Saturday, November 19, 2016

The First Salvo

So Toyota has fired off the salvo of Prius Prime Commercials...

Each one is basically a remix, with some slight variations. I think it's an engaging commercial. It makes some good points but I suspect, in trying to overcome what is clearly an issue, people not understanding what a plug-in is or does, it misses the point. And this is the point that Toyota has been forced to ignore because of their corporate level disdain for EVs. How much fun an EV is to drive. Once again, while this will appeal to some people, I think it misses the fun factor. I think it ignores the "EV grin" at its own peril. I noticed one thing, the inclusion of some road noise in the audio track to demonstrate how quiet an EV is. A very subtle and interesting development. And a clever.

All in all, I'll be interested to see if Toyota gives these ads the same run they gave their car chase series. The Prime could very well be the next generation of Prius. Maybe it's time to start building that foundation.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


The truth is, I cannot bring myself to give a shit about the Prius G. It's a stunt, like most things for SEMA, a one time gag that was created for purposes of getting posts like this one, free publicity.

Links to stories about Prius G.

Show me something I can buy, I'm interested. Show me a cool TRD Prius that will actually end up on dealer lots, I'm there. Show me a show car just designed to stir up publicity, I fall asleep.

And yes, I'm grumpy and old and no fun.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Elephants And Rooms

Interesting article at Forbes...

Toyota Executive Vice President, Didier Leroy, spoke to a small group of reporters in Japan and said some interesting things.

First, who the hell is Didier Leroy?
Didier Leroy, a former Carlos Ghosn disciple and longtime leader of Toyota’s European business, has been made Toyota’s first non-Japanese EVP, member of a four-man group that reports directly to Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda and is tasked to think and act as if they run the whole company. As president of Toyota’s Business Unit No. 1, the Frenchman is responsible for “around 65% of Toyota’s sales,” we heard yesterday. He also is Chief Competitive Officer, a role he described like this:
“Grasp faster and better than any competitor the needs of the customer in all the different markets. Reduce the lead time to develop new products to be faster on the market.”
Well that's all nice as far as it goes but the real trick is getting from point A to point B, not just pointing out that the trip is necessary.

As far as Leroy is concerned, this is “no longer just a competition with GM, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, or Honda.” He clearly views Google and Apple as competitors, despite, or maybe because of the fact that both have reportedly ditched carmaking plans to focus on the brains of future cars while leaving the tough part of making the hardware to Toyota, VW, et al.  Said Leroy:
“If you consider the next 20 years, a big part of the growth in the automotive industry will not come from more vehicle sales. It will come from services.”
With that, data will turn into one of a car company’s core assets. Of course, Google and Apple covet these data, and access to the roughly one billion people held captive in their cars each day. Of course, most automakers don’t want to end up sucked dry like newspaper and magazine publishers. Automakers have the scale and financial wherewithal to fund their own software development, and they do. 

And that's the problem, as I see it. Carmakers aren't newspaper publishers and what they do isn't actually being replaced by large tech companies who have already discovered that what car companies is fiendishly difficult and expensive. I'm not saying car companies don't have to watch their ass but this whole Google and Apple as some kind of scary boogieman is silly. If Apple really wanted a car company, they could just buy one. So let's be clear here, in my opinion, a lot of this scaremongering from the car companies is cover to avoid working with tech companies who, by nature of who they are, are much better at doing what most car companies fail miserably at.

Earlier in the week, down the road from Toyota in Yokohama, Ogi Redzic, head of Connected Vehicles and Mobility Services at the Renault-Nissan Alliance, told reporters assembled at the Nissan HQ that he is fielding a small army of coders to develop connectivity technologies in-house. Soon he will have 1,000 experts in software, cloud engineering, data analytics, machine learning and systems architecture working for him and the Alliance. They develop a common hardware/software platform, based on Linux. The cloud services are provided by Microsoft via Azure. There was no Google or Apple in Redzic’s presentation.

I'm sure Google and Apple are quaking in their boots.

My main point is simple, the main reason for car companies keeping software in house is obvious, they refuse to give up what might be a source of revenue. That's fine from a revenue perspective but continually, the one thing consumers despise about their vehicles is the hinky way most of the software works, or, more to the point, doesn't work. This is what happens when you insist on reinventing the wheel with, arguably, people who are already on the second team, the stronger developers are already employed by, well, Google and Apple, to name just two companies.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Prius Recall

Via Reuters...
Toyota Motor Corp said on Wednesday it was recalling around 340,000 of its latest Prius gasoline hybrid model in Japan and overseas to fix a parking brake issue. 
The recall covers models produced between August 2015 and October 2016, and affects around 210,000 vehicles in Japan and 94,000 in North America, Toyota said, adding that the balance would be recalled in Europe, Australia and other regions. 
No accidents have been reported in Japan in connection with the issue, a Toyota spokeswoman said, while declining to comment on whether any accidents had occurred overseas.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Lowdown On Prime

My good friend, Danny Cooper, proprietor of Prius Chat has all the insides information on Prius Prime. He's driven it and here's the best place to get all the details.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Every Prius A Prime

I can't say I called this publicly but I've been thinking it since I first saw the Prime in New York at the beginning of the year. Our friend, Sebastian Blanco at Autoblogreen is the first one to make the claim. I think he could very well be right.
Starting with the fifth-generation models, Toyota might do away with standard hybrid technology altogether in the Prius line-up. Instead, Toyota is considering making every future Prius a plug-in hybrid.
The problem is, the once pioneering Prius has been leap frogged by a number of other cars. It's boring, which is more marketing than a practical consideration but it's also, well, not as efficient as it could be. That is a problem.

Here's the part that scares me a little.
Shoichi Kaneko, assistant chief engineer for the Prius Prime, told AutoblogGreen that creating the next-generation Prius will be a tremendously difficult challenge. Because Toyota wants to lead the way in reducing (and eventually eliminating) fossil fuels from its vehicles, simply making a better standard hybrid powertrain might not be enough. "Ultimately, PHEV may be the way to go," Kaneko said through an interpreter. 
So, yes. That's right. But, it's also still old tech. And I'm not crying for new tech for the sake of novelty but I am pointing out that Toyota is still resisting going full EV for reasons that are, at least to me, totally opaque. They dumped goddess knows how many hundreds of millions into fuel cells and the Mirai for, well, not much in return. And it's hardly clear that is an investment in the future as hydrogen still has one big problem, ignoring the huge one of distribution, where do you get the damn hydrogen? Yet Toyota still refuses to even really acknowledge the existence of EVs a legitimate type of vehicle.

Nice reporting Mr. Blanco.