Personal Log  #901

November 13, 2018  -  November 18, 2018

Last Updated:  Tues. 12/18/2018

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Understanding Basics.  Offering a nice balance doesn't make sense to most enthusiasts.  In fact, their selective perspective is why they aren't recognized as supporters.  The product must be well-rounded to appeal to a wide audience.  This is what I get in response to such observations: "You are all over the map."  Seeing the bigger picture confuses them with so many influencing factors.  It's their shortcoming.  They don't understand the basics necessary for high-volume sales.  I put it this way today:  That's called good business.  You cannot just focus on a single discipline.  All must be addressed for the product to be a success.  Accounting & Marketing are just as important as Engineering.  Without, the effort is doomed to fail.  That's why audience is brought up on a regular basis.  Not understanding balance is the mistake GM made, as did the enthusiasts.  This is the reason Volt struggled to achieve sales growth.  Areas of importance were neglected, which is why expanding beyond just a niche was never achieved.  Studying economics as a whole, you'll recognize the value of that balance.  This is something Toyota does exceptionally well.


Mid-Cycle Updates.  Ford Fusion Energi will be getting one.  It's battery-pack will be increased in capacity from 7.6 to 9.0 kWh.  That equates to an estimated 5-mile range addition, bringing the overall now to 26 miles.  It's exactly the type of incremental improvement supporters have come to expect.  Though with Prius Prime already at the desired target for this stage in EV market penetration, I suspect Toyota will put more focus on packaging.  Being able to squeeze the 8.8 kWh capacity better into the space available without trading off the robust cooling & warming design would stimulate new interest.  Stuff like that is how you reach out to a wider audience, rather than just bumping up an existing spec.  We all see how poorly that did for GM with gen-2 Volt.  More range didn't result in more sales.  In fact, sales went from flat to fall.  Seeing a few inches more of vertical space in the cargo area would be an obvious plus for Prius Prime.  Think about how little trunk space Fusion Energi has to offer.  That's a rather tight area to squeeze so much battery into.  But that's the choice Ford made.  We'll see if it makes much, if any, difference for sales.


Sedans.  This is becoming quite obvious: "People are moving away from sedans."  On the roads, it is undeniable.  At dealers, the trend is noticeable.  Coming from automakers, there's a ramping down of production taking place.  That's the case for Camry by Toyota.  We've known the RAV4 pocessed strong potential to overtake.  We've seen C-HR reach out into that territory.  We've witnessed the larger & smaller models of Prius loss popularity.  Change is happening.  I added comments to the mix:  A few key sedans will survive the test of time.  Corolla is the world's most popular car ever.  It seems reasonable that affordably priced with the battery-pack concealed entirely under the rear seat, it will continue to persist... allowing Toyota to phase out the traditional model and other sedans.  Keep in mind how tiny the SUV choices are becoming.  I parked next to a Mazda CX-3 the other day.  It was shocking to see how similar in size it was to Prime.  It had more headroom, but Prime had a longer storage area.  The point is change isn't abrupt and it favors practical.  We're seeing the mighty SUV shrink to more efficiency sizes.  Plug-In choices won't be for everyone.  In fact, we could be seeing an ethanol-based based hybrid someday.


More Spin.  I did actually find this of interest: "As to the other part, yes, of course toyota is late to the plug-in party.  They should have a dedicated phev out by now."  It was from an antagonist, the sort of person who may actually provide some useful information... if you have the patience.  I do, though there is reason to doubt anything constructive will result.  I tried anyway:  Late to a party for early-adopters?  That's completely meaningless, having no impact in any manner for ordinary consumers.  As for "dedicated", are you really that blind?  Prius hatchback from designed from day 1 to deliver EV drive.  Remember way back in 2003, when we closely examined what had been delivered?  That ability to travel at 100 km/h (62.1 mph) isn't a coincidence.  That was quite intentional... should a battery-tech ever become available later to exploit it.  That never happened, since battery-density remained far too low and battery-cost far too high.  In fact, that's why the next-gen rollout was so limited, due to those same battery constraints.  Prime was the first model of Prius actually able to capitalize on that design.  So what if a non-plug model filled in sales while we waited?  Prius has no traditional counterpart anyway.  In the meantime, we got the one-way clutch enhancement.  That's a nice affordable upgrade opportunity Toyota was able to take advantage of.  Spin of somehow Toyota missing the boat requires quite a bit of turning a blind-eye about mainstream market acceptance.  That's what Corolla PHEV will be all about.  Delivering technology in the most subdued way to draw interest from ordinary consumers.


More Attacks.  These didn't come from newbies; instead, they were formulated responses from the disenchanted.  Every forum has some enthusiasts who had set unrealistic expectations, been let down as a result, then held a grudge for years.  You usually end up putting them on ignore.  All that negatively and refusal to consider a different perspective is quite a turn off.  This time, it came about from them having the expectation of Toyota progressing faster.  They actually want a token of leadership to flaunt, rather than the slow & steady advantage of the masses.  It's the trophy-mentality coming from a different audience.  They focus on a dislike and dismiss everything else.  That too is annoying.  I responded to both with any direct quote, just providing some information on that new thread about the upcoming next-gen Corolla:  Claims of focus solely on CARB and FCEV is just short-mindedness.  We've seen a lot of that lately coming from those in a state of panic about tax-credit phaseout.  Focus on early-adopter sales blinded them from issues related to mass appeal.  Drawing sales from mainstream shoppers if far more difficult than the low-hanging fruit celebrations happening up to this point.  Look at the disaster from GM called Volt. It exploited tax-credits to stir a green reputation, but didn't actually change the status quo.  GM didn't get their own customers to switch to a plug.  They just kept buying SUVs and the variety of SUV choices were increased.  The compact hatchback stayed a niche throughout the entire during of government incentive.  Think about annual sales.  GM sells 3 MILLION each year in the United States.  Toyota sells about 2.4 MILLION here.  That puts the 200,000 tax-credit into perspective.  You don't squander them by offering a niche vehicle sold as a token of change.  You want to stir actual change.  Appealing to early-adopters is much, much easier than getting a showroom shopper to take the purchase into serious consideration.  That's where Toyota's approach comes in.  When they introduce Corolla Hybrid & PHEV here, they want high-volume right from the start.  It means working out kinks in the meantime.  That's what the limited market rollouts are all about.  Take advantage of CARB and China for the sake of refining the product & production.  It's a sensible move... even if it irritates the short-minded.


Random Attack.  Whenever you see a post count of just one, be suspicious.  I noticed the tags right away.  Most newbies don't have a clue how to use them.  Seeing so many and for several to contain key words to stir fear, this appeared very likely to be an attack: "safety issue! my rear window defrosters don't melt snow, and in snow, window is completely covered the entire road trip and very dangerous."  It's always possible that we were dealing with a case of basic stupidity.  It's easy enough to imagine someone not even bothering to actually wipe off snow from their window before driving.  Sadly, I see that on a regular basis.  But being so early in the season and having no idea where this supposed new owner is from, benefit of doubt is not appropriate.  The message was clearly posted to invoke fear.  That likely equates to an attack.  Nonetheless, I didn't fight back.  Instead, I chose my words carefully:  The very first post from a new member exclaiming a message of danger is a big red flag.  It fits the pattern of a troll, so understand why it is getting called out.  As for the message itself, what is the basis of such a claim?  Those of us who experienced winter last year (like my wife and I, each in our own Prime in Minnesota) didn't have any trouble.  Accumulating snow melted just fine.  Completely covered is a rather odd statement too.  At a minimum, the humps in the glass will clear themselves off from air push.  Where do you live?  Not having a brush available will catch some in more mild states off guard.


Emotional Stir.  The statement which followed was annoying to me: "This is really annoying... how Toyota keeps making the phev's exclusive for China... if Toyota don't start selling them worldwide they will start having problems with sales.  Their hybrid system is amazing, but they are falling behind in every other market except the Chinese one."  How does the word "keep" apply?  There is nothing exclusive yet.  And how does "falling behind" apply?  Who is making further progress with mainstream penetration?  It's greenwash spin coming from the uninformed.  Much of that comes from the short-minded, those who limit the scope of what they measure.  That's not how a giant worldwide automaker works.  I do appreciate how multiple markets are now being taken into consideration, but timing and the product itself cannot be disregarded.  This was my response:  Don't believe the "falling behind" rhetoric.  Having a market now that's heavily subsidized and poorly informed should be major clues that something doesn't add up.  Reaching ordinary consumers... which Corolla shoppers represent well... is extremely difficult.  They want a basic sedan.  No compromising that a hatchback requires is acceptable.  They are a very different audience.  As for China getting the PHEV model first, that's our politics combined with Detroit fallout.  Remember, we still don't have detail on what a mid-cycle update for Prime may bring.


Initial Thoughts.  The upcoming next-gen Corolla was revealed last night.  Sometime this spring, it will be rolled out.  In a seperate, small annoucement, there was a note about a hybrid model on the way.  That's what really stood out.  The lengthy detail about the vehicle itself didn't matter... since all of that will still apply anyway.  It's the addition of a battery-pack that matters.  The move forward with electrification is vital.  Corolla has always been key.  That's the turning point.  If you can reach that particular audience, there's a wave of buyers that will help bring about the end of traditional vehicles.  Cost is a major challenge.  To reach these consumers, there cannot be a noticeable premium.  The option needs to be minimal, like that of a package upgrade.  More would make it unreachable.  But no need to mention any of that with an initial thought.  Here's what I posted:  We already knew it was coming.  The plan for years from Toyota has been to offer their entire passenger vehicle line with a hybrid option.  The Corolla hybrid is already available in some other market and next year it will be offered as a PHEV model in China.  The next-gen Camry hybrid is amazing and we can see the same thing on the way for the next-gen RAV4 hybrid.  Of course, there's Prius Prime too.  We've come to expect Toyota to be comprehensive, affordable, and reliable with its tech.

11-15-2018 Great Product.  I have been watching the desperate efforts of an enthusiast performing damage-control for several weeks now.  This is what all that came to: "Make a great product and people will buy it."  That's when you truly have nothing.  It's so vague, it could mean anything.  But since sales never took off, despite having tried hard for 8 years, the time to draw conclusions is upon us.  I summarized, then did exactly that:

Volt was supposed to "leapfrog" Prius.  That meant become a sales leader in the green movement.  It never happened though.  The status quo at GM is stronger than ever.  3 MILLION sales in the United States each year with less than 1% being Volt, despite 8 years, 2 generations, and a generous $7,500 tax-credit.  People did not buy it.

The automaker you constantly mock has been striving to change their status quo, offering hybrids for each of their traditional passenger vehicles.  Their newest Camry hybrid is amazing.  We'll be getting a next-gen RAV4 hybrid in a few months.  The upcoming Corolla hybrid will be revealed in 2 weeks.  There's an Avalon hybrid available too.  A new Highlander hybrid is on the way as well, to be built in Texas.  C-HR is already a hybrid in other markets; rumor is it will be the first EV offering.

Prius Prime was their first hybrid to offer a plug.  With just a simple modification to the existing hybrid system (adding a one-way clutch), it was upgraded to a more powerful EV drive.  Corolla hybrid will be getting that same upgrade next year.  Crosstrek will be getting it this year, along with electric AWD.

That's how the market evolves.  Sales from within must embrace those new offerings, so the traditional choices can be phased out.  It means no dependency on tax-credits and a primary focus of getting loyal customers to stay with the same automaker.  True leadership is getting ordinary consumers to change, not appealing to just early adopters.

We still await GM to actually deliver an upgrade for their own product-line, offering something... anything... green.  Where's that long-awaited SUV with a plug?


Triple Sighting.  That was quite a surprise.  I had my first triple sighting today.  It was a Prime sandwich, side-by-side... Blue, Red, Blue.  I wasn't expecting to encounter 2 other owners randomly on the road like that, here in a region where there have only been a handful offered at random dealers still.  Production & Supply will pick up, especially if there are mid-cycle updates on the way (as the inventory and timing with the regular Prius updates strongly suggests).  There was the obvious wait for tax-credit fallout too.  It has been pretty lonely otherwise.  We're still on the early side of history.  It's like the Classic model all over again.


Subaru Crosstrek PHEV.  We are starting to get speculation.  The stir came from a document file by CARB.  It was the measure of pack performance for this upcoming new plug-in hybrid.  Knowing its origin is from Toyota based upon Prius Prime, there's strong interest.  Interpretting results is a bit of a challenge though.  We really don't know what some of those raw numbers represent in terms of what consumers will be informed of.  They are just measurement numbers from standardized tests.  Nonetheless, that's something to discuss while waiting for annoucements to come soon.  The belief is battery-pack capacity will be the same, but that vehicle less efficient due to the added bulk.  We'll find out soon.  Supposedly, this offering from Subaru will be available before the end of this year.


Cadillac CT6 Plug-In.  The second venture by GM into a plug-in luxury offering has failed.  Just like ELR, price was far too high to be any type of realistic choice.  How does something that expensive compete?  Turns out, it cannot.  Go figure.  This is one of those very controversial aspects of intent.  Why would GM rollout something doomed from the start?  They don't get grief from it either.  People praise GM for the effort... even though it is obviously not a serious effort.  Who did they expect to purchase one?  To see how much ridicule Toyota gets is quite hypocritical when you consider how much they strive to make their choices affordably competitive.  It's a serious problem when people don't bother to actually study the market.  They just cherry-pick and make anecdotal observations.  That disconnect with true business issues being addressed is disturbing.  But then again, arguing with people online is at best a hollow victory anyway.  What really makes a difference is sales, not comment debates.


China Mandate.  I don't recall detail from the article.  My main takeaway was simply that a mandate of 10% will begin next year in China.  That means an equivalent of sales from each automaker is required.  It's not a one-for-one situation.  Different levels of electrification will earn different point values.  Adding up those credits is how they will all meet compliance requirements.  This is where the expectation of Corolla PHEV will play a large roll into Toyota's contribution.  The rumor of C-HR as an EV makes sense for this too.  A full electric-only offering would earn more points than a plug-in hybrid.  Imagine if we had something like that here?  California has a less significant mandate, but once upon a time, there was a CARB mandate that strict.  Much as changed since then.  That's really unfortunate... but explains why I have been so persistant over the years.  Changing the masses is very difficult, but the impact is far more significant that token gestures... even though the latter makes a bigger impression.  Actual change to the status quo isn't exciting.  That's why mandates come about.  Sometimes, you need to push.  Seeing a lot of show with very little impact isn't acceptable to the environment.  Our air requires more than just trophies.  It is a relief to see China taking the situation seriously.  When will that actually happen here?


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