Personal Log  #939

May 8, 2019  -  May 11, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 5/12/2019

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5-11-2019 Bird Crap.  Discussion of a constructive nature is emerging.  To watch things fall into place after so long having to deal with online nonsense is rewarding.  Of course, that's what I've done at work for decades.  You don't build great software overnight.  It takes an enormous amount of study to get it right.  But after countless upgrades and lots of feedback, you achieve that long-term goal.  That's why I felt so fulfilled upon reading this: "Spending most of my days at a dealership, I can firsthand tell you that Prius' in general are nothing more than bird crap collectors right now..."  It was objective comment inserted into a thread about 2020 inventory.  The upgrade to Prime is getting serious attention from outside the group-thinkers already.  That's the sign I've been looking for.  Those unfamiliar voices are wonderful.  The same old spin from the same old daily posters is just a waste of time and a distraction.  Comments like this one today confirm the landscape is changing.  Toyota is reaching a new audience.  Yeah!  Anywho, this is what I posted in reply:

We've known about Toyota's intent to transition Prius to a plug-only offering for an entire decade.

Back with the gen-2 prototype, it demonstrated battery technology was simply not there yet.  Even though the system could deliver 100 km/h (62 mph), the return simply wasn't realistic.  Capacity was too low and cost was too high.

The gen-3 offering was the first to actually be offered as a choice to consumers.  Toyota intentionally limited it to very select markets though, knowing it would be best to stay as a real-world data-collection vehicle rather than something for the masses.  That's why there was no reason for high-volume production yet.  After all, it was rolled out mid-cycle.

Prius Prime (the gen-4 plug-in model) is the first with potential for the masses; however, Toyota kept it limited too.  The goal was to get feedback about what it would take to drop most of the regular Prius models so the plug could be favored instead.  That's why quantity & scope was limited... until this mid-cycle update.

Notice how we have no information whatsoever about how the 2020 battery-pack fits?  What are the odds that Toyota didn't allow their engineers to indulge.  Restacking the pack for a cell arrangement capable of fitting better while at the same time squeaking out a little bit more profit was quite realistic.

Key to that success though was to invest heavily in the rest of the fleet in the meantime.  Getting Camry, Corolla, RAV4, and Highlander all upgraded was an essential part of the bigger equation.  Allowing non-plug Prius choice to be reduced to AWD and Limited Edition models pave the way for Prime.  You want a regular hybrid, just choose one of the others instead.

You'd think those plans would be obvious.  Turns out, that's not the case.  Most people only have a basic understanding of micro economics and have no idea what macro economics even is.  So, we have to deal with a lot of incorrect assumptions and even more rhetoric about Toyota intentions.

Keep in mind, dealers are Toyota's true customer, not consumers.  When you start to see that picture, it becomes easier to understand the relationship regions & country have on supply & demand.  This is why there was a burndown of 2018 inventory and 2019 inventory was so limited.  In fact, some of us recognized that pattern and stated there would be a mid-cycle upgrade this year with potential for a very short 2019 offering.  After all, late Spring rollout for mid-cycle is nothing new.  That's how I got my 2012 Prius PHV.

Being able to compete directly against other vehicles on the showroom floor is a massive undertaking.  Don't fall for any claims that don't take that essential component to successful business into account.  We aren't dealing with an "EV market" only.  That terrible early-adopter perspective has proven a grave mistake... quite literally, since Volt is now dead.  For a plug-in hybrid to sell in high-volume without any dependency on subsidies, it must appeal to the casual shopper.  Prime's design with heavy attention to low MSRP wasn't easy for Toyota to achieve.

Watch how interest is stirred for the 2020 Prime.  Expect that paradigm-shift intent to finally get noticed.


Spoiled Market.  When Volt was first revealed, people feared that reception of delight would turn into an introduction of disaster.  Reason for that was simple... but an easy lessoned-learned to forget or overlook.  It's origin was not a subject of debate.  Decades back, GM had rolled out their solution to the gas-price crisis.  Rather than focus on small cars to compete, they went all out on diesel.  Trouble was, their diesel engines were horribly unreliable... so much so, it spoiled the market.  That appeal was soured so bad, other automakers abandoned their own diesel plans.  That's why there was a concern from the beginning that GM would do the same with Volt.  I saw that trouble brewing immediately.  That's how the "vaporware" posts ended up with me providing contributions.  Seeing that goals were set well above what was realistic for that calendar and well above what cost would reasonably justify, there was to possible was to deliver so much in such a short amount of time.  It was the "over promise, under deliver" problem ramped up to a whole new level rhetoric.  It was if nothing had been learned from the Two-Mode disaster.  We now have evidence the Volt disaster has indeed risen beyond that, to the scale of diesel fallout from decades back.  Evidence of that is undeniable.  VW will not be offering their first from-the-ground-up EV here in the United States.  They see this market as disinterested in the technology, not worth the bother.  GM failing to achieve a successor to Volt is a big factor in that decision.  It was regarded as the prominent technology for legacy automakers.  Being able to diversify the offering for high-volume profitable sales would have opened the door to opportunity for others; instead, Volt was discontinued without a successor.  The supposed replacement of Bolt as withered on the vine, a fitting cliché for expectations of fruitful growth.  This is why Toyota worked so hard to avoid fallout.  I'm quite thankful it worked.  After so much rhetoric, there was risk of collapse across the board... especially with the magnitude of political influence.  Being left to build up our own market isn't so bad either.  It's not like Prius supporters don't have a history of that to provide a guide to doing it again.


Observation.  This type of assessment of market potential is quite common: "It's great that the 47-mile electric range Clarity PHEV is giving the 25-mile electric range Prius Prime a run for its money..."  It comes from just watching sales.  No study or understanding of the larger market is a very, very common problem.  People just report what they see, making the assumption that pattern will apply to everyone.  It's a grave mistake... one that played out entirely with Volt.  Remember all those "Who?" asks.  Each time I posed that question, there was a flurry of rhetoric attack as an answer.  That was a dead giveaway their stance was or soon would experience trouble.  And sure enough, GM killed Volt.  That premiere technology expected to become a choice for many never reached beyond niche buyers.  Those early-adopters taking advantage of tax-credit opportunities were never a reflection of the market to come.  Mainstream shoppers are very, very different.  That's why offerings like Clarity must be carefully studied for potential, looking beyond the configuration available today for what is clearly a limited market.  How will the technology reach ordinary consumers?  I put it this way:  Anecdotal observation doesn't equate to much.  While the tax-credits are still in play, all we are really seeing is just pre-game trials against other new entries.  The real game starts when plug-in offerings must compete directly against the true competition... traditional vehicles.  Once the showroom floor of a legacy automaker, it boils down to the price on the sticker.  Without any subsidy available, you quickly find out who prepared well and who was just working the crowd.  Toyota is clearly setting the stage for mass acceptance.  That low MSRP for Prius Prime and the affordable means of also making the other Toyota hybrids plug-in models is a formula for success with a great deal of potential.  We'll see Corolla hybrid become a Corolla PHV this year.  Following that could be RAV4.  Few will care about more range when an entry-level choice can deliver so much.  Don't forget how incredibly efficient the hybrid system is following depletion of the plug-supplied electricity... and how well proven the reliability is.


Non-Hybrid Plug-Ins.  This was wonderful to read: "The only narrative is the one spun by a Toyota fanboy who makes up story about how Toyota would extend its non-hybrid plugins to PHEV."  The post came from not just an antagonist, this was an outright hater.  He just plain doesn't care.  Posting anything possible to undermine Prius is his goal.  It's quite obvious too.  I wonder how much longer he'll survive with the new discussion approach.  That structure makes attacks easy to avoid and trolls easy to ignore.  For me personally, I was amazed at his level of anger.  That confused message made that a very real problem to retract.  It made no sense.  He backed himself into a corner and revealed desperation... which I called him out on:  Your own spin of "non-hybrid plugin" is truly bizarre, worthy of being such a blatant attempt to undermine PHEV progress, it should be bubbled up to the top of the discussion thread rather than buried in a long string of replies.  Toyota already offers Camry, Corolla, Avalon, RAV4, and Highlander as hybrids in this market.  That's a large portion of what you find on dealers lots here in the United States with hybrid models.  C-HR is also available as a hybrid in other markets.  Prius got the PHEV treatment 2.5 years ago and it is already getting a mid-cycle upgrade.  Corolla will become available as a PHEV later this year in China.  Right before our eyes, we are seeing the progress forward with greater electrification taking place.  The most recent tank in my Prius PHEV (aka Prime) is almost complete.  That 1,573 miles so far equates to 190 MPG.  Spinning that to whatever you want won't change the outcome.  We are seeing Toyota's fleet advance forward in a way no other legacy automaker has been able to achieve.


Desperate.  Watching a troll become desperate is interesting.  They all eventually back themselves into a corner.  Some figure out how to wiggle out of that situation.  Some end up losing attention to the point of giving up.  Whatever the situation, you just need to remain true to goals and never lash out.  I enjoy the effort to find constructive rebuttal material.  They push you to searching for clues where you wouldn't ever consider usual.  For example, the relentless attacks on Toyota's fuel-cell program overlooked what is now so obvious.  Mirai is an EV platform that would provide a great template for a Prius without a gas engine.  The size of its electric propulsion system would be ideal for that.  It's just the right balance of power & cost, when you connect it to a battery-pack.  Antagonists quickly recognized that fact when I discovered & shared that information.  It was an oops on their part on a colossal scale.  No one had bothered to step back far enough to notice.  Being the one to point it out was a delight.  For the most part though, I don't need to pull out argument material on that scale.  It's still effective to keep focus on hybrids:  With the mid-cycle update a little over a month from first delivery, it's pretty clear the old narrative has fallen apart and new spin doesn't have an audience.  Toyota's larger hybrids offering more power and more space for batteries demonstrate it's a waste of time bothering to respond.  We all see Toyota setting the stage for a major push away from their traditional choices by providing a variety of hybrid options that will all easily transition to plug-in hybrid.  It's a simple path for dealer & consumer to follow... something all the other automakers are scrambling to also deliver... hence the obvious attempts by some to distract & confuse.  Yup, desperate.


Schooled.  Sometimes posts are so confusing, you wonder if the person has any clue how the system actually works.  Of course, some wanting to undermine will intentionally confuse matters by posting outdated information and facts unrelated to the subject of discussion.  It's all fairly maddening.  That's why many online are either lurkers or pushers after awhile.  You end up forming an opinion of some sort if you hang around long enough.  This is what brings about turnover, especially when a new generation rolls out.  So, I provide background from time to time.  Never really knowing who you are dealing with necessitates reminders.  Though on some occasions, you know you are dealing with a person hell-bent on stirring trouble.  That was today, when I punched back with some education:  Toyota's approach is clear evidence of planning well ahead, establishing a design that can easily be augmented without requiring major changes.  To make Prius into Prius Prime, a one-way clutch was added.  This allows MG1 (which is normally used as a generator) to be used for propulsion, adding to the output from MG2.  Combined with the larger battery-pack, far more EV power becomes available.  It really is that simple.  Each of the hybrids, like RAV4, will be able to take advantage of the same approach.  It's a cost-effective means of reaching a very large & diverse audience. 


Tidbits.  Reaching new audiences means dealing with a hodgepodge of information.  Often, a fact will be sighted incorrectly.  That misunderstanding can spin out of control at some point, if not properly addressed.  When it comes to efficiency, that's common.  Many make the easy assumption that greater battery-capacity equates to greater efficiency.  In reality, the reverse can actually be the case.  If that range isn't actually utilized, you're carrying around unnecessary weight.  How the electricity is consumed is what matters... which is why "gas consumption" was always a hot topic.  People would misunderstand MPG as a result.  That's why MPG isn't used as a measure of efficiency in most of the rest of the world; instead, others elsewhere state consumptions in terms of how much fuel is consumed to travel a specific distance.  Our own EPA introduced that approach for electricity, but the market is far too premature to recognize the importance.  So for now, we are stuck on the MPGe rating.  That stands for "Miles Per Gallon Equivalent".  Few understand how it works either.  Making matters worse is when the two get confused with each other, as it was today.  I pointed out the error:  Mixing up MPG with MPGe is a common problem.  Prime's 133 MPGe wins hands down over Clarity's 110 MPGe.  Being more efficient with EV drive is a big deal in the overall equation of both production cost and ownership cost.  Remember overall goals.  For Clarity to deliver higher MPG results, you have to drive further routinely between charges.  Otherwise, you'll end up with a Prime that's difficult to compete with.  Mine is at 1,529 miles with the current tank, resulting in an average of 189 MPG.  Also, you don't seem to be aware that Prime became a 5-seater a few days ago.  Production of the 2020 just began and shipments are expected to begin in a little over a month.


Reminder.  Stuff like this reveals how little effort is made to look at the bigger picture: "Don't worry, it will run out eventually as more and more Prius owners get converted to other brands."  It comes from the mindset of conquest.  The early-adopter perspective is that automakers are competing with each other.  They absolutely refuse to look at the situation from the point-of-view where tax-credits have all been used up and those offerings are then competing with other choices on the dealer's showroom floor.  That idea of competing directly with traditional vehicles had been fought against with such intensity, it was truly remarkable.  Volt enthusiasts were the worst, absolutely refusing to acknowledge a market where Equinox was their greatest foe.  That level of denial was amazing.  They have been paid the price.  Seeing them welcome their own destruction was an interesting experience.  I patiently observed, reminding them along the way of goals.  What mattered was shrugged off though, sometimes intensely fought, never taken seriously.  I asked a lot of questions along the way... and still do:  Which will other brands offer to compete with plug-in model of RAV4 hybrid?  Remember, it's all about diversifying the technology.  Spreading it to other vehicles, like Toyota giving Corolla hybrid the PHV treatment, is already underway.  That's the fundamental mistake GM made with Volt.  Success requires rollout to other choices... like a SUV.  Again, what can we expect from automakers to compete with that?


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