Saturday, April 1, 2017

Change Of Perspective

I've never liked the base model Prius.

It wasn't "priusy" enough for me. A radio with knobs, no touch screen...

You know what, for years, I've been stupid. I admit it. I see it now.

So yesterday, I spent the day with the new son-on-law helping him with his first new car purchase, a new Prius Two. A base model. We drove it. I rode home in it with him. You know? These 2017 base models are actually the value proposition for the entire line up. And this is entirely my fault because I've always ignored the base. I've always taken it for granted that without all the toys the base model Prius was somehow the neutered one to avoid.

So I spent most of the day exploring the 2017 Prius Two with the son-in-law. For him, it was the first Prius he'd been close to and watching him being amazed by it and, honestly, my own surprises at how cool it is, it was eye opening.

First off, the 2017 Prius Two has a very nice touch screen. It's small, it's not particularly high res but it is on the newer, very sensitive screens more like an iPad than a cheap video poker machine.

The interior is well appointed and, aside from the bells and whistles, has all the quality and basics of any Prius.

Cloth seats, whatever. I hate Softex™ so cloth is, at least, a step sideways, not a step down.

No nav. Uh, is this somehow a bad thing?  I use Waze in my Corolla that has nav because the Toyota nav is so awful. nav, means I didn't pay for something I'm ignoring anyway.

One of the smartest things Toyota has done since the introduction of the Prius was creating TSS, Toyota Safety Sense, making it a package and including in every car. This is one of those sort of ho-hum things that most people, especially most car writers, will sleep through but this is important. Maybe ground breaking. It's a major car company including safety features, good ones, on a car without being compelled to do so via regulation (or acting ahead of regulation). This stuff will saves and decrease property damage. It's a huge plus even if it's not as exciting as cars burning rubber in circles.

The gorgeous new TFT display is the same as in the advanced tech model.

All of this is part of the base model Prius. And for years, I've stupidly paid no attention to it because it wasn't cool enough which, now I've actually spent the time to look at it, is completely cool enough. The Prius Two is the one. Everything else is gravy, extra, whatever. The package Two is the place where everything starts. And, for my son-in-law, with his first new car and first Prius, it's everything. And for me, who has owned three different Priuses but driven every other one I didn't own and most other Toyota advanced tech cars, it's an amazing deal.

I wish it hadn't taken me twelve years to figure that out.

(photos courtesy of Toyota)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

2017 Prius Prime Review

This is my complete Prius Prime review...
-Best Prius ever.
-Less storage and seating.
-Weight sensitive.
-Safety Sense is amazing and well worth it.
-Charging on 110 is no big deal.
-Solid 25 miles of EV range.
-Great MPG after EV range is depleted.

All in all, this is my favorite Prius ever. I don't care about the storage or even the uglier aspects of the interior, I love the EV range and the overall styling. Add in tax credits and the Prius Prime is a no brainer for most people.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Coming: Prius Prime Video

I hate calling these things "reviews" because, well, the term is so over and misused. It's not like no one on the net has talked about the Prime but I do promise a new point of view and some aspects of this vehicle no one has talked about before. Coming as early as late next week. Here's one little screen cap...

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Here Now And Coming Soon

Here's my friend and co-host on What Drives Us, Tony Schaefer nicely summarizing the Prius Prime at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show.
Look for my video on the Prius Prime, coming late next week. I'm spending a week living with the Prime and I promise a perspective you've never heard from any reviewer before on this plug-in Prius.

Check back here then. Meanwhile, enjoy Tony's video. It's top shelf.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ten Million

Congratulations to Toyota for selling 10,000,000 hybrids worldwide.

For a product that was widely predicted to never be more than a niche offering or a fad affectation, Toyota hybrids seemed to do ok.

One Is The Loneliest Number

So this happened...
Yes, you read that right, one.

I know, I know. This makes no damn sense. How can a country of more than 1.3 billion only manage to buy one Prius? Well, it's a mystery to the author of this article, at least in the upper paragraphs...
Chinese consumers have never warmed to the Prius, a mainstay of the U.S. green-car movement. This past year, sales almost completely flatlined, even as China’s cities continue to battle smog issues. 
One Prius was sold in the country in December, the first sale since May. In total, Toyota sold 76 Priuses in China last year, compared with about 700 in 2015, according to dealer data compiled by Bloomberg Intelligence. 
“As far as the Chinese are concerned, it just doesn’t look very good,” said Steve Man, an automobile and industrial sector analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence in Hong Kong. 
Man said the Prius is a unique car that stands on its own and doesn’t fit into any familiar categories for consumers in China. As a result, its sales have been undercut by Toyota’s far more popular Corolla and Camry models, which have a reputation for being high-quality vehicles among consumers there, he said. A shift in Chinese tastes away from sedans and toward more spacious sport utility vehicles hasn’t helped either. 
The Corolla and Camry are among the most popular models in China, “so a lot of the Chinese can relate to them,” Man said. “For a similar price, they would opt to buy the Corolla and the Camry for the strong brand recognition they have.” 
So they love Camry and Corolla but hate the Prius because of its looks? And somehow the Prius reputation for quality isn't the same as Camry or Corolla? This is really weird.
Toyota also markets gas-electric hybrid versions of these models in China. The company sold almost 47,000 Corolla and Camry hybrids last year, making up 65 percent of its total Chinese hybrid sales, the data show. In all, Toyota sold a record 71,676 gas-electric hybrids in China in 2016, an eightfold jump from the previous year and at least the eighth straight annual increase, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Wait, 47K hybrid Camrys and Corollas and only one Prius. This really doesn't smell right.

And then...
Toyota stopped producing the Prius in China in 2015, which means buyers of the cars are subject to the 25 percent customs tax slapped on imports. An imported Prius hybrid starts from 229,800 yuan ($33,455) to 269,800 yuan. For a similar price, you can buy an Audi Q3 SUV.
Ah. I see now. So Toyota isn't even really selling the Prius in China and if you demand one, it's ridiculously expensive. Toyota just went through this in India where the same issue applied. It had nothing to do with quality, performance or appearance. It had everything to do with price and availability.

And the coda...

Toyota began selling its new Prius plug-in hybrid, or PHV, in Japan this week, and plans to start sales in Europe in March. The company doesn’t intend to market the model in China.
“We’ve only just started production of hybrid vehicles in China, so we’re making the utmost effort to popularize those vehicles,” Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada said at a Prius event in Tokyo on Wednesday. “When the timing is right, we will consider introducing the PHV in China.” 

And in the end, I think, Toyota's lack of support for Prius in these place such as China is the real reason why they're not selling. It has little to do with other factors and everything to do with, you can't buy it without a struggle and without paying a ridiculous price. Why Toyota chooses to do this is beyond me. Someone has a spreadsheet, I'm sure that justifies this but it's odd to me. As I've said about Toyota's rather cavalier handling of updating Prius, their hubris is going to come back to hurt them and Toyota will find how difficult it is to rebuild a brand after abandoning it.

Source article by Eric Lam from Bloomberg reprinted and extended by the Japan Times.

Thursday, February 2, 2017