Personal Log #902
November 18, 2018 - November 25, 2018
Last Updated: Tues. 12/18/2018
page #901 page #903 BOOK INDEX
Build Up. Can you feel it? I think others sense that the annoucements Toyota is planning to make in 3 days will be rather significant. We know there's a refresh of the look coming as part of a mid-cycle update. What else would be enough to cause so much worry? Will the loss of tax-credits contribute to growth in demand for Prius? It's a screwy market right now with the price of gas so low. But with so much blame of sales slipping put on the visual appeal of Prius, this upcoming change eliminates all former claims. Antagonists will have to start over. That's really difficult, especially when sentiment like this is now circulating: "I too am amazed by Voltec and amazed GM have failed to capitalize on it's greatness vs the competition." Supporters abandoned GM due to that lack of progress. They expected the technology to be spread years ago. In fact, enthusiasts hyped how much faster that would happen compared to what Toyota did with their hybrid technology. That failed to happen though. GM dropped the ball. All that leadership bragging didn't result in substance to support expectations. Nothing else was rolled out to compliment or succeed Volt. No progress forward is a very real problem that no amount of spin can overcome, forgive, or excuse. There's a building up of something. Year-End will bring about a lot of tax-credit negativity reports. The articles will likely not be kind, especially with the Detroit autoshow so close at that point. My guess is we'll find out fairly soon, perhaps right before month-end sales are posted. Since GM doesn't share them anymore, the estimated values will include lots of commentary & speculation of what could come.
Golf Cart. It is interesting when you encounter a comment from someone with so little background they post something like: "I have seen this mentioned a few times now on different medias, referring to "Golf Cart". However, I can't seem to get any grasp on what this word relates to. What is the meaning of a "golf-cart" and why do the reviewers keep using it?" Not having any frame-of-reference makes you wonder if what you post will be misinterpretted. I gave it a try though: "Golf Cart" has been the term used by reviewers for nearly 20 years. Specifically, it is a reference to the on/off nature of golf-cart operation. It's what they observe while driving on HV mode. To us, it means the reviewer is at a loss, without anything useful to contribute... a dead giveaway they are not a good resource for the required knowledge to actually to the review. Sadly, it also reveals the uninformed nature of the audience here. Not having knowledge of the past indicates they stand a chance of pulling the same greenwash nonsense again. Reviewers will continue to write based on anecdotal observations, rather than doing actual research. Post comments on those reviews. Don't allow them to pass off that dribble as journalism.
Shame. When antagonists turn to emotion appeal, you know they're in trouble. Struggling to deal with numbers is what causes that. They see shortcomings when constructive measure is used. That's why there is always such a push to dismiss counts. Being held held accountable for specific milestones being achieved would reveal failure potential. It's especially bad when they try to turn that to a one-sided debate. Long story short, Volt is in serious trouble. Low sales even with a $7,500 sudsidy and years of visibility spell doom. How could it achieve necessary sales growth with such a high MSRP and the loss of tax-credit help? Compact hatchbacks are a difficult sell even with great performance. Who wants that when there's a growing EV market appealing directly to early-adopters? All those who wanted plug-hybrid choices as technology leadership have moved on. They couldn't care less about ordinary consumers. Ubiquitous equates to boring as far as they are concerned. If it doesn't stand out, what's the point? Their perspective meant problems from the start. It's that trophy-mentality issue... hence now the turn to shaming. Ugh. I kept my acknowledgement of their emotional appeal short: That's a double-standard, expecting "significant sales numbers" from Toyota to the point of SHAME but no mention of GM. Why not? Both Volt & Bolt are stuck as niche offerings, with no potential for high-volume due to such a high price. Notice how much Toyota strived to make Prime affordable? Notice the same for RAV4 hybrid and its potential to offer a plug?
Nissan Surprise. Looks like the plan for the next-gen Leaf is now in disarray. Nissan's CEO has been arrested for financial crimes. That at a minimum will delay release of anything new. No one really knows what to expect. The surprise news has been quite a shock to the industry. There's a partnership with Renault that's left hanging as well. What does it mean for an automaker already dealing with complex challenges to suddenly and quite unexpectedly lose their leader? Did anyone else share the knowledge, experience, and foresight to take over? This is kind of like the situation for Tesla. Having a single-point-of-dependency can be a significant risk. Just look at the mess resulting from GM with their lost leader in the effort to deliver Volt. When he left, so did everyeone else. Some of that was likely preventative moves to circumvent damage-control efforts before they are needed. Already being on a course to problems is nothing new. For Leaf, it was not having any active cooling of any sort. Neither air nor liquid for keeping the battery-pack from getting too hot never made sense. Yet, that was what Nissan delivered. This newest offering was supposed to change that, by introducing a liquid-cooled system. That isn't going to happen on the timeline anticipated now. Will it later? Who knows?
Thanksgiving. This was interesting to read: "GM has decided to take a backseat in this fight. It's a shame they have gone from leading to also rans, great job." Coming from an enthusiast, it makes you wonder how much of my observations are now being taken seriously. I see supporters sharing similar sentiment, but not those who antagonize routinely. Their frustration was vented by using me as a scapegoat. Turning attention to GM instead is a switch. My guess is the reality of GM failing to exploit the tax-credit phaseout opportunity, quite the opposite of what Tesla is doing, has become a painful recognition of the situation at hand. Volt is in serious trouble. It doesn't matter whether or not Toyota puts on the pressure. We can see it building from other sources... like Honda and Hyundai/Kia. Eventually, VW will get into the game too. There's just nothing from GM anymore. The legacy that thrived on ambiguous press releases, and the stirring of hype which resulted, has become silent. The lesson learned from "over promise, under deliver" appears to have felt in a painful way. My guess is stockholders. Though, there is the difficult to deny shift from sedan to SUV that's making plug-in car sales more of a challenge. Who knows. Today, I'll simply be thankful for the recongition of that monumental problem GM got itself into.
Change. After so many years of having to put up with rhetoric, it's over. I'm on the offensive now. My effort to deal with "fake news" long before the term was coined... or even recognized as a problem... was challenging without real-world data. But that's not the case anymore. So, no need to put up with it anymore. After all, they allowed the tax-credits to be wasted. So much opportunity missed... Much of it came from enthusiast's blind hope. Sadly, some of that continues substance: "I'm hoping GM surprises everyone with Voltec powered SUV." That isn't even a claim without substance. It is literally just a wish. I can turn-around the "behind" by pointing out how it is really a matter of being ahead: Not much of a surprise, since we've been waiting for years. Toyota is catching up too, by setting their stage with RAV4 hybrid. 39 MPG combined from a 219 HP system starting at $27,700 is a nice base to provide a plug option.
RAV4 Hybrid. We are watching the problems of Detroit unfold again. Only this time, it is worse. They are depending heavily on profit from guzzling Pickups & SUVs again for survival. It's to an extreme now, where everything else is being phased out. That isn't working though. We are seeing buyout offers. A large number is required too. If that doesn't happen, the result will be layoffs. Financial trouble is looming. Making the situation even more of a challenge is the competition. When you do an exception job of knowing your audience, growth can come from gaining market share. This is quite different from conquest, since it very directly addressed loyal customers. In this very real situation, it is Toyota's rollout of the next-gen RAV4 hybrid. An expection of up to 25% sales being hybrid has been set. How is easy to see. The 219 horsepower system will deliver 39 MPG combined for a starting price of just $27,700. That news today shook the industry. Rather than making RAV4 hybrid favor efficiency, like Prius, it took on power attributes even more so that Camry hybrid. That makes it an industry-top for efficiency, but without compromise. In fact, that highest performance package is actually a hybrid. That will attract cross-shoppers... which is really bad if you are an automaker who has become very reliant on SUV sales and has nothing comparable. For GM, they don't have anything even remotely close. For that same price, you get 26 MPG. That's such a drastic difference, it's a game changer. Adding to this upcoming disaster is the reality that Toyota's hybrid system provides a very easy means of adding a plug. Put totally another way, Volt is dead. Competiting against Prius never made any sense and now there is literally nothing the enthusiasts can say anymore. All those times I pushed for a SUV offering the technology in Volt, they were smug. Now, they are in trouble... too little, too slowly. This new hybrid will become a key contributor to change.
Stupidity? That question is worthwhile to ask, especially when getting this: "Your last straw to grab at is tax-credits. How sad. This is just another example of how far behind Toyota is." I've been pointing out GM's dependency on tax-credits for years. He just chose to ignore that until now. His act of dismissal doesn't change my position. GM squandered those subsidy opportunities. Rather than use that money to change their own status-quo, it was just a trophy grab. Ugh. Oh well. The enthusiasts will learn the hard way. Something drastic will happen soon. They can't be so stupid they don't see it coming... or are they? Again, ugh. I wonder when we'll find out... before or after phaseout is triggered... hmm? These are the observations I posted about that: My final post on this thread will be to reiterate how often you reflect. That is GM, not Toyota. The purpose of the tax-credits was to establish sustainable sales. Each automaker would use their initial 200,000 to get dealers & salespeople working well with customers to set the stage for the UNLIMITED quantity aspect of phaseout. That is exactly what Tesla did. Notice how there was a massive ramp-up of Model 3 production just as the 200,000 limit was about to be reached? GM should have been positioning to do the very same thing, so Volt could see major surge of sales during the phaseout. Instead, basically nothing is going to happen during that upcoming unlimited period. Toyota, on the other hand, is doing exactly that. By pushing RAV4 hybrid and Corolla hybrid into the mainstream, they are showing a clear path to electrification. It's very easy for business & consumer to recognize & accept the addition of a plug, just like Toyota did for Prius. People understand the technology and cost involved. Seeing that there is also a tax-credit available is a well-timed bonus. Your deep hatred for Toyota and using me as a scapegoat won't change any of that. As for your feelings about GM, the disappointment is obvious. They squandered tax-credits on conquest sales. That's why they are lobbying for more now, to finally target their own loyal customers. TLTL reflection.
Focus. The obsession with spinning "too little,
too slowly" concern for GM into a "too little, too late"
assessment for Toyota is becoming absurd. It's denial on such an
extreme level, it's difficult to recognize the lines of reality.
Certain enthusiasts turned antagonists are pushing their own distorted
narrative so hard, they have lost touch. Stuff like this keeps coming:
"Again, focus your energy on TLTL Toyota." It boggles my mind
how dismissive of evidence a person can become. They just ignore what
they don't like. All you can do is continue to provide information, so
those reading the insansity taking place within that discussion can see
what's truly happening. For example:
I except your invitation. And since you obsess with timing, that is what I will address.
The claim of "too little, too late" is spin on the "too little, too slowly" concern which came about from GM's bankruptcy recovery plan. That task-force assigned to oversee that financial obligation wanted to ensure the Volt program would actually deliver some type of economic benefit for the automaker. That very specifically meant delivering a product that was profitable & sustainable. In other words, high-volume sales must be achieved. It never happened though; consequently, greenwashing emerged to undermine that concern.
GM pushed ahead with their plans, using up tax-credits by attracting customers from other automakers. Those purchases are known as "conquest" sales. They can be very effective for stirring interest, but financial success requires those initial purchases to draw interest from loyal customers. That outcome never materialized. GM owners didn't replace their vehicles with gen-1 Volt. So, to appeal to the wider audience, GM developed and rolled out gen-2 Volt. Sales growth was still not achieved. 8 years and a bulk of the tax-credits available had been wasted.
Toyota was carefully studying GM's struggle to reach ordinary consumers. Appealing to a niche was clearly a failed effort. The mid-cycle upgrade to gen-3 Prius adding a plug was limited to only 15 states, then rollout was halted entirely. Toyota used that isolated market to collect real-world data for their first mass-market offering. 1.5 years after the halt, that rollout in the form of a new Prius which included next-gen upgrades was the first choice for mainstream shoppers. This was an excellent means of avoiding Innovator's Dilemma, a common problem among emerging technologies
Toyota did not rollout that first dedicated plug-in Prius to all markets though. There was worldwide distribution, the introduce the product to a wide variety of audience, but availability was limited. In the United States, the rollout was limited to the coasts. Inventory in the Midwest and SouthEast only got very small deliveries, just enough for each region be introduced to the technology. It was an effective means of gauging interest while at the same time refining production of the technologies introduced, specifically the dual-wave glass, the carbon-fiber hatch, and the large battery-pack.
2 years into that, the limited rollout remains. It ensured tax-credits were not wasted and set the stage for a mid-cycle upgrade. It also ensured dealers would not get stuck with old inventory, to avoid the Osborne Effect, which could equate to large financial losses or even an end to sales opportunity. Most importantly though, it prevented confusion for shoppers. With limited or no supply in most markets, whatever happens in year-3 can be considered a fresh start. Education of salesperson & consumer will not have to contend with outdated information.
As of 17 days ago, Toyota still had 109,301 tax-credits available before triggering phaseout. When that happens, an additional quarter (3 months) of unlimited quantity sales can take place before the 50% reduction of tax-credit value. GM will trigger phaseout in just 43 days. Their entire allotment of 200,000 will be used up. Labeling Toyota's position as "too late" is an act of pure denial. They have much opportunity available still.
With respect to "too little", that's a reference to audience. GM never found a way of appealing Volt or its technology to anyone but early-adopters. Toyota is striving to draw interest from their wide variety of car shoppers. Prius Prime is the first offering to do that. By year-end, that technology will be rolled out as a Subaru vehicle with AWD. In the first half of 2019, that technology will also be rolled out as a plug-in model of Corolla hybrid. Nothing about any of that supports a claim of being behind or struggling to catch up.
Toyota learned from GM's mistakes. It was a real-world depiction of the "Tortoise and the Hare" story. GM ran ahead without considering the entire race, celebrating along the way without any certainty of actually finishing the race. Toyota took the time to pace itself and not waste effort on things that may divert it from that finish line... tax-credit phaseout.
In short, the claim of "too little, too late" is just rhetoric to distract from what is really taking place.