Personal Log  #898

October 30, 2018  -  November 3, 2018

Last Updated:  Sun. 11/04/2018

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Spreading Fear.  That has been a common technic used by politicians for as long as governments and ruling parties have been around.  In the automotive industry, you'll often see "FUD" as the term to identify that activity.  It is short for "F"ear "U"ncertainty and "D"oubt.  I remember that from way back in the early 80's, when the primary way achieve improved efficiency was to reduce the weight of the vehicle... which meant making it smaller... which equated to a sacrifice of safety... back then.  That was proven not to be the case, by a substantial margin, 20 years later when we found out SUVs were quite a bit more dangerous than an everyday sedan.  In other words, fear helped to sell vehicles.  People respond to instinct rather than actually researching.  That's why safety ratings are still referred to "crash tests" without any mention of "accident avoidance".  It's a sad reality.  Worse though is they are now attempting the same with efficiency standards, but the government is now promoting fear rather than the automakers.  The proposed SAFE program "Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient" vehicles rule for 2021-2026 cars & trucks.  This is what was stated in the official overview released for it: "The proposed SAFE Vehicles Rule seeks to ensure that government action on these standards is appropriate, reasonable, consistent with law, consistent with current and foreseeable future economic realities, and supported by a transparent assessment of current facts and data."  Notice the insertion of fear?  That not-so-subtle title says it all.  If you take the time to actually read some of the information, it's a clear effort to stir uncertainty & doubt.  Heck, just the "appropriate" and "reasonable" mentions provide an indication of intent.  This is just like the FREEDOM program years ago.  The government halts an existing effort to reassess woth.  That worked too.  They abruptly dropped PNGV funding with that excuse... and those of us supporting it had little power to do anything to intervene.  It just died.  This is no different.  Who even remembers what the detail was for the 2025 mandate?  Of course, this is where the uncertainty aspect comes into play.  The administration released numbers that don't actually make sense.  There's a bunch of number spin, where the outcome is totally misrepresentive of the facts presented.  Sadly, that's easy to do.  Making it even more confusing is just a matter of adding some unsubstantiated assumptions and some vague estimates.  That makes you doubt information shared in the past.  It all comes down to finding an excuse to continue to sell guzzlers.  In this case, the effort is to allow "overcompliance" credits.  It's when an automaker pushes fleet emissions, focusing on improvement of only certain vehicles rather than actually trying to address the status quo.  In short, this is a fight to resist change.  We usually call this moving the goal-posts.  By questioning, freezing, or rolling back standards, you effectively undermine progress... preventing a cleaner environment without dependency on non-renewable fuels.  Ugh.


Fight What?  That narrative of change only coming in the form of a full endorsement of a long-range EV continues to be a problem.  This stems from GM's desperation to remain relevant.  Both generations of Volt failed to draw mainstream sales.  Heck, even growth with the generous tax-credit never happened.  Nothing GM did resulted in a draw of attention from non-enthusiasts.  Ordinary consumers just plain were not interested.  That's why Prius was always flagged as the ultimate competitor.  That idea was finally abandoned and focus shifted to Tesla instead.  That audience cheering for GM saw that as a more realistic challenge than taking on a very successful legacy automaker.  It is how Bolt came about.  That failed too.  So, attention is shifting back to Toyota again: "...but Toyota continues to fight the transition to EV's with everything they got, too bad."  That message of resistance will likely backfire... since Toyota works hard to de-emphasize their technology advancements.  They want their choices to seem as mainstream as possible.  That's why the Camry & RAV4 hybrids basically go unnoticed.  Making it seem as though you are taking a smaller step (think "less risk") with a plug-in hybrid is exactly what is wanted.  A perspective of "no fear" is great for sales.  The key is making that choice affordable.  (Discovering the remarkable efficiency and amazingly smooth & quiet drive experience can come later.)  I responded to that nonsense effort to spread a misleading message:  Toyota's emphasis on AFFORDABILITY doesn't count as a fight?  Base MSRP for the 2018 model was $27,100.  They have no dependency on tax-credit help and it is technology easily adaptable for other hybrids.  Think about how easily a RAV4 hybrid could be upgraded to include a plug.  Toyota's effort to reach mainstream consumers shouldn't be dismissed solely on the supposed small size of the battery, especially with so many owners going months between fill ups.


Desperation.  You know a tipping point has been reached when the excuses wildly fluctuate.  The sign to watch for is when there is no longer a consistent message.  Watch for something to come up out of nowhere.  For example: "Prius+Prime sales fell year-on-year again in the USA in October 2018.  5,773 down from 6,158 a year ago."  No one has been using that metric to measure progress, because the message was never that of going grom hybrid to plug-in hybrid.  Think about who would even consider that.  It certainly wasn't GM enthusiasts, since GM basically skipped hybrids entirely.  From EV supporters, we have seen only EV penetration in contrast to mainstream sales.  This is mostly due to the fact that none of the automakers other than Toyota had an established hybrid customer base.  And of course, we have a major non-legacy automaker (Tesla) serving as a source for confusion.  Needless to say, I punched back at that desperate effort to greenwash:  That year-on-year difference is only 1.7% (385 units), which is very much within the flat realm.  As for 24 consecutive months, that's quite a stretch.  Most deliveries for even the earliest orders didn't begin until 20 months ago... which meant unsold deliveries for immediate purchase took an additional 6 months beyond that.  That perspective also requires putting on the blinders to ignore the rest of the worldwide rollout.  Toyota rolled out to a wide variety of markets all at once, a move most automakers avoid... especially with new tech.  Despite that, they were also to produce & sell over 51,000 the first year.  Manufacturing that dual-wave glass and the carbon-fiber hatch isn't exactly a well established process yet.  Lastly, I took the time to check the math and your numbers are very misleading.  (Prime: Nov 17 to Oct 18 = 26,778)  (Prime: Nov 16 to Oct 17 = 19,483)  That's a significant growth rate, so significant you don't even have to use a calculator.  That "fell" claim has been revealed as greenwash if you choose to cherry-pick a specific mix of plug & no-plug.  RAV4 hybrid sales represent a growing market too, especially with the next-gen rollout happening in a few months.


Intentional Misleading.  Ford is up to their advertising tricks again.  This time, it was Fusion being compared to Camry.  What got me worked up was the reference to auto start/stop.  For the "not available" to be believable, you have to ignore the hybrid offerings... from both automakers!  It was bizarre to have no mention whatsover about them, especially with direct reference to fuel economy.  The other emphasis was on the self-park feature, the same thing I have in my Prime is what Ford also offers.  The catch was, it was portrayed as a feature of great importance.  In other words, that was a rather blatant effort to divert attention from Toyota's standard safety sense package.  Those features are priceless for manual parking, what you are far more likely to do than with the automatic option only available for perpedicular & parallel parking.  For example, when I pull into or back out of an ordinary angled parking spot, those sensors are priceless and have nothing to do with hands free driving.  Needless to say, it was a great example of cherry-picking, where only select information was shared to create a false narrative... what we used to term as intentional misleading.


Who Sells Prime.  That was the title of a thread started today to stir discussion about distribution throughout the United States.  Certain regions only got a teeny, tiny allocation... literally, just a few.  Basically, they were only special orders.  There was certainly no sense of inventory anywhere around here.  My searches within 500 miles only reveal a few and that's all the more I have ever seen.  That's why I'm thinking Toyota has plans to step up their offering... soon'ish.  I put it this way:  My hope is there's a midcycle update for Prime to coincide with the one for Prius... which I believe will be revealed at the LA show late this month.  Then again, we may need to wait until early January at the Detroit show.  Not stocking dealers with old inventory is both a wise financial/relationship move as well as good for understanding the tech itself.  We have all had to deal with people referring to outdated specs & reviews.  There's no need to make that situation worse when you know there's an update on the way.  Remember those issues related to the previous upgrade?  Speaking of upgrades, how many of you remember the "generation" Prius that came before the first that was rolled out here?  What we got was actually a midcycle update.  Toyota upgraded the battery-pack, switching from D-cell packaging to prismatic.  For that matter, Prime itself was a midcycle update too.  Knowing all that history and seeing the inventory situation now, it is quite reasonable to expect something like a change to Prime's battery packaging at some point in the near future.


Starting Threads.  I don't actually do it often anymore.  My role had become answer provider.  But as Prime rollout progresses, there's reason to take a proactive stance.  So, I am by starting a thread with this title: "Electric Heating (winter driving with Prius Prime)"  It contained some basic info, along with some relevant videos from my collection, to stir discussion:  I was fortunate enough to have my Prime prior to winter last year, so I was able to capture a few drives as the temperature dropped to share with those curious this year.  The electric heating in Prime is provided by a vapor-injected heat-pump.  That's the most efficient means of cabin warming currently available for electric-only driving. It operates in temperatures down to 14°F.  In conditions colder, the engine joins in to help provide warmth.  So, for most of the winter even here in Minnesota, I get to enjoy EV mode.  Of course, when the engine does start, it eventually shuts back off to circulate hot coolant as you drive with only electricity.  (Watch that data shown in the second and third videos, indicated by the 2 aftermarket gauges displayed on the right.)  Here's a video of that electric-only operation at 16°F:  Ordinary Winter Commute.  This is that same drive at a lower temperature, down to 7°F:  Heat-Pump with Engine.  And here's one that even here in Minnesota, we fortunately don't have to deal with often:  One-Degree with Drive-Thru.


Sales Growth.  There's a new form of "vastly superior" emerging.  Resentment from EV owners about having to share news about sales with PHEV offerings is becoming far too frequent... to the point of sending an unwelcome message.  The moderators have not stepped in yet either.  Recognize the pattern?  Hopefully it doesn't get too bad.  We'll see.  That attitude of unwelcome is far from new.  Only thing is, the shoe is on the other foot now.  I'm enjoying the irony.  For now, my response will be somewhat general:  Isn't the point to get as many as possible to plug in?  Focusing only on BEVs would be counter-productive.  I traveled 2,674 miles with my last tank of gas.  It took less than 8 gallons to refill because 89% of those miles were electric.  That's a dramatic reduction of gas use from a small battery-pack in an affordable vehicle.  Don't you want PHEVs to help contribute to the growth of charging infrastructure?


Monthly Sales.  The complaceny with regard to montly sales is getting really bad.  Tesla reports them on a quarterly basis.  The hope was to get the industry to not obsess with minor flucuations, to focus on the bigger picture instead.  It didn't work.  People found a means of getting monthly statistics to share anyway.  GM is dealing with same problem.  Enthusiasts live in the now and most don't show any interest the larger market.  They only see the niche.  So, my reminders about this current sales surge not necessarily being representative of what mainstream acceptance may be is falling on deaf ears.  They don't care how much of an influence that $7,500 is making.  They don't care that these current buyers tend to have a large amount of disposal income available.  They don't care about the potential for market saturation either.  It's very much a hopeful bliss... with signs of reason to be concerned emerging.  We've seen this before.  Remember the fallout from Volt after the first few years?  With a very hard push from Tesla to achieve an affordable offering, some of that could be avoided.  But from a legacy automaker, like GM, what is the next step to prevent a big sales loss?  Enthusiasts claiming leadership don't understand the consequences of slipping.  Toyota is choosing the slower route with a tiered approach.  VW is planning to go all out, but not until it is cost-effective.  With the others, who knows?  BMW and Hyundai aren't really growing much.  Honda is a bit of a mystery.  Ford is just gone.  I'm obviously hoping for a midcycle bump.  In the meantime, there's a looming phaseout that will likely contribute to monthly drops.


Sales Expectations.  It's rather odd that so late in Volt sales (midcycle of second generation) to hear people focusing on conquest sales.  How does taking away sales from other automakers actually help change the wants of GM customers?  It's a blatant distraction that should have been addressed long ago.  8 years after rollout began is far too late.  The expectation of status quo shakeup should be of great importance; instead, it's a landscape of complacency.  There's nothing on the outlook for mainstream penetration.  There's no push anymore.  For that matter, there are almost no enthusiasts anymore either.  It's just a blah crawl of uncertainty.  If anyone ever doubted the concern of "too little, too slowly" as not being geniune and not having very real consequences, all they have to do is study what happened with Volt.  The hype of a decade ago fizzled to a movement that lost its way... or as I put it, never had an audience.  It's sad that they chose to hopef for the best, rather than make a serious effort to understand change.  They still don't get it either.  I continue to provide reminders:  Why would any legacy automaker focus on conquest sales?  That certainly didn't work for GM.  Their own customers haven't been interested in a compact hatchback.  Toyota on the other hand, is targeting Prius owners and Toyota showroom shoppers, with Prime.  The upcoming Corolla PHEV will obviously target Corolla shoppers.  We could easily see the RAV4 hybrid offering a plug later too, targeting RAV4 shoppers.


Fallout.  I really hadn't expected such a negative turn for GM.  I figured their would be the usual denial & defense, but the tone has become that of fallout rather than an attitude of resistance.  The problem of delivering a product that focused on want rather than need has consequences.  Like that analogy I used long ago, the homework GM turned in wasn't what the teacher assigned.  So, regardless of how good the effort was, it completely missed the point.  It's like buying magic beans.  Ugh.  Anywho, there are plenty of discussion threads popping up all over to focus on the disaster taking place.  It's like the death of diesel.  A realization of what just happened takes a bit to absord.  You need to accept the fact that there was a complacency so extreme, priorities were neglated on a scale so large there's no way to recover other than just starting over.  That means, watch for annoucements with an entirely new approach.  The current efforts clearly failed.  In the meantime, consider what I posted:  GM will struggle with the Osborne effect because they have nothing to bridge the gap. That extreme product-line difference could have avoided by rolling out a modest version of Voltec long ago, back when enthusiasts were begging for a next step to be taken.  Instead, we have watched innovator's dilemma playout with Volt, leading to an abrupt approach change leading to Bolt.  Just imagine if an affordable model of Volt or an Equinox with that technology had been rolled out years ago.  So what if the range would have been less?  That would have attracted new interest and explored new possibilities for electrifying the fleet without requiring a massive step all at once.  GM brought this struggle on themselves.  The reluctance to do anything to make a mainstream offering from the effort with Volt is a clear drop of the ball.  GM knew when tax-credit phaseout would be triggered.  GM knew the timing of Tesla's push for Model 3.  GM knew legacy automakers would be also pursuing plug offerings.  They will indeed end up undermining their own ICE sales.  We all saw it coming.


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