Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Failures And Sales Targets - The Prius Prime Picture Sharpens Slightly

Our friends at InsideEVs posted a story about the Prius Prime, Toyota's latest Prius plug-in case your cave isn't wired with cable.

The two big takeaways:

-Someone at Toyota allegedly referred to the first generation Prius plug-in a "failure."

-The sales target, globally, for the new Prius Prime will be 60k units, split, more or less, evenly between Japan and North America (the EU and the rest of the world are a priority, right now, for this vehicle).
Ok, I'll take those points in order.

First, the first gen plug-in was a failure. Well, I would chalk that up to Toyota's conservative stance in development and outright refusal to be more aggressive with, specifically, EVs. Toyota has acted and talked and to one extent or another, continue to act and talk as though EVs were some foolish flash in the pan that only appealed to hipsters or idiots or idiots hipsters or something else they were not interested in selling cars to. Why this is, I cannot explain but I can describe what I've seen. So, the idea that the product of this attitude didn't do to well in a marketplace where pure EVs and plug-in were a growing sector is only a surprise to one group of people, Toyota.

And to be fair, the first gen plug-in wasn't a bad car. It was a hobbled, short range plug-in but, it was still a Prius and as such, delivered a great overall experience and, if you could live within its minuscule range, worked as a plug-in. I said as much when I first drove the car way back in 2010.

The other thing is, Toyota gave up on this car before they started shipping it marketing wise. Toyota, it seems, just had no desire to really get this car into dealerships and to do the heavy lifting required to train those dealers about it and to educate the public. So yeah, guess what, it didn't sell.

So, I don't think the vehicle itself was a failure. I'm sort of glad Toyota is at least willing to see it in that light but I hope they are seeing the failure for the right reasons. Their tepid design and specs weren't strong enough to compete in the market. Looking at Prime, I would guess, they get this, sort of.

Second and finally, The sale target, on one hand it's an aggressive number given the sales of the 1st gen plug-in. On the other, this vehicle has little or nothing to do with the first gen. plug-in or even the current gen Prius. So Toyota has done something positive, I think, in making that differentiation. I still think the specs are tough and a lot will depend on Toyota's pricing but the Prime does look to be a stronger competitor, for now.

The problem for Prime is the future. The Chevy Bolt is supposed to be in showrooms starting this fall and everyone knows Elon Musk is working hard to cash in those half million Model 3 deposits he's sitting on. So...competition is only going to get more brutal, quickly.

The "I Told You So". A lot of us, not just me, have been saying that Toyota, once a leader in advanced tech cars, was in danger of getting leapfrogged by other companies and I think that's happened. Now Toyota is playing catch up and that is a danger game indeed in this sector. No one wants the second coolest hybrid/plug-in/EV and Toyota has known this for a long time. I think it's up to catch up and get ahead of the curve.

We'll see what happens.

And, I hope to actually drive the Prius Prime at some point soon to get a better idea of what this newest Prius can do.