Prius Personal Log  #946

June 11, 2019  -  June 16, 2019

Last Updated:  Mon. 7/29/2019

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6-16-2019 Understanding Dilemma.  It took me 2 days to finally answer this attempt to argue: "I see you failed to provide examples.  Just give us the top 5 from your writings."  I wasn't about to give him the satisfaction.  Having been through this countless times over the last decade with many others, there was no point doing it again.  The repeat really wouldn't serve any purpose... though, I was intrigued by his "100%" claim.  Here's what I ended up posting:

That reveals a failure to recognize the nature of the situation.  This isn't a product priced at a only few hundred dollars that's expected to last only a few years.  This is roughly 2 magnitudes more expensive (100 times) and should remain in service for over a decade.

In other words, this is a new category of problem.  Comparing something with so little in common from either a business or consumer perspective makes no sense.  Think about the logistics involved for automotive production, all the very large components requiring third-party suppliers.  Heck, just the profit-margin alone makes the perspective profoundly different. he reality that automotive production gets so involved with politics adds a dimension of complexity too.  There simply aren't issues on that scale with dilemmas of the past.  This is breaking new grow, new territory... a new chapter involving innovation.

Your claim that "Toyota's approach is 100% wrong" doesn't have substance to support it.  You certainly didn't provide any examples.  In fact, even your "old way of doing things" reference falls short.  We can clearly see that rollout of new tech in the past went just fine.  We've seen fuel-injection & anti-lock brakes of the past and a slew recent safety features all change the fleet without issue.  The transition to hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric won't be a big deal either.  It's a natural step forward for Toyota dealers and Toyota shoppers.

Remember, the issue I brought up was GM's failure to recognize their own audience.  Toyota isn't making that same mistake.


Public Charger.  Asking for advice like this is great.  A new Prime owner will be taking a highway trip and wanted to know what specific service for charging would be best.  It doesn't actually work that way, as I explained:  Signing up for just one service is like shooting yourself in the foot; however, that will be changing... not yet, though.  The reason why quickly becomes obvious after you've tried a few.  Even among a specific network, you'll find the experience varies dramatically.  It comes down to each charger owner choosing how the equipment is used and how it will be paid for.  I've seen quite a variety.  Some are entirely free.  Some are free for just the first hour.  Some have a per/kWh fee.  Some have a few based on time.  Some have a flat fee.  Some have an unlock fee, then add a per/Kwh fee.  It's set at the discretion of the owner, not the service.  I suggest using a cover-all-chargers type app, like PlugShare.  You'll get reviews & photos from users.  Those can be extra informative, especially since presence of particular services can be limited.  You'll discover a more generic location finder will tell you more.

6-16-2019 Prime Time.  We got a video share last night featuring the first known 2020 Prius Prime available for sale.  This is what I had to say about what I saw:

Takeaway from this first dealer video is the reveal that Toyota stayed true to their objective of reliable & affordable.  Since they are now setting goals for the next-gen design, it only makes sense that they know far more than we do.  We've seen this many times already.  Toyota carefully studies the market as a whole and adjusts accordingly.  That "plan way ahead, but remain flexible" approach makes some people crazy.  I think it's great, especially when they take risks.  Ironically, antagonists are the ones claiming Toyota doesn't take risks, yet they work extremely hard to hide the fact that it actually happens.

Trying a 4-seat configuration is the "Prime" example.  It made sense back then to experiment with layout, knowing the "car" market was on a major decline.  Prius needed to be redefined to retain an audience.  That's normal next step after being a top-seller for several generations.  In this case, we learned the middle seat remains an interest draw, despite the fact that several alternatives are available... Corolla hybrid, Camry hybrid, RAV4 hybrid.  Toyota had originally targeted aged families for Prius Prime.  Remember?  They no longer need that middle; however, new uses... like Lyft & Uber... have emerged since then, raising the question of need again.  Toyota adjusted accordingly.

Key is keeping design both reliable & affordable, while still remaining a draw.  By adding back that extra seat, it makes phasing out the regular hybrid realistic without upsetting the balance of the overall fleet.  It's now easy to see Prius being offered as just 3 variants... Limited, AWD, and Prime.  That's what we hoped for all along... Prius turning into a choice that highlights the plug.  In fact, that reinforces the "self-charging" promotion.  Toyota is setting the stage well in advance.  It's their forward-thinking that often takes a beating from "anti" rhetoric, but triumphs in the end.

Beside the seating decision was the battery-pack configuration.  That was another big risk.  Toyota had the choice between cargo capacity and kWh capacity.  The decision for initial rollout was to bring back the raised floor.  It's what we saw back with the prototype for Prius PHV that ultimately didn't make the cut.  Knowing Prius Prime would be a limited rollout until mid-cycle, it was realistic to try the approach again.  Why go from 2 to 4 stacks when you could squeeze in a 5th stack?  They were designed to be extremely robust with a heavy emphasis on being affordable.

We now see that Toyota liked the results of their real-world testing.  Data collected has so far proven those stacks are very reliable.  And since reputation for reliability far outweighs cargo capacity, I back that as a wise choice.  As much as I would have liked a better fit, the fallout related to Nissan's reliability decision reinforces taking this route by Toyota.  After all, affordability is a difficult tradeoff and fitting cargo into Prius Prime hasn't actually been an issue.  Remember, affordability also includes warranty coverage.  Toyota's focus is on long-term and we know for a fact any increase in EV is a draw to the Prius audience.

With RAV4 hybrid selling exceptionally well and the fallout of GM continuing to get worse, we see Toyota's effort to position themselves to ready Prime for primetime could really pay off.  The market attention on legacy automakers to deliver something now is getting intense.  Early-Adopters may praise "in the next few years" announcements, but that's not what ordinary showroom shoppers want.  Seeing dealers embrace Prius Prime for 2020, because it fits well into their inventory and basically sells itself, is an expectation we can realistically see happening.

Very long story short, it's time!

6-15-2019 Toyota Op-Ed.  It was very nice to read a comprehensive op-ed submitted by a rather outspoken Prius Prime owner.  The article was published on the big EV blog.  Knowing how much potential Prius Prime has among that overwhelming jungle of EV choices, it was an especially big deal.  The reason should be obvious at this point.  The market for EV choices is saturated.  Early-Adopters jumped on the tax-credit opportunity.  Tesla emerged as the short-term winner, but there is no sense of certainty or direction now.  We'd like to hope momentum will continue, but that's not how the mainstream market goes.  Those buyers have very, very different priorities... which the op-ed pointed out, highlighting Toyota's recent presentation.  I waited 2 full days before posting anything on that topic.  It was important to find out what others had to say before chiming in.  When I finally did, here's what I posted:

We all watched GM game the system for conquest while Toyota quietly used their hybrids to refine their technology.  So what if those electrification refinements are used to benefit both EV and FC offerings?  Driving needs variety dramatically and diversity is good business.  Token efforts from other legacy automakers haven't many any impact to their own showroom shoppers.

Notice how Toyota is striving to reach a very wide audience now?  They've captured some market with Prius, now they will capture more with RAV4 & Corolla hybrids.  It's a sensible approach to set the stage for plug-in hybrid rollout.  As this op-ed points out, the path to a profitable upgrade from hybrid to plug-in hybrid is only a matter of adding a one-way clutch and increasing battery capacity.

Toyota is a legacy automaker with a strong production, distribution, and sales.  That means taking the time to ensure they truly meet their own customer needs is well worth it.  No rush from early-adopter expectations will fulfill long-term goals.  This is why Prius Prime was only rolled out in limited quantity to limited markets.  Responding to feedback with a mid-cycle upgrade is a sensible approach to mainstream acceptance.

There's also the consideration of legacy fallout.  Volt had such a heavy dependency on tax-credits, the opportunity for growth wasn't possible.  Notice how their reveal immediately followed GM phaseout?  Toyota patiently waited continuing with refinements to reach a very large audience every step of the way.

The potential is enormous.  Traditional vehicles much quickly be replaced with cleaner choices right away.  Toyota is leading that effort to transform their entire fleet.


Review Misleading.  It's starting up again.  There are articles being published that pose as reviews by credible reviewers.  In reality, this is "fake news" material being created to spread the narrative of shortcomings.  The death of Volt appears to have emboldened some hoping to undermine progress.  Seeing their blatant lies in print again sends a renewed message of desperation.  This reminds me a lot of the diesel trouble.  When the threat from Prius got intense, they'd fight back with efforts to mislead & misinform.  That lack of integrity and at time outright dishonesty speaks volumes.  I've learned how difficult it is to combat such activity; however, I am now armed with better online combat weapons.  My videos continue to evolve, becoming even more informative while delivering even higher quality.  That provides a means of reaching audiences those deceptive articles serve to confuse.  Watching that level of detail will make those uncertain question what was claimed.  All that sparring I did with Volt enthusiasts prepared me for this reach to mainstream consumers.  I knew there would be an onslaught of attacks to come from those fighting to retain the status quo.  I knew my audience.  It was not a bunch of early-adopters taking advantage of a generous subsidy to purchase a niche.  This is serious.  Getting an ordinary shopper to take interest in a plug-in Prius means overcoming the endless stream of attempts to impede the reach beyond anything any of those GM defenders were willing to actually face.  Change isn't easy.  Reviews like the ones we are seeing now reveals some of the many barriers they continue to erect.


Dead Blog.  My first clue that the daily blog for Volt was destined to turn into a sight to feed antagonists (now more affectionately referred to as "fake news" websites) was the response to a Toyota presentation.  None of the totally unrealistic expectations being set for GM could stake up to simply lying about what Toyota said.  Volt becoming yet another "over promise, under deliver" example paled into comparison of outright misleading like that.  Toyota had shared their intentions for the future, highlighting how expensive lithium battery-cells were still.  It was all about being affordable.  Those enthusiasts turned antagonists immediately spun that to an interpretation that Toyota feared the dangers of lithium chemistry.  Word spread quickly about those claims of fear, even though people could look up the presentation itself to confirm nothing of the sort was actually stated.  Sound familiar?  That's exactly what this administration is doing now.  They refer to a report and just make up information about what it is claimed to have said.  Those are outright lies that enablers are all too happy to endorse.  It's blatant greenwash.  Attempts to undermine like that are dishonest and will ultimately come back to haunt those who spread such nonsense.  I saw how that was a cover to conceal Volt shortcomings.  Rather than endorse the technology, they attacked supposed competitors.  That's why I constantly had to fight back whenever I shared information about the technology.  They feared detail would reveal Prius could continue to stand up against misleading, that the design was an excellent balance of want & need.  It was a fundamental mistake.  Had they understood the "Who?" question, their beloved blog may not be dead now.  We keep getting new articles, but almost no one posts anymore.  Rather than the old routine of over one-hundred posts daily, there are only 2 or 3 now and sometimes none.  What they held most dear was false promises and meritless hope.  I'm glad to see it finally dead.  They brushed aside the sincere "too little, too slowly" concern... which now the consequences of are undeniable.


Up to $11,500 Off.  Today was a strange day.  As the attacks on Toyota settled down, we got news of extreme discounts for Bolt.  The advertisements said up to $11,500 off MSRP from now to the end of September... which coincidently is when the tax-credit phaseout reaches its final phase (only 25%).  Naturally, there was a wild amount of spin.  None of it made any sense though.  We're seeing the same fallout we do every time from GM.  On the third year, hope can no longer be saved.  The market is saturated at that point.  Any enthusiast interested in a purchase already purchased.  And since GM does nothing but appeal to enthusiasts, there's nothing left.  Notice that pattern?  Two-Mode.  Volt-1.  Volt-2.  Bolt.  Each one suffered the same fate.  In year 3, the mess became so unmanageable, drastic steps needed to be taken.  At this point though, what is there to save?    I found it amusing how someone interjected: "GM is stockpiling ZEV credits (it has enough for meeting requirement now) in anticipation of the future."  Reading the news, you'd discover it was actually preemptive damage-control or intentional misleading.  Either way, GM announced a $150 million investment to ramp up production for Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.  It's like the current administration lifting restrictions to allow sales of E15, as a move to help out farmers struggling from the new tariffs.  What you aren't told is that entities are being granted waivers so they will not be required to purchase more ethanol.  It's a scam to make you feel better... much like GM's ruse by offering EV sales.  There are really only token quantities, but most people never notice.  They praise GM for doing more, when in reality, they are not.  Just think of how pleased those new owners will be with such discounts.  Their customer-satisfaction rating will be outstanding.  Environmental impact though will be negligible, since those loud voices will actually be so few.  Such discounts do nothing for a business being profitable either.  Long-Term sustainability must be achieved through actual advancement forward, not markdowns to get rid of old inventory.  Who knows, perhaps this is a move to clean house.  A new offering that's far more realistic should eventually be taken seriously.


Unsustainable.  How long can that terrible repetitive behavior be sustained?  At some point, there's no audience left.  The pattern of deception becomes noticeable.  And even for those who are not bothered by such terrible practices, they don't want to waste their money on garbage.  They will seek out a better deal.  This is why virtually all the GM enthusiasts jumped ship.  It is no surprise that so many of those who leased a Volt are now driving a Tesla Model 3.  As much fight as there was about my claims of Volt only appealing to a small audience, there's no doubt anymore that I was correct.  That asking of "Who?" was a sincere effort to raise concern about the terrible direction GM had turned.  It was movement, but not advancement forward.  Racing off on a tangent to serve a niche was a massive waste of opportunity.  After the tax-credits are gone, there's nothing to show for them.  The fleet remained unchanged.  You go to a dealers lot and look around.  What's different after all these years of Volt sales?  With Toyota, you see a wide variety of hybrids.  So what if only a single model currently offers a plug?  The next step forward is easy, a simple move that customers will readily understand and dealers will need little effort to sell.  It's a logical approach to traditional vehicle replacement.  The chaos stirred by GM with Volt was just a smoke & light show.  What did it really accomplish?  The rhetoric amounted to a time & resources lost.  Ugh.


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