Personal Log  #843

November 18, 2017  -  November 23, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 1/28/2018

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11-23-2017 Volt vs Prime, part 1.  The speculation articles continue to emerge on forums throughout the plug-in world.  With the virtual tie last month, there's lots to discuss.  Some stand firm with old beliefs though: "I still think they would prefer to sell them in carb states, because they are not profitable."  Since that showed up on the big Prius forum, I went all out with my response:

That's an anecdotal observation.  Looking at the bigger picture, it's easy to see there's more involved.

Stepping back to consider everything at play, which many posting comments do not, is the fact that Toyota is rolling out Prime worldwide all at once.  Seeing Japan, Europe, and North America get first delivery all in the same year is quite an challenge to take on.  They are all very, very, very different major markets.  Having a new product take on so much, so quickly deserves recognition.

Zooming into to consider just the United States, we can see very distinct regions.  Their differences are vast.  Toyota has learned that rollout during the cold season has consequences.  With the heat-pump in Prime, that effect from Winter will have quite a pronounced impact.  So, it makes sense that final 2017 inventory was focused on the coasts instead.  Middle America will have to wait until the thaw.

Another *MAJOR* issue overlooked by virtually everyone is the fact that dealers are the primary customer, not who actually ends up driving the vehicle.  That's a business fundamental most people have a very difficult time accepting.  Why wouldn't the vehicle owner be most important in the rollout process?

Look at it this way, if the dealer isn't interested in selling the vehicle, there isn't a choice available for the consumer.  Toyota has chosen a phased rollout for this reason.  It does seem odd to have ample inventory at some places, especially with $1,000 cash back offers, when there are shortages elsewhere.  But from the perspective of keeping dealers happy and providing incentive for salespeople to actually want to try to sell the vehicle, it makes a lot of sense.

The business is quite complex.  Things worldwide need to settle down first.   Seeing that Toyota is on target for selling 50,000 Prime this year is a really big deal.  We'll see 2018 models all over... eventually.


The Message.  I'll keep repeating the message of affordability over and over again.  My version of supposed rhetoric is to get choices for ordinary people.  Without something for mainstream buyers to buy, what's the point?  So, I'll keep reminding that $27,100 delivers a solid 25 miles of EV.  All those attempts to divert attention away from MSRP are very telling.  They negative vote to hide the information related to cost too.  It's obvious that is a sensitive point.  Not attracting the masses should be a concern.  That audience doesn't just change because they should.  Heck, they don't even change when the better choice only takes a small amount of research.  Sticking with the status quo is easier.  They will stick with what they know.  This is what the enthusiasts just plain don't understand.  After all this time, they still believe it will be a matter of getting price to a reasonable point.  Too bad they don't take the time to do a small amount of research.  Some of those original misconceptions for hybrids apply to plug-in vehicles too.  We'll never get to deal with those though, until that affordable level is reached.  This is complicated.  Refusing to acknowledge the barriers doesn't help.


Neither Does Prime.  It's gets tiring to here such nonsense repeated over and over.  That is a good sign though.  The "neither does Prime" claim today especially stood out.  Rather than leadership, it was an acknowledgement of trouble concealed by an attempt to divert attention.  I got things right back on track:  Why would anyone care about such rhetoric?  $27,100 base price is what draws interest.  Recharging is inexpensive too.  It's a simple approach.  Asked for detail, I point out that pay just 7.1 cents per kWh to recharge my Prime here in Minnesota.  That gives me anywhere from 23 to 35 miles of EV (depending upon temperature) on my usual drives around town and the commute to work... for just 44 cents.  There's no HOV access available here.  It's just doing our part to reduce emissions and dependency on oil.  It's easy be disappointed about Volt not being able to deliver a similar draw.  That's no reason to mislead about Prime potential though.


Holding On.  The past is sometimes very difficult to let go...  They needed to hear it, since clearly that message has not got through yet:  Most of us recognize that Volt is on year-3 of gen-2 with tax-credit phaseout being triggered mid-2018.  Sales rate is slowed and inventory piled up, to the extent of halting production.  In other words, the early adopter phase has come to a end.  Preparation for the next should be well underway... a very different audience.  That's where Prime comes in.  It's low MSRP, well-rounded collection of standard features, and simplistic approach will appeal to ordinary shoppers.  Some here recognize that, seeing the market shift necessary for growth and how well Toyota targeted their plug-in hybrid for that.  What does Volt do to attract buyers who aren't willing to spend a premium for plugging in?


Video:  No Highway.  My latest & greatest had an "oops" situation.  The commute to work yesterday did quite get captured as planned, but it still left me with some cold weather driving data to share.  Lesson learned was to plug in the USB cord if you are pushing it with the battery... or just don't broadcast live video via Wi-Fi the entire duration.  Duh!  Oh well.  The quality of the dash video has clearly improved, despite the minimal setup now.  This particular drive was to avoid the highway entirely, taking the longer & slower route.  It's a pleasant drive and the preferred alternate when traffic gets crazy.  That can actually take less travel time when the weather is really bad, since it doesn't get congested with lots of stop & slow driving.  My goal was capture real-world data of sub-freezing drives before the extremes of winter arrive.  19.1 miles were driven using electric-heat set to 65 ECO with driver priority.  4.4 miles of EV were estimated remaining.  Average temperature outside was 27°F.  The Prime was parked inside the garage overnight plugged-in with pre-conditioning set on the timer, hence the warmer reading upon initial departure.  The gas engine never started throughout that entire commute drive.  Watch it here...  No Highway Commute


Single Minded.  We see that pattern.  It's so obvious to everyone but the person posting: "So, when my 198 beats up your 120 mpg, you start to divert the conversation by making up some numbers to advocate your case."  Only an early adopter would focus on a single trait as the selling point for a vehicle.  Mainstream buyers don't do that.  For that matter, neither do the people filling inventory at dealers.  It's amazing how the single-mindedness plays out online.  Avoiding well-rounded, dynamic conversations is easy when posts in a discussion thread are limited to a day or two and individual messages can easily be lost in the crowd.  Someone just cheers out a talking point and everyone diverts to it.  You'll get accused of leading that effort simply by adding comment to it.  People just plain don't pay attention or even care for any of it to matter.  That's why the focus on MPG persisted for so long... and continues be the distraction.  Attempting to move on to the next item of appeal puts the spotlight on you for changing the subject... when all you are doing is trying to get each priority some recognition.  It's the obsession with just one trait that causes so much issue.  Imagine actually making a major decision of any sort based upon a solitary qualification.  Unfortunately, there are many people who think that way... and pay the consequences later.


Hasn't Happened.  It's interesting to read this post from a die-hard Volt supporter: "Given the number of Prius owners, my prediction was the Prime would easily outsell the Volt.  The fact this hasn't happened is a bit of a surprise to me."  That comes from not actually paying close attention.  Seeing the craziness & uncertainty emerge from growing Model 3 & Leaf  interest, combined with the soft sales of Bolt, the fact that Toyota kept Prime deliveries limited to both coasts shouldn't have been a surprise.  The timing didn't make sense.  Why would you ship new vehicles right when the model-year is coming to a close?  That's clearance time for 2017.  Dealers barely make any profit on sales like that.  Some end up losing money.  So, shipping to new territory is a problem easily avoided.  It sends a misleading message to those not paying close enough attention.  But the dealers appreciate it.  They are a customer after all.  You don't make them happy, they won't order more to sell.  It's not rocket science.  Not upsetting them by sending vehicles that won't deliver upon their usual expectations isn't worth it.  Wait until the 2018 models are ready.  That makes far more sense.


Reality.  An early adopter coming to terms with the reality of mainstream priorities...  Now, I've seen it all.  There's not much else to say.  The goal all along was to make the perspective of ordinary people know.  That wasteful trophy-mentality has been so costly.  What a terrible experience.  The opportunity lost is mind-boggling.  Who would have ever imagined the idea of a plug-in hybrid could be messed up so bad.  Paying little regard to the importance of cost was huge mistake.  It was a gamble that ramping up production would result in massive drops very quickly.  Turns out, with little demand, there's no way to make those price reductions a reality.  Instead, you've got the reality of an unprofitable vehicle dealers express no interest in.  The vehicle called "Volt" was an object of praise by enthusiasts and a source of nightmare by executives.  GM rolled out a mess that never got any better.  It's too bad advice about what to try next was never tried.  Just think if Tesla stuck with an idea of trying to make Model S more popular, rather than starting fresh with Model 3 based upon what had been learned from Model S.  There shouldn't be any stigma from moving on.  If a plug-in hybrid model of Trax was extremely well received, so what if the Volt remains a niche or fades away.  That's progress, not a problem to be concerned about.  Ugh.  That goodness we're finally getting the message through to some early adopters.  That next stage should be embraced, welcomed, accepted...

11-21-2017 Album 208.  With the exception of the yet-to-be published collection of photos taken while on vacation, not a lot were taken.  Much of my available time was taken by other ordinary non-transportation needs.  So, finally being able share the other odds & ends that I do have is nice.  There are several random photos, in nice weather, before the crazy cold & messy conditions that will soon become the norm.  I stopped for coffee, at a location where I could plug in.  Parked next to me was a BMW i3.  Little did I know that when I mentioned charging inside that the owner would be standing next to me.  I enjoyed that exchange of information... and got a memorable photo from it.  My wife and I carpool as much as possible, but that doesn't always work out.  We have events that take us elsewhere some evenings.  So, driving separately happens from time to time.  I have captured that in a few photos too.  After all, 2 shiny new Prime parked side-by-side at the chargers isn't something you see everyone.  We do have that setup at home too, each with our own charger.  Naturally, I captured some of that setup to share as well.  You'll find them all on this particular page...  Photo Album 208
11-20-2017 Album 207.  My time is beginning to free up.  Phew!  I finally have the opportunity to start sharing some of the photos I've taken.  On this new webpage, there are several.  Having completed research, it's exciting to start sharing what was learned.  That's something I immensely look forward to with each new generation of Prius.  I'm starting with some photos to show how I captured the video.  That question gets asked each time I publish something.  So, taking some nice photos to convey that information is a good idea.  In this case, I got really lucky with the timing.  Those photos require soft lighting.  I just happened to time it with the color of a Fall sunset.  That makes sharing what I do even more exciting.  There's also a nice collection of photos included in the Home Charging document.  Time-Of-Use meters setup for each of our Level-2 chargers is likely something most people haven't ever seen before.  After all, most people rarely even think about what a 240-volt line can be used for.  The idea of setting one up to take advantage of price discounts is definitely a new concept for most.  I took a variety of photos of the screen in Prime related to charging.  It's a nice sampling for those who don't even know where to start.  Look for them here...  Photo Album 207

Home Charging.  The first new illustrated document I have created for Prius Prime owners is now complete.  It's presented as stand-alone information all about home charging.  But in reality, this is really just a chapter in the upcoming User-Guide.  Writing each section for such a large resource to share takes quite awhile.  Simply due to the effect of seasonal changes, there's no way to deliver something comprehensive until you've experienced a full year firsthand.  So much is based upon observation, that you need to witness quite a bit, then share what was learned with others to find out what's anecdotal and what's really a pattern.  The goal is to set realistic expectations.  I take lots of notes & photos.  Over time, what's important begins to stand out.  That's what refine into a collection of need-to-know facts.  In this case, it's all about charging at home.  You get a 120-volt charger with the purchase of Prius Prime.  That included hardware works fine.  If it is all you ever use, no big deal.  It obviously will do the job.  That's all I ever used at home for my 5 years of ownership with Prius PHV.  But having moved to a new house and got married, it was time to setup a home for 2 high-speed chargers.  So, I documented my experience in detail about the setup required to take advantage of 240-volt recharging.  There's a wide variety of equipment to choose from.  You will likely have the option of selecting a discount program from your electricity provider too.  Knowing what's available is key.  Hopefully the examples I share will be a good basis for owners to begin their research.  After all, once you get use to plugging in every evening, the idea of not having a vehicle that uses electricity seems bizarre.  Why wouldn't you?  It's especially rewarding when finding out how basic the process is.  Not knowing where to start is often a big barrier.  This new document will hopefully make that much easier...  Home Charging


It's Over.  Attempting to spin what I said by making it seem like I'm the one posting spin: "I see you have now pivoted to Honda... more EV range, which is the most important stat when you are talking about EVs."  I was not assumed, nor did it matter.  I know it's over.  He knows it's over.  We're done.  Honda is helping to make that happen.  It really burns Volt enthusiasts when the subject of opposition isn't Toyota.  They don't know how to fight that fight.  The precedent was established & reinforced for beating Prius... not some new unknown.  Anywho, I fired back with:  The obsession with faster & further has blinded you from seeing how vital low MSRP actually is.  After all this time, that reason for Volt's struggle to achieve sales growth should be obvious… especially with the rapidly approaching tax-credit phaseout about to be triggered.  Nicely under $30,000 is still the price-point for vehicles in the compact/midsize category for very high-volume profitable saleS... the "bread & butter" product for automakers… seen as a ubiquitous choice, since they are so common & affordable.  The category of "somewhat over $30,000" is for the midsize category often looked upon as the larger no-compromise family vehicles... Accord, Camry, Fusion, Malibu. Ford’s sales have been strong, despite the limited EV range.  Honda is about to take that on directly.  Seeing a model of Camry hybrid offering a plug from Toyota on the way is quite realistic.  Clearly we can see that Volt is now misplaced, unable to attract sales with such a high MSRP in a such a small body.  In other words... no pivot, I simply see what’s happening with the market.


Not Yet.  How to respond to this: "Toyota still doesn't think electric cars are ready for mass consumption."  The short-sighted and poorly informed usually are the one making comments like that one posted today.  So, not much of a chance to influence their thinking.  Those without a business background likely won't understand the elements at play, but not being expensive does draw attention.  Perhaps there is a possibility for them:  Electric clearly isn't affordable yet.  That's a harsh reality to accept for those who don't understand the masses.  This is why Toyota is pushing so hard to phaseout traditional vehicles.  Already having that well underway positions them better for when that next-gen battery does become realistic.  Potential from solid-state chemistry will allow greater energy-density and faster recharging.  Getting someone to upgrade to from a hybrid or plug-in hybrid is much easier than going straight from a guzzler.  Don't forget that the primary customer is the DEALER, not person who actually purchases the vehicle.  That's a difficult perspective to acknowledge... until you try shopping for a plug-in.  Most dealers simply aren't interested yet... because they aren't affordable yet.


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