Personal Log  #980

November 24, 2019  -  December 6, 2019

Last Updated:  Mon. 2/10/2020

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Marketing.  There are some who participate online that still don't understand: "make a product that people want, instead of what you think they need."  I don't expect my response to make any difference in that regard:  That logic is exactly what contributes to the problem of Innovator's Dilemma... which is the very problem Volt died from.  The spin online about that not being the case is good reading too... so much damage-control effort for such an obvious mistake.  GM chose to focus on enthusiasts, asking them what they wanted... rather than finding out what mainstream consumers actually needed.  That created a highly specialized gen-1 Volt.  They repeated the same mistake for gen-2 Volt.  It became such a much praised niche, but actual sales were terrible.  Thinking a want is what they "need" is a very real issue.  There was so much justification in the past for Volt, based on marketing, not the actual recognition of necessity.  True requirements are a solid measure.  People turn a blind-eye to that data.


Demand Spin.  Finally, something more than just hearsay: "Toyota's Biggest Problem Is Keeping Hybrid Car Models in Stock".  That article pointed out the overall growth at dealers, despite the change-overs with Prius.  There really is a transformation taking place with mainstream appeal.  When the country's top-selling SUV is available as a hybrid and history's top-selling car of all time is also available as a hybrid, that shift in interest is a simple one to understand.  It's pretty much impossible to counter too.  This isn't an argument against hatchback.  It's an obvious new appeal for ordinary strong sellers, RAV4 and Corolla... both long-standing profit-providers with names so common, they truly represent mainstream purchases.  We knew someday this would come.  It's that balance of cost/payback.  The equation is sensitive and varies.  But the line kept drew near, since the technology continued to evolve.


Retrofit.  Lots of questions are now being asked about the possibility of existing newer models being able to get Android Auto.  Software upgrades of that nature are new territory.  It's opportunity for automakers to explore.  Toyota is very much part of that now.  That's why exploration of a $199 retrofit program is taking place.  Will it cover expenses?  Is the process easy enough?  And how many takers could there be?  So many questions.  Very few answers.  It has been done before.  That's how I got cruise-control in my 2001.  It was a feature intentionally withheld, a means of filtering out all but the most dedicated.  Toyota wanted die-hard supporters to purchase that very first offering.  After getting it, they ended up providing a kit to add the feature afterward for a reasonable cost.  That could happen again with this.


Taking Bait.  There's that subtle hit the reset, while at the same time attempt to discredit the messenger: "Perhaps you should share that wisdom instead of playing cryptic sensei, and less people would brush off what you are trying to say."  We've come full circle.  The spin has caught up to itself.  That repetition is how you know there's nothing more to extract.  I do take the troll bait from time to time as a confirmation, just in case:  I have already, several times.  People have a way of conveniently forgetting when each new thread is started.  The nature of these exchanges is for the RESET button to be pressed, preventing conclusions from being drawn.  That's how they keep their favorite discussion topics alive.  Ironically, some of the same individuals complain when I repeat myself.  In other words, I don't take the bait.  My suggestion to you is to ask a specific question instead.


No Demand.  That article sure stirred up a lot of rhetoric.  That was expected though.  Enthusiasts were forcing the "EV Market" perspective, which was clearly defined by early-adopters taking advantage of the tax-credits.  So naturally, their point-of-view was one of high-demand with great potential.  The very idea of addressing possible setbacks as a result of that generous subsidy disappearing was "anti" talk and nothing more an effort to show favor for inferior designs.  Ugh.  They clearly didn't understand how low-hanging fruit works.  That initial surge of interest rarely persists.  Some type of resistance always comes about.  If upgrades are planned accordingly, the reach out to a new & wider audience can be just fine.  However, it could also result in no demand.  The catch is understanding & recognizing the entire market as a whole.  There's always some form of barrier.  You just need to properly identify it.  What will the other automakers be doing?  A saturation of supply could really mess up pricing.  Heck, even the messaging can become confused with too many choices.  As much as I try to point that out, it usually gets dismissed:  Know your audience.  Dealers are who Toyota interacts directly with.  How many of them are requesting EV inventory?  The answer is very few, hence taking another means to reach the same end.  Several choices of Prime (Prius, RAV4, Corolla) will bring about their interest.  That's the reality of the sales market... much to the chagrin of early-adopters. 


Blizzard, No Plug.  The long & late Thanksgiving holiday weekend provided a great opportunity to observe behavior when being parked outside for 3 days without being plugged in.  We had a blizzard pass through, at my in-laws in Wyoming.  When I booted the system, it fired up without running the engine, all electric.  Outside temperature was 18°F.  Battery-Pack temperature was 17°F.  Battery warming clearly doesn't go that long (I believe the longest duration is 48 hours) and only does a high setting when you are plugged in.  Nonetheless, it was still using only electricity.  Sweet!  With so much Winter to come still, I'll have plenty of opportunities to observe, noting more detail.  I started the engine by pressing the HV/EV button.  After 5 minutes, snow was already melting off the windshield.  I turned on MAX defrost.  The rest was gone quickly.  At the 10-minute mark, I switched to Charge-Mode.  It worked fine, despite the battery-pack still being cold.  After charging up a few percent, with the cabin toasty warmed and all the windows cleared, I shut everything off.  That worked great!


Getting It Wrong.  Coming across articles with facts or purpose or expectations mixed up is... sadly... quite common.  Today, it was: "The legacy automakers are trapped in the famous Innovator's Dilemma.  They want to embrace electrification, but they're afraid of driving customers away from their profitable existing products..."  I don't know if the writer heard that term and didn't bother to confirm it was defined the way he thought or he simply needed something to submit for publish.  Needless to say, the content didn't make much sense if you were well informed prior to reading that mess.  This is the garbage we have to deal with the damage from for years to come.  Some such mistakes get passed along so often, they become a perceived truth eventually.  It's an unintentional narrative.  That happens a lot when some aspect of the vehicle's operation is taken out of context.  To see the entire "electrification" topic be portrayed in such a misleading manner, it's difficult to know what will come about as a result.  There are hints of a paradigm-shift.  That's the potential of getting caught unprepared... a really bad outcome of getting it wrong.  Think about what could happen when at some point plugging in gets a nod of acceptance from some unusually influential source.  What will consumers demand then?  What will dealers be able to supply?  The key is being prepared, having a variety of responses prepped and at the ready.  This is how I jumped into the discussion with all the comments being posted for the article:  That is actually avoidance of the Osborne Effect.  The trap of innovation is what we witnessed with GM from Volt.  Instead of the next generation becoming more mainstream, it appealed even more to a niche... hence dilemma.  Drawing a wider audience is difficult, but absolutely essential and best prior to subsidies expiring.  Tesla did a fantastic job with that for Model 3, taking advantage of the unlimited quantity during phaseout.  Toyota is now setting up to do the same with the Prime models.


Measuring Success.  I insist upon goals, long before the product gets too involved in development.  What is it attempting to accomplish?  What is the scope?  What is the timeline?  Those are sensible criteria to measure progress.  Some like to muddy the waters by injecting: "...not exactly a fair benchmark."  That was a conclusion drawn by an antagonist, one obviously annoyed by things not going his way.  I was amused.  He didn't like the bigger-picture account of why such actions have been taking place by Toyota.  That comes from refusing to recognize dealers as the true customer of an automaker.  It's the fatal mistake Volt enthusiasts made with GM, assuming that broker in the middle would somehow just magically embrace such a profound product change.  That never made any sense.  Why would a seller SUV & Pickup choices suddenly begin catering to the compact car audience?  Remember a bulk of their sedan business was to fleet buyers, not showroom shoppers.  Anywho, this is why I knew from the start diversification of the technology was essential prior to tax-credit phaseout... which is why seeing Corolla & RAV4 hybrids become plug-in hybrids like Prius is right on schedule.  This is why "fair" doesn't even come into play.  It is a necessity.  It must happen.  Antagonists don't like that, and I knew this one would be especially frustrated by this:  There's no benchmark . It's a cold, hard reality of business.  Profit is required, period.  This is why the early-adopter stage stirred little interest from dealers.  They wanted nothing to do with subsidized sales. This is also why raising doubt with arbitrary measures and injecting uncertainty by pretending prior discussions never took place remains an exercise in distraction.  Watch what happens.  Toyota's slow & wide approach doesn't appeal to some, so those upset spin stories to make it seem there's only a single path to success, one contrary to Toyota's success model... hence a meaningless benchmark.


Some Things Never Change.  Renewed attacks with the same old claims were inevitable: "I NEED the Real Deal, Liquid based heating AND cooling."  Despite the reasoning becoming weaker and evidence building up to the contrary, they try what seemed to work in the past.  Trouble is, the new audience isn't an gullible.  Rather than blindly accept the statement, some will ask questions.  The thing that has changed is they now have enough anecdotal observations to wonder why.  That little bit of curiosity makes quite a difference.  The troublemaker thinks they have an opportunity to undermine some more, so they push their luck... until they finally trip over a contradictory fact.  Though in this case, it didn't even take that much.  We've been through this too many times already.  So, my reply was:  Rather than better technology that doesn't need the added cost & complexity, you insist upon a work-around.  That's interesting.


Cybertruck Backlash.  It has been interesting to watch the backlash.  Tesla's reveal of an electric pickup that can best be described as "overkill" has many EV supporters left wondering.  How is such an extreme going to transform our fleet of guzzlers to being clean & efficient users of electricity?  Rather than just deliver a truck to be a true workhorse for those genuinely using a pickup as a pickup, this is already looked upon as being an expensive gimmick.  It's similar to the problem Tesla has had with "autonomous" driving.  That has nothing whatsoever to do with being an EV.  Yet, it is associated with what is at the core of Tesla vehicles.  It makes you wonder about purpose.  Who will these appeal to?  The post-credit audience is uncertain.  With Model S and Model X falling out of favor to Model 3 and the upcoming Model Y, what is the expectation for sales & market?  Seeing backlash with this reminds me of when Volt changed from concept to production.  That caused quite a stir, resulting in the first of several exodus events.  This is why I was constantly asking the "Who?" question.  Audience was uncertain and each supposed move forward caused it to shrink.  If this will diversify choice, great.  But such a design doesn't give the impression of being what a pickup should be.  Remember how the SUV became a commuter vehicle?


GM Trailblazer.  OMG!  The morning today started with the reading of a press-release that left me in awe.  GM is introducing yet another SUV.  It's another old nameplate revived, but now smaller.  For size, this one will fit in between Trax and Equinox.  No where in any of the hype was mention of electrification.  The reveal did mention "technology" though, but there was no clue what that actually referred to.  If you follow the link, there was online info about Automatic Braking, Collision Alert, Pedestrian Braking, Lane Keep with Departure Warning, Distance Indicator, Teen Driver, and Seat Reminder.  The topic of efficiency was completely absent.  I quite literally could not find any reference in any article.  There's a choice of FWD 1.2 (137 hp) or AWD 1.3 turbo liter (155 hp) system.  Nothing else of a technical nature was available.  I suspect the MPG rating is so bad, that information will continue to be difficult to find.  You certainly won't see it advertised.  Comparing to a 40 MPG hybrid, there's no contest.  So, the fact that GM is offering nothing whatsoever to compete with is no surprise.  I can't image what happens when the RAV4 Prime hits the market this summer.  Talking about not even trying.  All the crapola that was thrown my way, only to have nothing to show for afterward is truly remarkable.  I feel so vindicated for having documented all that in such extreme detail, seeing this outcome if the situation wasn't ever taking seriously.  Ugh.


Repeating History.  We heard from the same executive today, the president of GM, that we did a decade ago.  He said the same thing too.  It was quite remarkable to be reading the same reasoning for EV not going mainstream, again.  He set the "not ready yet" narrative by highlighting Range, Charging Infrastructure, and Cost... which all sound legitimate, until you notice the information is cherry-picked.  The situation was portrayed as if there were no other choices available.  All of those reason had been the justification for Volt.  It was to deliver an affordable solution to directly address range-anxiety.  Now, he's pretending none of that technology ever existed and there's no other choice available.  It's a clear effort to move away from the EREV disaster.  I was astonished, since it left enthusiasts with nothing whatsoever to work with.  Not only was that tech allowed to die, we now see damage-control working hard to bury it all as deep as possible.  Make it go away by focusing on the future a few years away instead.  It was the same evade & delay.  GM over promised and under delivered to such an extreme, they don't want anyone to ever remember it happened.  This is literally just like Two-Mode.  All those years of propaganda followed by massive market failure.  The sales speak for themselves.  What a mess... and that history is repeating, yet again.


Organic Process.  It has been fascinating to watch the political disaster turn into a mess with so much confusion, people lose track of priorities & purpose.  They end up fighting just for the sake of not losing.  They learn to live with the truth, working hard to convince themselves the outcome justified their actions.  The final "win" is whatever they can figure out how to accept.  It's an organic process.  Changes of position over time are claimed to be the expected result they were working toward.  That is a load of crap, of course.  This is why I document history as it is unfolding.  When I follow the daily posts and comment about them that very day, including quotes of what was said, there's nothing to argue.  It can't even be claimed that statements were taken out of context when such comprehensive documentation takes place.  There's lots of detail and follow up.  I refer back to the past with great accuracy as a result.  Pointing out what they believed then, verses what they are saying now, is how I confirm wins & losses.  It is proof of intention & change.  This is why I always push so hard for goals.  I can see the discomfort of being proven incorrect.  They struggle to adapt and ultimately find a way to accept that undesired outcome.  Assumptions about how to achieve reduced emissions & consumption can lead to a lot of conflict... as anyone who took the time to read that history related to automakers is well aware.  When it comes to the parallels in politics, the same applies.  If you are poorly informed or just don't make an effort to understand, you'll have to come to terms the same way.  Too bad that cannot be avoided.  It's inevitable.  Our society needs to rebalance from time to time.


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