Personal Log  #934

April 11, 2019  -  April 16, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 5/12/2019

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C-HR EV.  Exactly as anticipated, there was a reveal of an EV model of C-HR for the market in China.  It's becoming more and more difficult for the die-hard enthusiasts to portray a narrative of Toyota being anti-EV.  Being compelled to seek out an enemy is normal.  It's commonly how troops are rallied and teams pepped up.  It's needs some sort of basis in reality though.  For early-adopters who took advantage of tax-credits, but denied that was a primary motivator, are now challenged with explaining how their choice will be appealing to a topic consumer without that generous incentive.  Toyota never catered to that audience.  GM thrived on it, milking that opportunity without regard for consequence of missing others.  Now, we see GM struggling with no audience and Toyota setting the stage for wide-spread appeal.  The difference is so drastic, I'm fascinated to find out what comments will result from this reveal.  There will be some outright hate, but that's easy to look past.  There will be some efforts to undermine, but those are the same old tired posts that stir very little feedback.  There will be some sense of optimism.  That's what I'll be looking for.  Detail will be scarce though, especially since this isn't for the United States and Toyota tends to withhold reveals until close to rollout... quite the opposite of GM.  My guess is focus will be on the one-size-fits all narrative.  That claim of anti-EV belief feeds on the "self-charging" advertisement.  I find that quite telling.  These same people turn a blind-eye to all the SUV promoting we get from GM on a very regular basis.  They desperately attempt to lead you to believe an automaker must only represent one offering, that focus on a diverse set of choices involving a wide variety of appeals is impossible.  It's so hypocritical, it's embarrassing at times.  The rest of the world wonders how bad complacency of people here will become.  It's sad.  Fortunately, we have Toyota doing their rollouts elsewhere and well disguised.  C-HR is getting attention now, but hiding their EV tech in plain view here is what really blows my mind.  Mirai is right there for all too analyze; yet, most only notice the fuel-cell part.  The electric-only drivetrain part is getting quite the real-world testing & refinement without anyone taking notice.


Highlander Hybrid.  Exactly as anticipated, the reveal of next-gen Highlander coming late this year was a short & sweet announcement.  34 MPG from such a massive vehicle is incredible.  With such a massive interior and lots of power, this will be the hybrid SUV that quietly crushes other automakers.  RAV4 hybrid will get lots of attention, but this is the one to cause fear in the hearts of Detroit backers... especially since it will be produced here in the United States.  It's nice to see such efforts to offer a diverse set of choices.  This is what both GM & Ford were expected to do ages ago.  Remember, it was well over a decade in that they were gloating about how Toyota would be crushed by their high-efficiency monsters.  That never happened.  They just kept making larger guzzlers without any concern for oil dependency, clean air, or environment impact.  For that matter, they weren't even concerned about their own long-term survival.  That live-in-the-now attitude can be quite detrimental... and sad.  Thank goodness some of that is finally changing, with Toyota setting a good example of what can be achieved.  Ironically, I'm reading news of this coming from the New York International Autoshow while being in New York City... a place where SUV traffic is abundant.  It's amazing how such vehicles became people movers in a place where their off-road & power abilities are completely worthless. 


New York City.  I arrived today for a conference, taking a cab from JFK to Times Square.  What an unusual experience.  Traffic really was as bad as the stereotypical description would lead you to believe.  It was bumper-to-bumper with some very tight & aggressive lane changes.  Whoa!  I certainly wouldn't want to deal with that, especially on a regular basis like I driver did.  He handled that chaos just fine.  Stranger though was the sea of SUV within that flow.  They are all over the place!  With such tight conditions and so much waiting in stopped traffic, it was surreal seeing so many giant guzzlers like that.  People who don't understand the draw of size & power really need a wake-up call like that.  The supposed logic I have to deal with on a regular basis shows being out-of-touch with what's realistic.  That doesn't hold any comparison to what's unrealistic, what I'm seeing right now.  The craziness looking down on those streets below is truly amazing.  It's remarkable to see how disregard for environment or resources can take you.


More Rhetoric.  I don't even need to quote the post anymore.  They desperation has become so extreme, there's no denying it.  Volt is dead.  Tax-Credit dependency is obvious.  Toyota's choice to take the time to address the status quo, making an effort for real change, is starting to show.  It never ceases to amaze me how people get drawn into hype & hope.  They loss common sense.  They become out of touch with their own surroundings.  It's a dangerous disconnect they just plain don't see.  That's why more and more of my posts focus on the bigger picture now.  Being trapped on spin is a thing of the past how.  What a relief.  Phew!  I'll take this over that any day:  Know your audience.  Claiming "defect" is rather disingenuous.  They are early-adopters taking advantage of the tax-credit opportunity.  Why now?  It's a good deal and that has no bearing on whether or not their next purchase will go the same direction.  Toyota is in it for the long-term.  That loyalty isn't being challenged, it's actually helping to establish the industry.  We need customers all over for the next stage to take place.  Alone doesn't work.  Toyota needs allies.  Toyota is well aware of this and working to appeal to their future shoppers, not early-adopters.  Notice how affordable Prius Prime is, even without any government subsidy?  As for claiming under-powered, my Prius Prime merges just fine onto the highway using EV mode.  You want more power, you buy something like the RAV4 instead. Heck, even Mirai with its 152 hp motor would make for a nice all-electric model of Prius.


Greater Than 50%.  That magic point of hybrid interest was reached in the first quarter of 2019 for Europe.  51% of the 279,000 sales for Toyota (that's 143,300 vehicles) were hybrid there.  This was a goal targeted for 2020.  Meeting that already, prior to anticipated by an entire year, is fantastic.  Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way.  The spin today was "Over 50% Of Toyota Sales In Europe Are Hybrids: PHEVs Not Even 1%".  That's the rhetoric I've come to expect.  Rather than looking at the market as a whole, they chose to cherry-pick by focusing exclusively on the plug-in vehicles.  That selection of only a specific choice is blatant misleading, which I strongly resent.  That's exactly how Volt got on its course toward disaster.  Enthusiasts couldn't care less about tax-credit dependency or mainstream interest.  All they had any interest in was conquest.  I'm so glad I took time to document that attitude, as it played out.  It's a history of short-sightedness and focus on want, rather than need.  I asked "Who is the market for Volt?" over and over and over again to draw attention to their own self-destructive nature.  They destroyed themselves anyway, shooting the messenger as much as possible to feel better about their mistakes.  It all came down to market reach.  You don't endorse something with such a limited market potential.  So what if Toyota's technology doesn't get a "vastly superior" label?  That's not the point.  You want the masses to purchase the new technology.  They are the ones who couldn't care less what happens under the hood.  They just want something reliable, practical, and affordable.  That's why Toyota's recent emphasis on safety doesn't get much attention, yet helps ensure strong sales.  The same is now proving true for efficiency & emissions too.

4-13-2019 Discussion Distractions.  If you stick with a topic long enough, and the trolls to undermine its purpose, the distractions will eventually fade.  In most cases related to plug-in vehicles, those distractions are Telsa and Fuel-Cells.  With the discussion related to raising the eligible quantity of tax-credits per automaker, we finally got this: "These are the vehicles that consume the most fuel, so improvements there save the most fuel."  Comments like that bring us back to fundamentals.  That's how you become constructive.  It offers material to build upon, rather than distract.  I was delighted to respond in detail:

That is how "Know Your Audience" came about, from similar statements 14 years ago... way back when Two-Mode emerged as a technology promoted as far superior to Prius... complete with a plug-in hybrid model planned for 2009.

When Two-Mode was finally rolled out, the targeted audience didn't care.  Mainstream consumers were not impressed.  Large savings of gas in terms of a few MPG improvement wasn't a priority for them.  Sales floundered from the very beginning.  Rollout was such a disaster, the next-generation design intended for a small car platform was disassociated with the one for large vehicles, showcased as a fresh start.  Despite that, it turned out to be a sales disaster for the very same reason.  Volt didn't appeal to mainstream consumers either.

Knowing your audience means understanding how to appeal to them.  Lesson learned was selling the idea of "most fuel" to someone who drives a guzzler with no concern for guzzling simply won't be interested.  Gas is cheap and they are unwilling to try something new.

This is exactly why some of us knew from the start tax-credits would be wasted by a legacy automaker like GM.  We saw from the early days of development that Volt was being created for the wrong reason.  Those that wanted to save the most fuel were not their own loyal customers.  That compact plug-in hybrid hatchback didn't target the right audience.  It was opportunity missed, intentionally.

It was obvious that a smaller battery-pack would reduce cost, weight, and complexity of Volt without much of an overall loss of MPG.  That electric-only drive could reach a much larger audience and could more easily be ported to other vehicle platforms.  GM simply wasn't interested.  Whether GM was just resting on its laurels or being afraid of the paradigm-shift, outcome is undeniable... tax-credits didn't result in a shift of their basic offerings at dealerships.

That's why this topic of raising the limit for tax-credits is such a hot discussion.  Why would we want more of the same?


They Don't Listen.  It got worse, rather than better.  Comments like this are how you know the audience has given up: "Just few years ago hydrogen was the future.  And flying cars before that."  Signs of really never having paid attention are confirmed when you that.  It wasn't just a few years ago.  It was 15 and that was never what the industry stated.  It was GM attempting to divert attention away from hybrids.  Remember that bizarre State-Of-The-Union address making the hydrogen claim?  Even then, most people were scratching their heads trying to figure out what such a vague statement actually meant.  There was no detail whatsoever.  Lack of any substance made it nothing but greenwash... and we certainly knew that audience.  The administration was strongly opposed to hybrids, going to the extreme of pushing guzzlers.  Remember that "good for the economy" nonsense and the $10,000 tax-credit available for Hummer?  I was definitely annoyed by having such a comment to reply to.  When they don't listen to anything leading up to that point, how do you find a way to reach such an audience?  I keep trying:  If you listened to the rhetoric...  In reality, hydrogen was always a complimentary tech.  There are some applications in certain localities where it would work well.  Starting with small test vehicles with a diverse set of users still makes sense.  The narrative of one solution for all never did.  This is why looking at the bigger picture is necessary.  EV and FCEV will co-exist, just like other tech of the past... for example, diesel was primarily for commercial use and gas for personal transportation.


Expectations.  Nope, things fells apart.  He reverted back to trying to judge the progress of legacy automakers to Tesla: "And yet the last 10 years of incentives gave us what, model X and...and...what?"  They have so little in common with one and other, it would be hard to believe anyone would take such a comparison seriously... until you reflect upon hybrid history.  Remember how the 2-seat, all-aluminum, manual-transmission Insight was considered direct competition with Prius?  Even without taking into consideration how fundamentally different the 2 types of hybrids were, it should have been obvious how drastically different the vehicles themselves were.  Yet, we got countless direct comparisons anyway.  That's the same problem with this situation now... lack of anything else to compare.  That mindset limitation leads to all kinds of trouble.  It's how the hope for Volt transformed into hype.  Group-Think thrives on absence of critical thinking just like that.  Expectations grow out of control without any means of validating information.  Meritless claims become facts... hence, fake news.  Seeing beyond that rhetoric is quite a challenge.  I keep trying to push online readers beyond the crazy though, attempting to interject some sense into the chaos:  Toyota, Nissan, and Hyundai are all pursuing affordable choices with variety prior to reaching tax-credit phaseout.  Assigning an arbitrary deadline serves what purpose?  Again, forcing doing it fast rather than doing it right doesn't make sense for legacy automakers.  That's more economics 101.  Think about how long it takes for other changes that actually altered the status quo.  That history informs us a lot about setting realistic expectations.

4-11-2019 Across The Fleet.  It's very difficult to assess progress of a discussion, especially when you encounter something like this: "And the average mpg is dropping.  This is basic economics.  They are going the wrong direction."  It implies a step back, attempting to consider the larger problem.  But then again, that's what you would do to undermine a specific point.  Whatever the case, it did present the opportunity to share more information about how to interpret data of that nature:

Basic economics must include a timeline.  You cannot just disregard that part of the equation.  Ironically, that "Losing Ground" article is a great example of feeding the narrative of shortsightedness.  People read something like that and take the contents at face value, without bothering to consider the larger picture and the time involved.

For those who do bother to research, they'll discover Toyota is taking the time to do it right.  The are striving to offer hybrids across their entire fleet.  Despite the slipping popularity and small profit-margins of sedans, we get a Avalon, Camry, and Corolla hybrids.  At the same time, they upgraded both Prius and Prius PHV, while also rolling out a RAV4 mid-cycle update to introduce it as a hybrid.  Then just 2 years later, we get a full generational upgrade to both RAV4 and Camry hybrids.  Next year, there will be a generational upgrade to Highlander too.  Don't forget about the variety of Lexus hybrids either.

Think about how cost-effective it will be for Toyota to augment their RAV4 & C-HR hybrids to also offer a plug.  Like Prius, it's basically just a matter of adding that one-way clutch, since the hybrid system in place already has everything else it needs.  This is the stage Toyota is setting as they wait for battery prices to reach an affordable point.  They are carefully using their tax-credits, while learning from other automakers along the way about what not to do.

So what if there's a slip backward on that journey?  Toyota still remains well in front of the old Big-3 automakers, with lots of potential to come from already being well into their effort to phaseout non-electrified vehicles across the fleet.


Not Paying Attention.  The effort fell apart: "Not every company is going to pick a stage 1 technology that leads directly to a stage 2... they may need to backup and try again."  I've posted the idea of secondary requirements several times now.  Clearly, that isn't being recognized as such.  This twisted perspective back on the automaker though, forgetting the topic was about tax-credit renewal.  I was concerned that the entire effort would fall apart, that the topic was too complicated to address properly online.  I hoped for the best anyway, with this response:  Please read posts carefully.  That's not what stage referred to.  Try again.  STAGE 1 is the first allocation of tax-credits, that initial 200,000 for each automaker.  STAGE 2 would be the next level, which would require meeting new criteria to be eligible for.  In other words, if you waste opportunity with the first, you'll have to find another means of qualifying for the second.


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