Personal Log  #874

May 18, 2018  -  May 22, 2018

Last Updated:  Fri. 7/20/2018

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Branding.  There are attempts to move on to other topics: "The Prius brand is so strongly linked to hybrid that I think Toyota would do best by marketing any future BEV as... something other than a Prius."  That was part of a discussion addressing the future, trying to set realistic expectations for product offerings.  It continued on with: "If you want to really normalize electric cars in society, you need to stop highlighting the distinctions and just refer to them as *cars*. "  You know how much I dispise generalizations.  Dumbing things down to be so vague they don't serve any clear purpose anymore contributes to trouble.  Remember how the lack of information "hybrid" conveyed that the term ended up leading to disenchantment?  All those years ago, we'd encounter those who had purchased a Honda hybrid expected it to behave like a Toyota.  They figured out it didn't and were let down as a result.  That's why people like me pushed the ASSIST hybrid and FULL hybrid terms.  That drew attention to the fact that there were distinctions.  For similar reasons, that's why I kept fighting Volt enthusiasts.  They decided upon EREV as a term to use to draw attention that it worked different from other plug-in hybrids, but they kept changing the definition.  In other words, it was a marketing ploy to deceive rather than being used to convey information.  This is why we always much return to basics.  What is the technology attempting to accomplish?  For Toyota, there was always an effort to lead to a better future.  That meant Prius was just the leader, not the solution itself.  Other hybrids were to follow... which did indeed happen.  The same will for plug-in hybrids too.  So, focus on branding really doesn't achieve that specific goal.  A naming link would achieve the association of leadership though, which I gladly pointed out:  Ironically, that's the benefit of Prius being associated with hybrid.  It's neither a traditional vehicle, nor something bleeding edge.  It's well established... just a normal car at this point.  Keep in mind how important the reputation of Prius for value & reliability has become.  It's a proven launch vehicle for next-step tech.


The Point.  Every now & then, someone posts a sensible message: "But some of us still want a hybrid for the convenience of traditional fuel and distance to travel.  Tesla has only 1% market share at this time.  That's one week of sales for GM or Toyota."  Perspective like that is what causes a lot of anger.  It makes sense.  What kind of precedent is set when being logical online makes sense.  People are often driven to participation on forums due to a need to emotionally express something.  Responding to a feeling usually isn't constructive.  In fact, some people just want to vent and couldn't care less what others have to say.  So, who knows where this will go:  The point of all this here was to shake out that very point.  Well said.  People need perspective.  Yes, it is easy to claim & confirm marketing issues, but that requires cherry picking. T here's simply no way to look at the big picture and not see the very limited scope of market penetration so far.  There are major barriers to address still that have nothing to do with the engineering focus here. Distractions only make that worse.  Plug in your car at a very busy public location while smiling at people walking by.  Say "hello" with an inviting tone.  The feedback you'll get from those individuals is priceless.  They couldn't care less about TCO or FCV.  In fact, they don't have any clue what those mean.  It comes down to basics.  How do I equip my garage with the ability to high-speed recharge?  How much will that cost?  How much benefit will that provide?  What about just sticking with an ordinary 120-volt household outlet?  All you here can argue until the cows come home.  It won't matter to the 99%.  Convenience.  Distance.  Price.  Things like that are what compel people to take a closer look.

5-21-2018 The Premium.  They also tell you what to do & think: "We can't let our disappointment cloud our judgement."  I wasn't about to listen to any of that dribble by making sure the answer to "Who?" was clear:

Know your audience.

How many hundreds of time have I said that?  The repetition comes from some still not recognizing the fundamental difference between who they are and mainstream consumers.  Ordinary showroom shoppers see the world very differently.  Toyota understands this... hence the success for decades with Corolla and Camry.

Electrification is a paradigm-shift so profound, it's easy to frighten people away.  Think about how difficult it has been to get people to embrace smart-phones.  Many who finally switched to one use only basic features.  That's a cheap & easy upgrade compared to the purchase of a vehicle.  It makes the idea of really taking advantage of what that tech has to offer a painful reality to accept... since, most will not.

The key is finally ways to compel that fickle audience.  Tesla isn't even bothering to target them.  They offer an outstanding product for those aware & willing to pay that premium. Toyota is going after a much different group of buyers.  So, even just the idea of "jumping ship" is rather absurd.  The groups are far too different.

Know your audience.


The Count.  They also do everything they can to prevent you fom looking ahead: "Meanwhile, Toyota has yet to even bring a BEV to market."  It requires quite a bit of willful ignorance to work though, as I pointed out:  Turning a blind-eye to the lithium battery use in Prius is a very real problem.  Why aren't you acknowledging the choice to use lots of small packs to reach lots more people?  Think about how important it is to reach the market now with some type of electrification.  When solid-state does become realistic, they will have a large market of potential already established.  Look at how terrible for job GM did rushing to market.  Nothing but conquest costly mistake.


The Game.  A classic antagonist move: "...why would Toyota want to get in that game?"  They ask a question about the point you had already made.  Doing anything possible to avoid drawing attention to a conclusion having successfully been reached in very important, since they don't want the status quo to change.  I kept my response brief: While tax-credits are still at play, it is very much a game for legacy automakers.  Avoiding that mess will likely prove a very wise move... especially knowing how long a product-cycle can be.


Kicking & Screaming.  It's time to stop acknowledging this narrative: "The legacy automakers are being dragged along, kicking and screaming."  A good reason to just pretend that wasn't ever posted is that it's so vague.  What does that actually mean in regard to choices that are made.  Actions we see are that of slow change.  Ask yourself why.  The reasons are far from clear, as they are portrayed to be.  I'll post some of the complexities.  But realistically, most of it will just fall on deaf ears:

Generalizations are not helpful... perhaps some clarity about that specific resistance you feel still persists.

Toyota is converting its entire fleet to offer hybrid models.  Camry hybrid is an outstanding example of a compelling alternative to traditional propulsion.  Think of how valuable Corolla PHEV will be to that effort.  We know there will be an EV model of C-HR.  We also know there are plans for a PHEV model of RAV-4.  We may see a mid-cycle upgrade of Prius Prime too.  So, it's safe to say Toyota is working toward mass-market change.

What about GM with their 2 conflicting approaches, neither one which is of any interest to their customers who overwhelmingly prefer SUV choices?  They are being dragged, kicking, or screaming.  It's just what they turned in as homework wasn't what was assigned.  Remember how the goal of electrification was to get automakers to switch over to vehicles with plugs?  If all that automaker does is offer niche vehicles for conquest sales, that goal is being missed entirely.

Sadly, there will always be a level of push back, but you can see very real change coming when ordinary people are drawn to a choice without any special incentive.  Watch what happens when tax-credit phaseouts are triggered.


Jumping Ship.  I found this intriguing, since it came from a posted topic about Tesla interest: "Toyota is way behind in recognizing the potential and significance of battery-electric vehicles, following their strange fascination with FCEVs."  Are people posting that because they are so poorly informed or are they just dismissing what they don't like to hear?  I pressed to out how by posting:

Spreading of misunderstood intent needs to stop.  We are the ones who can help with that.

Fuel-Cell use will be significant in the future.  That's how power-suppliers will compensate for high-demand, using stored hydrogen to supplement peak need rather than continuing to depend upon the dirty sources.  Just talk to someone in the industry, that switch-over is something they are very much looking forward too.  There's also the commercial use of fuel-cells.  Think about how incredibly practical that is for buses, construction, delivery trucks, and portable power.  Most people don't.

Most people only see the personal transport rollouts... and totally overlook the reality that those taking the leap are the ones who will promote use for fleets.  Think of how important it is to have rapid refill for a parking lot full of vehicles all needing to be deployed at the same time.

As for Toyota not recognizing, that hasn't ever been true.  The first model-year of the first-generation actually had a plug.  We saw the 100 km/h design rolled out in 2003 for Prius.  Back then and as of recent, the barrier to reaching the masses is cost & capacity.  There should be no doubt that the perceived legacy leader from Detroit who supposedly gave a full endorsement for plug-in vehicles will be in a world of hurt soon when tax-credit phaseout begins, making their struggle for sales even more difficult.  Cost is still very much an issue.

Haven't you noticed how hard Toyota has pushed with lithium battery technology?  They made all but 1 model of Prius us it.  That step in the direction of high-volume supply & demand effort should be obvious.  Less obvious is how hard Toyota has pushed to not require liquid cooling.  That raises cost & complex issues, ones Tesla much also address by does not have legacy constraints to also deal with.

In other words, labeling Toyota as "behind" serves no purpose when the bigger picture is taken into consideration.


Forcing Simplicity.  It never works.  They keep trying though: "If we had only ever had PHEVs, there would likely be less confusion.  Has a gas engine, and also has a battery you can charge.  Very simple."  Some people cannot comprehend or deal with a complex world.  That's why we see them attempt to force generalizations.  They want a simple perspective, nothing requiring anything more than a first impression.  Extensive study to correctly grasp an abstract concept doesn't ever happen.  They need everything dumbed down... which doesn't work in the real world.  Things are never really that basic.  I punched back at that quoted hope with:  History has overwhelmingly proven that false.  Even when there were just 2 hybrids available, the differences were so profound, they could not be considered in the same category.  The designs were fundamentally different.  One has a single tiny electric-motor directly linked (RPM locked) to the engine.  The other had a small electric-motor and a large electric-motor, each with independent control to connect them to the engine.  Yet, both were given the same "hybrid" label.  We already see that problem emerging again for plug-in hybrids.  Design varies dramatically, yet some people want to represent them as having a shared design with only battery & motor size as the difference.  That's how greenwash is spread. Omitting important features, like the type of heater or charging speed, contributes heavily to misconceptions and disappointment.  In other words, it is far from a simple matter.


Customers.  Still annoyed, the feeling amplified when I got this in return: " 'profitability' ? What consumer EVER cares about that?"  Yes, it came from some troublemaker pushing Volt.  Like rhetoric of the past, he has no concern whatsoever for anyone except early adopters.  No one else is important from his perspective.  To be so self-centered you don't notice the rest of the world around you.  Ugh.  It's the "buy American" spin.  That really means money must only go to Detroit.  The fact that supposed "foreign" competition employs tens of thousands of Americans to build, deliver, sell, and service the vehicles all here in the United States doesn't matter.  Again, ugh, especially when you realize some of the Detroit production actually takes place in Mexico & Korea.  Anywho, I treated it as an attack from the naive rather than someone intentionally trying to undermine & mislead:  Such a fundamental error...  Not knowing audience is a huge mistake quite common to posts like this...  Ugh.  DEALERS ARE THE CUSTOMERS, NOT THOSE WHO PURCHASE THE VEHICLE !!!  Understand why?  You should.  If dealers aren't interested, there's nothing for the consumer to actually purchase.  That was a major reason why Volt struggled so much.  Dealers simply weren't interested.  Why offer a small, expensive, difficult-to-explain hatchback that provides a razor-thin return when you can just offer highly-profitable, easy-to-sell SUVs instead?  It's amazing how so many people claiming to understand the market don't recognize the importance of how vehicles are sold.  What incentive is there for a salesperson to bother when the dealer they work for shows no interest?

5-18-2018 Spinning Problems.  We get this on a regular basis.  Antagonists will invent a problem for their solution.  This is how you recruit enthusiasts.  It sounds like a great idea.  The reality that there really wasn't a problem in the first place doesn't matter.  Spin is why certain issues never die.  Since they don't exist in the first place, there's nothing to actually fix.  Recognition of this at play is to watch for who the solution is directed too.  If the target hasn't been complaining about that, it's likely a want, not a need.  If there is no requirement, there is no problem.  Annoyed by having to deal with this so often, I posted:

It isn't really a problem... if you understand audience.

GM made the fundamental mistake of asking gen-1 Volt owners how to make gen-2 better.  That flawed approach doomed them to delivering an even better niche, rather than a vehicle for mainstream consumers.  They repeated a mistake others have made, called "Innovator's Dilemma".  Toyota was smart enough to steer away from that, well aware of what pitfalls there are when focusing in on the wrong target market.  That's why gen-1 plug-in Prius rollout was halted.  Limited to 15 states and without a successor, the gen-2 design wouldn't suffer consequences of misguided expectations.

In other words, Toyota is basically starting from scratch with Prius Prime, since most people really don't have any clue how Prius works anyway.  I know this from the countless encounters I have had with ordinary people walking by the charger at our local grocery store.  They see me holding the cord and asked questions.  A past without the being able to recharge from the wall is meaningless to someone who never owned a hybrid.  Having that ability to plug in seems perfectly nature from their perspective.

I simply tell them it takes 5.5 hours to recharge with a common household outlet and 2 hours with a 240-volt connection.  From that, you get about 30 miles of real-world EV driving.  There's no confusion.  They get it... especially when I mention the base price of $27k.


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