Personal Log #920
February 6, 2019 - February 13, 2019
Last Updated: Sun. 2/24/2019
page #919 page #921 BOOK INDEX
Bon Voyage. There are hints of trying to be constructive from some, even former antagonists: "one should at least acknowledge that the cruise ship's bon voyage horn is about to go off - one would think." They don't get it though. When you want to attract ordinary consumers, you can't do something symbolic. To get their sales, you have to be persistent, yet subtle. Sending a clear & concise message without actually advertising is a challenge though. People must have enough clues to recognize the paradigm-shift without any question of its take over. Things like having Wi-Fi at home. Setting up a wireless network was only the domain of technical savvy individuals ages ago. Ask yourself how it became normalized. Think about that. It was due to encountering those free Wi-Fi signs all over the place. Routine sightings make a profound difference. This is how and why Prius become the symbol of hybrids. There was a lot of work set forth to make a colossal, yet seemingly invisible change. That's what will happen with plug-ins. You'll just notice them more and more. I pointed this change out by posting: The first ship of hundreds is basically just symbolic.... very important.... but nothing that will affect the masses for a generation or two still. Remember the first cell phones or digital cameras? They were a sign of great things to come, but totally unrealistic for mass-adoption in those early years... which is exactly where we are now with plug-ins. It's tiring to hear early-adopter impatience, but that's actually how potential is gauged. They feel opportunity is being missed, but are too out of touch with ordinary showroom shoppers to understand why such a different path must be taken to appeal to them.
Large-Scale Change. Constructive discussion is gone.
The death of Volt has opened up the automotive market to explore new
offerings. That nasty precedent GM was so counter-productive, it's
basically impossible to argue otherwise. Evidence of that approach
being unrealistic for the masses was overwhelmingly proven... to the extreme
that those saying GM was never to committed to the technology go
unchallenged. It's over. With that niche no longer being a
barrier, a lot of attention is turning toward Toyota with an expectation of
it leading the way. Problem is, many at this stage don't agree that
leadership is best when targeting mainstream consumers. Want for
standout vehicles is the theme, not something to become so common it goes
unnoticed. Well, too bad. That's what needs to happen. I
let them know it too: Distracting from the challenges of
infrastructure and turning a blind-eye on subsidies by crying "anti-EV" is
constructive how? Reality is, that's an excuse drawing attention away
from how the masses with embrace electrification. What is the plan from
other automakers for their entire fleet? Taking the hybrid step to
plug-ins is a solid means of quickly phasing out a wide variety of ICE
choices, as well as overcoming change intimidation.
Attack Ad. First thing this morning, an assault was launched on Toyota. It was the typical "anti-EV" nonsense. Not understanding how to reach the masses or understanding how their hybrid technology is actually designed causes all kinds of problems. They focus on only key factors, not everything as a whole. That's why there are claims of me shifting focus. When I mention emissions, profit, sales, and production, an enthusiast will inevitably choose just one to respond to. That's how you end up with spin. They just plain don't want to look at the big picture. In this case, it was how to reach ordinary consumers. The blinders have been on the "EV market" for so long, many have completely lost touch with purchase priorities of ordinary people. That's why engineering has changed to advertising. Whatever reality they had based original goals on is gone. That's why the impact of tax-credits loss really hasn't sunk in yet. Enthusiasts are focused on subsidized sales so much, they have no idea how difficult the real-world of direct competition with traditional vehicles will actually be. Plug-In choices don't stand a chance in that aggressive market. This is why they were living in their own world. In made sense, at first, to establish reputation by proving the technology worthy. Unfortunately, many forgot that was only a stage. So now with Toyota advertising Corolla hybrid, they feel the need to attack. Since it doesn't have a plug, they believe it is the enemy rather than a bridge. Ugh. I launched my counter-offensive to that with: We have seen quite a bit of advertising by press-release lately, to the degree that "over promise, under deliver" has become common across the industry. Yet, there’s no outcry about that. The fact that Toyota made an undeniable subtle comment about the current state of our infrastructure is good reason to self-reflect. In other words, why is there still so much forgiveness in buying guzzling ICE vehicles while we wait for promises of years to come?
Corolla Replacement? Now we are really starting to get some constructive questions. I like this simple and to-the-point query: "What does Prius have to top that?" It was an easy one to provide a reasonably acceptable-to-many response too: Sedans are rapidly vanishing. Corolla will survive that changing market simply due to it being the world's best selling vehicle. After so many generations, the choice is a no-brainer for the basics. Prius has always offered more than the basics. So, it makes sense that it will continue to hold that position in the fleet, especially with it being a hatchback. Camry is what see taking more of a sales it, proportionally. That's due to the rise of RAV4, which is extremely well positioned for SUV demand. Keep in mind that Toyota is a 10-million-per-year automaker. They don't cater to the allure early-adopters seek. Their target has always been ordinary consumers. So, there has always been a perception issue when it comes to the appeal of Prius, an image never properly portrayed based on claims from those trying to interpret history long afterward... which always made the understanding of how it sells so well a mystery. The direction of Prius taking on a plug-in only role seems the obvious next step. Battery advancement combined with some emerging clarity of what mainstream consumers will actually purchase... now that we are finally starting to see the confusion caused by enthusiasts & subsides fade... makes a high-volume profitable approach realistic in the not-too-distant future.
Cannibalize. What do dropping sales of the regular Prius actually mean? Quite often, the comment is new hybrid offerings from Toyota will continue to erode Prius interest. From a macro perspective, I could see that. But from a micro, not a chance. Prius was always what ushered in new technology to the masses. We are far from complete with the rollout of technology. There is quite a bit of advancement opportunity remaining. Why not just push Prius into the new category of offerings? Why is there always a doom & gloom portrayal of the future? I suspect many people simply thrive on drama. Fortunately, sustainable business is pretty boring. That's how Prius has sneaked through barriers in the past. Such a soft push goes unnoticed... until the count grows to such a scale that you discover the stage has changed. In other words, no cannibalizing is expected. It will be business as usual. I put it this way in my reply to the stir of that topic today: "Know your audience" is a fundamental which has served Toyota well. They don't pander to enthusiasts like some others do. Their focus is on how to appeal to their own loyal customers, finding ways for long-time Corolla or RAV4 buyers to go hybrid next time around. Prius doesn't even fit in that market category.
Blog Bias. We are starting to see some serious purity problems emerge on the EV forum. Back when it was founded many years ago, the thought was that it would cover the advancement of electric-only vehicles. The idea of also providing news coverage & commentary opportunity for plug-in hybrids wasn't even a consideration. That simply didn't make any sense. If it had an engine, it wasn't important. Turns out, that wasn't a good idea. The transition to electricity would very much include that interim stage. The realities of business & infrastructure made it all too clear. Some still see that domain as one of purity though. So, we see insulting & belittling posts on a regular basis. Any of that sound familiar? Needless to say, I recognize the symptoms of the problem. Sadly, I haven't found a source of resolution yet. The moderators have been quite. They are at a loss about what the next steps should be. I appreciate their modest efforts to stir feedback, but I wish they were more forthcoming. The possibility of their blog becoming too bias to appeal to a wide audience is quite real. You get a feeling of unwelcome every now and then. It's quite a contrast to the open expression of acceptance I witness from our local plug-in owners group. Change is difficult. I hope they deal with it appropriately.
50, 42, 97, 48. Checking the post counts for that new troublemaker revealed those numbers. He only posts a sentence or two and rarely includes the quote he's making a comment about. They basically come off as a nuisance to the well informed. But to the casual reader, they could be a source of confusion. I worry because that can be misleading, since it is often quite vague. He doesn't care though. It seems to have become his pastime activity as a retiree... which is unfortunate for us. Having to deal with someone treating the forum as a source of entertainment, rather than being a helpful resource is a loss for everyone. He is basically a friendly troll. There is no intent to cause harm or confusion; nonetheless, that's the result of his ways. No group is perfect. It's not always worth the effort to address each and every problem though. You choose your battles. In this case, I'll just let it go.
Extremes. Sighting them is a common practice. Taking the time to determine whether or not that was a good idea is not. For example: "iirc, the pip won't run ev mode that low .... whereas the soon-to-be-no-longer-produced 2019 Volt will run EV mode until it's cold soaked to around -13°F." How often does it really get that cold? What's wrong with running the engine for those few times per year it happens? Isn't the point of having an engine to use it from time to time? Don't forget, it needs to for routine upkeep anyway. I was annoyed. So, I shot back this: Exaggeration serves no purpose. Here's PiP driving in EV without engine warm-up at -2°F: Prius PHV - No Heater Remember, the purpose of using the engine is for the best balance of available resources... something Volt did not do. Why carry an engine, then go to extremes to avoid ever using it? In other words, EV driving is possible, just not the best overall choice.
53 City, 52 Highway. That's the official EPA rating for the 2020 Corolla hybrid. With MPG being basically the same as Prius (slightly lower City and slightly higher Highway), it marks the end of every possible argument against the hatchback... since this is an affordable sedan instead, a very popular one at that. Nothing can be said about looks anymore. That's the beauty (ironically) of diversification. Toyota is providing a variety of hybrid choices. That spread of new technology is a vital step early-adopters don't understand, since they focus only on what it takes to prove the technology worthy of being a successor. Very few actually take the time to study what comes next. That's why they are enthusiasts, rather than supporters. Phasing out an old technology requires a great deal of effort getting everyone to accept it as a replacement. Seeing in implemented in several different configurations shows that the automaker is committed to it, in addition to proving the design is well thought out by witnessing it being used on a regular basis. Think about how quickly the Corolla hybrid will become a common sight on roads. People buying them tend to be more conscious of efficiency anyway. Having a hybrid choice makes it even more compelling.
Lacks Vision. This question wasn't as nice, but it was still an expression of thought: "Toyota lacks vision?" I found that one easy to answer too: Reality is, Toyota sees something different. They are looking at the mass market, trying to find a way to affordably fulfill the wants & needs of their 10 million customers per year. In other words, you are looking at something different... which is quite common from the eyes of an enthusiast. Appealing to a Corolla or RAV4 shopper is very challenging. They won't be forgiving like early-adopters and they won't be as willing to pay as much to get a plug. There won't be any tax-credits available for them either. In other words, know your audience. An electric future for those of us here is a reality already. For the masses, it's still a number of years off.
Next Step. Thoughtful questions are nice: "So you are thinking they might go to a full EV rather than Plug-in hybrid... ?" This was an easy one to provide an answer for: No, we are looking at the paradigm-shift from hybrid to plug-in hybrid. There's strong potential for them in the mainstream, even without next-gen battery advancement, like to solid-state. EV market development is still its infancy. Dependency on tax-credit subsidies and early-adopters for sales makes that reality all too clear. Hybrids, on the other hand, are a mature market, at the ready to advance to plug-in models as the next natural step. That's vital for reaching ordinary consumers.
Perfect Timing. A constructive question from an
audience genuinely interested in feedback: "What are you basing the likely mid-cycle
refresh on? And when do you think those cars are coming? I am in the
market for a Prime right now and I don't want to regret not having waited a
few more months." I always hope replies result in an on-going
dialog. After all, we don't have answers. We only have research
& observations. Those serve as clues, but nothing definitive.
This was my contribution to the hope for more discussion:
Waiting is a challenge. Some people don't like the idea that Prius is morphing into more of an affordable sport/luxury design, rather than remaining the family-mover it started as. That's the reality of a changing market though. RAV4 is quickly becoming the hybrid of choice for that family audience. So, have some realistic of expectations of what adaptations could be offered.
Knowing the shift is underway, it makes you question the direction Prius really will take. From Toyota's extensive history of pushing affordable emission & consumption reduction for Prius, it makes sense that they use the second-half of this product-cycle for Prius Prime as the staging opportunity to make it a plug-in only. Can Toyota attract enough buyers that way for the next-gen to be a high-volume profitable seller? I say: "Yes!"
Evidence supporting that builds upon more awareness of history. Toyota likes to do mid-cycle updates. Prius PHV (gen-1 Prime) was in fact that. It was also a limited rollout as a result of carefully watching market change. In that case, it was the disaster GM was dealing with trying to figure out how to configure Volt. All these years later, we see that GM failed to deliver something for the masses... as confirmed by production ending and the tax-credit reduction taking place. The timing is a great happenstance for Toyota, exactly when a 2020 model with a mid-cycle update could be revealed.
Notice how 2018 inventory was burned down and 2019 inventory has been almost non-existent? Though it could all be an amazing set of unplanned circumstances, this certainly looks like far more than just a coincidence. Think of how perfect an Earth Day announcement it could be, especially if rollout follows shortly afterward.
Want more to consider? Think about the timing of rollout for Corolla hybrid. It's just a little too much to dismiss as just dumb luck that everything is falling into place so nicely.
40% Loss. The topic of Winter's impact was exclusively in the domain of enthusiasts, until now. Of course, even then there was little discussion of heater type. That has finally changed. An article published by AAA is the reason. What it says really doesn't matter much yet. The point was to raise awareness. Most notable of that new found attention is the 40% figure sighted. With so much of a range-loss claimed, there was obvious outcry. If you have to deal with lots of weather-related traffic and have the heater set on high, there will indeed be that much of a reduction. But under ordinary circumstances, that's not the case. I wear my coat while driving and use the heated seat. That means no where near the amount of electricity for warming is needed through the vents. So just like the problems with MPG rating and the setting of realistic expectations, there's the same YMMV disclaimer. Question is, will readers actually understand that. Sadly, that is not likely. Detail is lost in the shuffle, when it is provided. But most people won't recognize there is a difference between a heat-pump and a resistance-heater. So trying to get any type of awareness related to the type of heat-pump... the regular kind verse one that's vapor-injected... is basically impossible. Long story put short, it's an uphill battle. Required education to better understand purchase choices... or even knowing what to look for... will remain quite a challenge for years to come.