Personal Log  #962

August 21, 2019  -  August 25, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 10/06/2019

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8-25-2019 Playing Offense, again.  Having history unfold in such a familiar pattern is fascinating.  The repetition now is just like I remember from years ago: "Anytime there's an article pointing out Toyota's failings in the EV world, John's boilerplate, anti-GM, regurgitations appear.  It's his defense mechanism."  When absolutely everything failed with Two-Mode and it was totally hopeless, the attacks dwindled to just claims that I was really just out to get GM.  Doing everything possible to avoid address any aspect of what GM did to bring about such a monumental fail is confirmation of positions having switched.  The same thing happened again, this time with Volt.  So, I started playing offense again.  There's so much real-world data in my favor, why not?  There's nothing new to spin.  Every exploit has been exhausted.  It's over, as I witnessed firsthand today.  The attack was so desperate, I couldn't help but take the time to really push back hard.  So, I did:

You clearly didn't actually read the article.  Instead, it was choosing to attack the one who not only expressed concern about GM's impeding failure, but also quite accurately predicted how it would play out.  I was dead on about GM's squandering tax-credits for the sake of conquest sales... sacrificing Volt technology along the way, rather than establishing something able to achieve sustainable profit prior to triggering phaseout.  Production has ended and there is no vehicle using that technology anymore for GM's own home market.

That combined with the obvious move Toyota is making toward electrification is making you crazy.  Your beloved Volt, which you abandoned for a Model 3, simply could not compete with what Prius Prime was evolving into.  Toyota had already delivered a superior system, more efficient with both EV and HV drive, in addition to delivering a more efficient system for heating the cabin.  And now that the model 2020 has delivered a mid-cycle upgrade, the inventory build-up in established markets and rollout to new markets is too much to accept.  Adding to that, we now here of an EV concept on the way from Lexus.

All those years of having to deal with that nonsense about GM being the ultimate legacy leader and Toyota being hopelessly behind is about to pay off.  Your lack of patience and refusal to acknowledge the bigger picture will be a hard lesson learned... and I'm happy to play offense on this one.  Go ahead, dig dipper into that pit of denial.  What do you claim Toyota has failed at?

Remember, we aren't even out of the early-adopter stage yet.  That means mainstream acceptance hasn't started yet.  That stage is defined by competing directly on the showroom floor, traditional against plug-in, without any subsidies.  Watch what happens with Prius Prime.  That starting MSRP of $27,600 is the dream "nicely under $30,000" goal GM was never able to deliver.

8-25-2019 True Leadership.  My contribution to the discussion included: 

Also, don't lose track of what true leadership is either.  Unlike what enthusiasts try to convince us of, it's not about bragging rights.

Toyota has been quietly introducing unique gains to give them an edge later, when legacy automakers suddenly discover HSD is an very effective means of delivering PHEV choices able to compete directly with traditional vehicles without any subsidies.

It's amazing how often the carbon-fiber hatch and the dual-wave glass get overlooked.  Both require very high levels of quality, something that takes quite a bit of effort to achieve at both low-cost and high-volume.  Combined that with the refinement needed to deliver both a highly efficient traction-motor and highly efficient heat-pump, you've got a winning set of technologies beneficial to plug-in vehicles.

So whenever you seem to get a little frustrated, seeing greener grasses for enthusiasts, remind yourself how Toyota is quietly striving to get an edge on the larger consumer market as a whole.  Their pre-work to set the stage, prior to the masses taking an interesting in plugging in, to prepare their entire fleet.  That readiness of design we see in Prius Prime and Corolla PHV clearly demonstrate the massive amount of potential.  It's not far-fetched to consider a plug-in model of RAV4 hybrid becoming enticing enough for dealers to stock them as regular inventory.

Unfortunately, just like all the other successes of the past, a great deal of patience is needed in the meantime.

8-25-2019 True Change.  This was an interesting observation posted about a rather odd new thread: "He sees all the competition... He just doesn't want to spend the rest of his life waiting."  What made it odd was the critical thinking.  This was starting out as a constructive discussion.  Woohoo!  I jumped in with:

You have been enlightened and now sit at the doorway of early-adopters.  It is a "grass is greener" situation.  You see better choices, but don't have enough exposure to really assess what that really equates to.

Think about where I started 20 years ago.  I was watching electrification struggle to break out beyond a niche through the PNGV (Partnership for a Next Generation of Vehicles) program, a federally funded effort to help research & deliver 80 MPG vehicles.  Prius came about as a counter-measure as a result of that.  Toyota's technology revealed just how difficult it would truly be to provide via choices for the masses.  That's why GM was doomed to fail with Volt from the very start.  I made a lot of enemies by taking on the enthusiasts who pushed aside real-world data in favor of hope.  Their desire to embrace the idea of a miracle break-thru clouded their judgment to an extreme, enabling a group-think which ended with disastrous results.  What a waste of opportunity.

Looking for actual merit in the advancement forward is rather disheartening, if you want a solution for the masses right away.  Status Quo has remained intact, despite the successful rollout of Model 3 from Tesla.  It's an amazing vehicle without any real influence of change for our greatest barrier, legacy dealers.  Understanding how they are the true customers of legacy automakers brings about the next-level of enlightenment for you.  Think about who the "competition" actually is.

Knowing that is how you will begin to see Toyota's "death by a thousand tweaks" will overcome the barrier.  It's not exciting to watch the seemingly glacial pace forward, but it sure is assuring to know that there is no turning back.  Toyota's electrification push is across the entire fleet.  With the newcomers of Corolla hybrid and the seriously impressive next-gen Camry hybrid and RAV4 hybrid, that should be easier to see.

Looking forward, we can set focus on Prius.  For anyone who has closely studied the history, starting even before the dramatic reveal of Prius back in October 1997, will know how much Toyota plans ahead and builds flexibility into their approach.  We can see how the stage is being set for Prius to become a PHV by default.  Having the plug be standard, and the no-plug optional, is that paradigm-shift many have been dreaming about for a very, very long time... except, it will then be realistic.  25 years is a freakishly long time for a consumer, but not from the perspective of an automaker.  This is why "know your audience" is so important.

Toyota's goal is to deliver an affordable & robust design.  That's why this generation of plug-in Prius has that rather awkward sized battery-pack, but has a tradeoff of production-cost being low enough to compete directly with other vehicles on the showroom floor... an absolutely vital aspect of true change.  We won't see status quo budge until without that profit reality... which informs us as to the design for the next-gen Prius... a better fitting pack, with a modest capacity increase and faster recharging, at a highly competitive price.

That may or may not be the greener grass you are looking for, but it is certainly what legacy automakers need to move forward.


Today's Future.  It has been interesting to read some impressions of what the future is expected to bring.  I hear comments that have no basis upon any market effort.  People just see a need and expect it to somehow be fulfilled.  Who will do that, when it will get done, and how it gets paid for doesn't get addressed.  They just figure it will somehow be dealt with.  That type of "magic" is pretty common.  It's the basic non-enthusiast perspective.  Stuff just happens.  That's why there's such a fascination with Prius.  It simply works.  The future is "today" regardless of when you start paying attention.  This is something mysterious & questionable by early-adopters.  Some now, especially as Tesla phaseout is well underway, just expect an effortless growth to take place.  Catch is, it's not like Prius Prime.  The discovery process isn't as simple as coming across one while wandering around at the dealer.  Pricing keeps in the "someday" category too.  In other words, stuff like this coming up randomly in discussions is how you know a new chapter has begun.  Rhetoric of the past is fading away... hence, the future arriving today... for some.


Watching Inventory.  I have been watching the ups & downs of inventory for the 2020 Prius Prime.  It took less than 2 weeks for another 500 to become available as ready-to-purchase stock.  That's doesn't account for those sold during that same time period.  So, I'm actually witnessing the number rise, then fall.  The point is to see an overall growth.  That's how I know the market reach is taking place.  Sales are very important, but so is being able to reach new customers.  That requires supply to be on dealer listings.  The phone-app shows that data.  It's quite handy.  I can already see August will be a good month for existing markets.  New markets (like the 500-mile radius from me, here in Minnesota) hasn't seen any growth at all.  We have a dozen vehicles listed, all special orders.  Not being part of the initial rollout regions was a test of patience.  Getting 2020 models as the first ready-to-purchase stock is fantastic.  Customers (as well as sales staff) will only ever know this newest offering.  Not having any type of legacy to deal with has benefits.  That means a bit more waiting.  I suspect new region rollout won't begin until close to the end of the year.  Oh well.  There should be a few announcements/reveals in the meantime.  That gives Toyota ample opportunity to see the stage while we wait too.  Stuff like training at the dealers is quite helpful.  Hopefully, that's what some of those special-order deliveries are for.  It takes a bit of real-world exposure before you get enough experience to feel comfortable promoting something so new.  In fact, that's part of the reason why Toyota decided to rollout to individual market schedules, rather than to the entire country all at once.  Experts for training are limited.  So, while I wait, I watch inventory grow.


Constructive Questions.  Sometimes, you get lucky.  My assumption response resulted in: "Curious then what is your prediction for when they hit the phaseout and what models will they have in place in the US at that time?"  I appreciate that type of post.  It shows critical thinking.  Rather than attacking the messenger or attempting to draw attention elsewhere, it's a worthwhile question.  Yeah!  That's so much than the usual nonsense, especially when the rhetoric is so brainless.  To that, I gladly answered with:  I have no idea.  Toyota has a reputation for carefully monitoring markets and responding in its best long-term interest.  I have been watching inventory of 2020 Prime models grow in the established markets over the past 3 weeks.  The impression based on counts appears that sales are already off to a good start there.  It suggests the same will happen as new markets finally get decent delivery.  While that's happening here, Corolla PHV owners elsewhere will be providing data to gauge rollout potential in other markets.  I suspect we'll get a PHV model of RAV4 first.


Overcoming Assumptions.  Setting realistic expectations is a means of preventing assumptions.  Problem is, people continuously supply misleading information.  It never ends... which is why trolls thrive in certain venues.  It probably isn't intentional.  It just happens.  But then they become addicted to the resulting attention.  That's the problem I have now with a certain Prius owner who has decided the big forum is there for his entertainment, rather than being a source for exchanging detail about ownership and the market.  When it becomes that, you know there will be trouble... since overall value is lost.  Newbies don't find it helpful and stop participating.  Sadly, that's exactly what our current president is doing too.  Making people become disenchanted results in less pushback when he does whatever he wants.  Notice how many tweets we actually get daily now.  Ugh.  It's just like posting.  Quantity rather than quality is a red flag.  That's why when you encounter comments like this, it makes you wonder how much disinformation was spread to give such an impression: "I don't understand why Toyota doesn't add a plug to these models and thus gaining eligibility for government incentives."  There are only 200,000 credits available per automaker.  So, there is no gain.  The finite quantity cannot be changed.  For that matter, eligibility doesn't require more models.  The only option available is to seriously ramp up production just prior to reaching phaseout.  That's where the assumption part comes in, which I stated as:  How do you know Toyota isn't planning to do exactly that?  It certainly looks like they are setting the stage for high-volume availability to happen the same time as triggering phaseout... which would make it ideal, since that is when the tax-credits switch from quota to unlimited.  After all, that is what Tesla did with great results.  Just because GM blew it by not having anything in place doesn't mean Toyota will do the same thing.


History Disagreement.  It is intriguing to find someone disagreeing with you when they have nothing to offer in support of their claim.  I have this massive collection of blog entries, written back at the time of those events playing out.  That provides an incredibly valuable perspective, one of not knowing what comes next.  When you already know the outcome, any reflection upon that history is distorted & bias as a result of that uncertainty having been removed.  You must take into consideration material from that time, documenting what people felt & believed would occur.  That's why the "intent" discussion is somewhat pointless.  It teaches you how to make decisions about the future, but does not in any way alter the past.  Whatever happened, happened.  That's the way it is.  Wise or Stupid, it doesn't matter.  The outcome is not for debate.  In this case, the demand & reputation for traditional guzzlers remained untarnished.  Legacy sales continue as they did back then.  Ugh.  Annoyed, I posted:  You can disagree with intent, but that won't change it.  A decade ago when the tax-credit first became available, the market was different... hence the relevance of pointing out the bigger picture.  Again, that bigger picture is important.  The tax-credit is only for 200,000 vehicles.  Focus on the highly profitable with annual sales much higher wouldn't appeal to the true customers, the dealers.  True change (actual impact to the status quo) means focusing on the more difficult challenge.


Intent Reminder.  It was a decade ago when the hype of pre-release for Volt when expectations turned into rhetoric.  The reason why was simple... there was nothing to back the claims.  Statements claimed as fact were meritless.  There was no data.  There wasn't even specifications yet.  They had nothing.  I got attacked when pointing that out.  So, I tried to keep discussion focused on the business aspect.  How many Volt does GM intent to actually sell?  To whom?  When?  It was a push without a plan.  Knowing the tax-credit was limited, it should have been obvious some type of plan would be necessary... otherwise, opportunity would be wasted.  You want to build up demand to a sustainable level prior to expiration.  The reason why is simple.  After the 200,000 sales, phaseout is triggered.  That switches the tax-credit availability from quantity to time, allowing the automaker to flood the market.  It's an opportunity Tesla capitalized on and GM wasted... exactly as predicted.  All that "too little, too slowly" concern I got relentlessly attacked for has been confirmed as valid.  I am vindicated for having been sincere about sales.  I really was the looking out for the best interest of business & consumer.  Sadly, none of that history is remembered.  Looking back, you get a very different perception of what subsidy use should have been.  That's understandable, considering how much has happened with the plug-in market over the past decade.  However, not recognizing the "2020" perspective (what an interesting cliché twist) is a very real problem.  Technology changes.  Technology improves.  It takes time though and you must best use resources available for that period.  I provided all that history summarized into:  Intent of the tax-credit was to establish a technology, allowing each automaker to build up production & reputation by their own choosing at their own pace.  The catch was to complete that process prior to triggering phaseout.  Tesla did a wonderful job of that.  GM simply abandoned their entire effort to blend engine with motor.  Voltec was never spread to any mainstream offering, like Trax or Equinox, as was expected.  That was a colossal waste of opportunity.  Remember all that "range-anxiety" campaigning against EV choices?


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