Personal Log  #955

July 14, 2019  -  July 18, 2019

Last Updated:  Mon. 7/29/2019

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7-18-2019 No Meaningful Investment.  Claims that Toyota's effort isn't making a difference struggle to provide substance.  For example: "GM did refine their EV technology prior to subsidy expiration.  They leapfrogged all their competitors - even Tesla - and released the first sub-$45k EV with >200 miles of range, the Bolt.  In contrast, Toyota has taken the same approach as Ford: no meaningful investment in BEV technology, relying on the subsidy to sell only enough PHEVs to meet regulatory mandates."  That was the entire post.  I found that truly desperate, knowing $35k was actually the target  for the "first" trophy.  It was a blatant attempt to distract from the true goal anyway.  I was happy to remind them of that too:

Using the word "refine" to describe the adding of capacity is confirmation of listening to the wrong audience.  GM was catering to enthusiasts, the group sounding off about the supposed need for increased range.  Toyota, on the other hand, continues their focus on affordability.  They are not relying upon subsidies, which the $27,600 starting MSRP for Prius Prime overwhelmingly proves.  That's the "nicely under $30,000" target the entire industry has been striving for.

Toyota listens carefully to the audience necessary for sustainable profitability, their own loyal customers shopping dealer's showroom floors.  That's why their technology refinement takes place outside of BEV sales.  The efficiency of their electric-motors, as well as the production cost reduction, used now for hybrids will directly benefit BEV in the future... when tax-credits are long gone.  That's why the extremely efficient cabin heating & cooling for their plug-in hybrids is also a win for BEV later.

The spin about not making any meaningful investment requires turning a blind-eye to all of that, in addition to how much of a gain there is from their push to get their dealers to embrace change by shifting focus away from traditional vehicles with the wide array of hybrid choices.  No amount of "leapfrog" claims can deny that.  GM dealers are still doing the same old thing they did in the past.  Neither Volt nor Bolt had any influence on their behavior.

In short, don't claim "meaningful investment" without the expectation of being called out to explain how the status quo has actually been addressed.  Real change is often not easy to see, especially with "200 mile" or "$35,000" market campaigns to convince you they are truly making a difference.

7-18-2019 Analogies.  This was interesting, since it came from an antagonist.  You don't expect something constructive.  But every know & then, something thoughtful does emerge.  In this case, this is that entire post: "Everyone loves to use the Kodak analogy.  Google waited and copied Apple's expensive, high-end approach to touchscreen smartphones, but made it cheaper and more accessible.  Android is now, by far, the most popular smartphone OS in the world.  My point is that not all technology roadmaps indicate that the first-mover is the winner."  Since it wasn't intended as bait, I don't mind providing more context.  It can be informative to paint a better picture of how change comes about when the position of an antagonist begins to change.  Hopefully, pointing out shortcomings of an analogy help that process along:

That is an excellent point.  People forget just how often being first in those initial stages of rollout ended up making no difference at all later.  That's why the proper analogy for this situation is the TORTOISE AND THE HARE.  Seeing the approach by legacy automakers during the early-adopter phase (subsidized sales) is solid reasoning why it doesn't matter.

Just look at how ineffective GM's exploit of the $7,500 tax-credits were for Volt.  Everyone was cheering the sales numbers.  No one wanted to admit those numbers were really just conquest sales, not making any impact to the status quo.  GM dealers just kept selling the same old ICE offerings to their loyal customers.

Then when you look at the narrative for Toyota, you get a struggle-to-catch-up message without any acknowledgement that their tax-credits have not been used up yet and their plug-in offering is targeted directly at showroom shoppers.  Toyota is striving to refine their technology prior to their subsidy expiration... exactly what GM should have done... and exactly what Tesla did.

That "cheaper and more accessible" is absolutely vital and exactly when Toyota is doing.


Media Misleading.  It's very frustrating to read an article that includes opening statements like this: "Many consumers appear to lack a basic understanding about how these various alternative propulsion vehicles differ (e.g., what’s the difference between hybrids, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, extended-range electric vehicles, and fuel-cell electric vehicles?)."  Nothing seems wrong with what was said, until you read more.  This didn't come from a fake news sight either.  It was supposedly a well-informed automotive publication simply conveying information about the variety of vehicles available.  Sadly, that wasn't actually the case.  Good intentions seemed to fall apart, somewhere along the way.  It makes you wonder how much they've been spreading misleading information.  This is what specifically got me: "Offer extended-range versions of EVs.  Stop developing and offering Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrids, which are only prolonging the use of the internal combustion engine."  There is no actual definition of an "extended-range" vehicle.  Volt tried that spin, but kept changing criteria as new offerings delivered better.  It turned into a game of moving the goal-posts.  Ultimately, that's how Volt died.  The technology wasn't ever marketed with any clarity.  Ordinary consumers had no idea how it worked, since the misleading continued to confuse.  Media, enthusiasts, supporters, and the automaker itself all had different ideas of how the technology should be identified.  It's really unfortunate "plug-in hybrid" wasn't acceptable.  They wanted to be "vastly superior" instead.  Ironically, that effort to stand out is what killed it.  So now, even after production has ended, many still don't know what "extended-range" tells us.


Shipping Fleet.  Ever notice how those dead set against more than battery-power being the source of portable energy storage carefully steer the discussion to only include personal transportation?  They work really hard to prevent commercial applications from being addressed... like cargo transport.  Sure, you'll hear about the possibility of large trucks someday.  But that's just to get you to stop pushing.  Don't!  Keep at it.  All you have to do is ask how shipping across the ocean will take place.  Batteries are far too small for that to be feasible.  It's just not going to happen.  Hydrogen, on the other hand, is already well underway toward replacing oil.  That's where fuel-cells will truly be game-changer.  We need a cleaner & renewable supply of energy for trade.  Commercial applications are realistic for that.  They don't require infrastructure changes like our vehicles would.  Service stations in every neighborhood is a non-issue.  They only need that fuel at ports where they dock.  That's far easier to support.  It doesn't have to be absolutely clean either.  Dramatic reduction of emissions is realistic even if there is some conversion overhead for now.  Think about how long these ships will be in service.  Getting that fleet to change to the new fuel will make a world of difference.  In other words, like it or now, hydrogen will become a major fuel of the future.  So, why not have some commercial vehicles using it too?  Think about delivery & cab services.  Their fleets could take advantage of that fuel being available.


EPA Rollbacks.  We can be said about this?  The current administration is doing everything they possibly can to not only impede progress, but to also set back the goal posts a much as possible.  Long ago, it was sad to see such activity.  But back then, damage wasn't a serious concern.  It was basically looked upon as a stall tactic.  But over 15 years later, we are now facing very real consequences of inaction.  Knowing you have technology to significantly reduce impact, yet choosing the selfish course of exploiting resources for personal waste.  It's not like anyone is trying to get rid of heavy offenders... like the SUV... it's a matter of getting them to be much cleaner and use far less fuel.  This is why there was always so much resentment for GM.  It was never animosity for Volt claimed by enthusiasts.  It was always the "too little, too slowly" concern.  Rather than using the momentum Volt had established for pushing forward, it was reaching on laurels... ironically, the very perspective antagonists portrayed for Toyota.  In reality, it was an example of reflection.  They couldn't see it though.  That helped divert attention away from the policymakers working hard to rollback EPA regulations.  It's really sad to see so much resulting from not setting clear goals.  I warned of the consequences.  Bad things happen when you do nothing to prevent.


27-Mile Average.  We did the trip up to grandpa's today, staying their the entire day.  So, there was ample time to recharge.  27.6 miles of EV on the drive there.  26.6 miles of EV on the drive back.  We had the A/C on generously and it was highway driving most of those miles.  The back of the Prius was stuff silly too.  Since we're prepping the house for sale, there's lots of things to deal with.  So, each trip home includes as much as we can squeeze in.  It's amazing how much cargo that hatchback can swallow up too.  The arrival home requires quite a bit of time to unload... which is really becoming a pain.  But way, we can properly disperse the items.  We try to donate & recycle as much as possible.  Being able to avoid a dumpster by transporting all that is really nice... and being able to do it with electricity is even better.


$3 to $5 Thousand.  It is interesting to remind people about the target from so long ago.  That's what Toyota had determined for pricing of their plug-in augmentation for Prius.  That's exactly what got delivered too.  Right now, the price is $4,000 more.  All that research seems to have paid off.  Based on the direction the market is taking... now that tax-credit influence is fading... appears to reveal the pricing is how ordinary shoppers will be reached.  Every person I talk to about plug-in vehicles has price at the top of their decision list.   If it's too expensive, they just brush the discussion off as fascinating technology to wait for... rather than something to take advantage of.  It's much like other tech.  Phones are a great example.  You know you'll eventually get something better, but there's no rush to upgrade.  There isn't a guarantee of purchasing the best available either.  In fact, most people tend to gravitate toward a balance of price.  Having the absolute most of something isn't a compelling draw for non-enthusiasts.  That's why my concerns expressed about Volt were so dead on so far in advance.  Know your audience.


Downplay & Enabling.  There's less and less of an excuse for this... at large, like when you randomly encounter someone and the topic of plug-in vehicles come up.  But when online, those posters have no sound reasoning for this: "Amen brother.  Had the same experience test driving this car.  Lacked any EV range.  The whole Toyota (and Subaru) concept of paying a extra $7K for occasional hybrid assist is lost on me.  How about a real PHEV?"  What they are doing is passing along downplay, enabling one and other with rhetoric.  It makes you wonder how seriously the casual reader takes those comments.  I suspect many just filter through looking for something to agree with.  That's unfortunate, but not a surprise.  This is why it can be more effective at times to keep replies brief, like:  $27,600 MSRP for Prius Prime isn't that much more.  Not sure what your definition of a PHEV is either.  With my Prime, I have been averaging 27 miles of EV on the highway with A/C running.  That no-gas-used driving experience is what?


Late For What?  I wonder how much longer the "late" rhetoric will persist.  There's not much of an audience anymore to care.  National average gas price is only $2.79, the SUV is more popular than ever, and battery cost has finally fallen to a reasonably competitive level.  Seems like an affordable plug-in hybrid like Prius Prime is right on time.  With tax-credits no longer skewing perception of demand, the reality of appealing to mainstream consumers should finally get acknowledgement.  Refusing to recognize the terrible dependency placed upon subsidies was a terrible mistake.  To think of all that effort wasted by Volt enthusiasts fighting pointless superiority battles based upon such a futile approach.  Calling it risky is being polite.  It was basically just plain stupid.  Automakers are a for-profit business.  Why in the world would they embrace any green technology that requires extra effort to sale and returns lower profit?  Getting stuck with unsold inventory or wasting a ton of time on a lost sale makes no sense.  Yet, that was the gamble enthusiasts had hyped as so realistic, it would crush the competition.  Of course, they saw the competition as other automakers... not other vehicles sharing the same showroom floor.  Some are still trying to keep that belief alive too.  Ugh.  If anything is late, it is them coming to the realization that hype doesn't appeal to ordinary shoppers.


Newbie Advice.  I'm really looking forward to the wave of 2020 Prime about to arrive.  In the meantime, there are some still jumping on the opportunity to snap up a good deal on remaining 2019 models.  One new owner today posting concern about heat resistance, wondering if he made a mistake purchasing something unfamiliar.  That's quite typical.  Everyone starts out as a newbie.  Uncertainties vary though.  So, you have to do your best to find out what the concerns are for that individual.  That was pretty easy to address in this case.  It was also quite informative.  His purchase was an upgrade from an old second-generation Prius, the Iconic model.  That was a testament to how well Toyota connected with owners of the past.  Upgrades like that provide a strong endorsement.  I help out by providing a little comforting advice:  Park with the car aimed in the general direction of the sun and put up a sunshield for while it's parked.  When you are ready to leave, use the all-windows down feature on the FOB to air out the car quickly.  (I do that as I'm approach, so venting has pretty much finished by the time I unplug and get settled.)  Then use the A/C generously on the drive home.  No big deal.  That's cool enough to keep the battery happy.


Crosstrek Review.  As other PHEV offerings enter the market, how will the online banter change?  Mainstream consumers are so far removed from that isolated perspective, it's like we have 2 entirely different realities to deal with.  One is obsessed with power & range, completely out of touch with the priorities not focused on electric propulsion.  The other is just an ordinary consumer not really interested in doing anything special to reduce their emissions or consumptions.  That disconnect is remarkable.  Knowing that, reviews capture my attention.  The one on Crosstrek today especially did.  It was just a basic review, nicely done.  I was first to comment, seeing if I could actually stir some type of constructive return:  118 HP (88 kW) is the output of its electric motor, something most people don't recognize the significance of.  That particular specification is important, since it reveals Subaru used a component from Camry hybrid, not Prius.  People often see the 8.8 kWh battery-capacity and just assume it is the Prius Prime system reused.  It is not, as MG2 power output clearly confirms.  That ups the count of PHEV offerings resulting from Toyota's hybrid design to 3... Prius, Corolla, and now Crosstrek.  There's a 151 HP (113 kW) electric motor used in Mirai.  Think about how nice that would be used in plug-in hybrid or even a electric-only vehicle.  Toyota is quietly rolling out components for a wide variety offerings.  That's refinement to efficiency & production which will have a significant payoff later.  Think about what the upcoming EV model of C-HR will include.

7-14-2019 Move On.  Desperate attempts to change the topic are going nowhere.  The reason why is simple, lost enthusiast don't have any suggestions.  They are just tired of having to deal with the fallout: "It looks like it is time to move on.  The same weak excuses keep getting repeated."  I had to listen to an endless stream of excuses as to why "too little, too slowly" really wasn't anything to be concerned about.  They were wrong.  Now, there's no reason to listen.  I like that how hypocritical things worked out:

Ironically, you sight "enthusiasts" as vague, but then vaguely use "people" repeatedly in the very same post.  That claim of "Last year the argument was they would fall off a cliff and go bankrupt as soon as the 7500 credit was reduced." has no source sighted.  I ask, who you are referring to?

Low-Hanging Fruit was the message posted here on a regular basis.  Remember that?  It's a well fit analogy.  It is specifically defined as: "a thing or person that can be won, obtained, or persuaded with little effort".  In other words, Tesla sales will continue, they just won't be as easy.  Sales will simply plateau at some lower rate... nothing resembling a cliff or the implied death from that fall.

Seeing some type of demand reduction as a product innovator becomes a mature player is perfectly normal.  In fact, that's what investors expect.  Stability is far more important than being on the "bleeding edge".  Speaking of fitting analogies, think about what "bleeding" actually means.

In other words, your attempt to dismiss has fallen on deaf ears.


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