ahead in another accomplishes what?