PLUG OK license plate
Blog excerpts from "Did Toyota Blunder" posting
Feb 13, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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On Friday, at the CalCars blog, Power Plugs and People, I posted: "Did Toyota Blunder Today at NPR?­blogs/­power/­did-toyota-blunder

We asked people what we should do about Toyota's claim that people wouldn't want to plug in PHEVs. So far, over 60 people have posted their thoughts. We got plenty of suggestions as well as fervent comments that give a hint at the depth and breadth of demand for PHEVs.

Because some peoples' eyes glaze over as soon as they hear the word "blog," below I've excerpted thoughtful and provocative sound bites (with major excerpting and minor copy editing) from peoples' comments, and urge readers to view the originals, then contribute their own.

What is Toyota thinking? I'm a 2004 Prius owner, and they certainly didn't ask me if I wanted a plug-in option -- and I would have given them a resounding YES! Perhaps taking a "true" survey of Toyota hybrid owners by model, then the overall hybrid market owners this question and delivering the validated results to Toyota (along with a press release) would put a fire under them! -- Anna Haight

If car companies could turn out tanks and planes then they can surely produce electro-mechanical systems ranging from wind generators to vehicle traction motors, after all we are at war. If an economy's health correlates with the availability of cheap energy then what happens when an abundance of free local energy becomes accessible and economically viable? -- Ryan Fulcher

My next car will be a pluggable hybrid. My 82 Honda Civic, my running around town car, gets 40/35 mpg. My 96 Honda Accord gets 30/26. I will hang on to these until I can by a pluggable hybrid and that will preferably be a flex-fuel pluggable hybrid. -- Hank Macknee

WALK IN THE OTHER PERSONS MOCCASINS. To folk like us a range of good PHEVs off the shelf would be a dream come true. To the captains of industry and politics the potential upheaval should be hugely frightening. There must be lots of oil people staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night thinking of the livelihoods depending upon them, and wondering why this had to happen on their watch. PHEVs (and all the rest) absolutely must happen, but we won't get there by demonizing other people. There are good kind people out there who are scared witless by all this. We should strengthen the hands and the knees of such people and encourage faltering steps in the right direction (without compromise on how far we need to go) -- John Hardy

I believe Toyota is ready to answer the call for a plug-in hybrid. Keep pushing them Felix. I believe they will respond. Finally, my next vehicle WILL be a plug-in hybrid. I hope it's a Prius because their engineering is the most advanced, IMHO. However, there are some independent developers who could step up and take over this lucrative market. May the best vehicle win. Go CalCars!! -- Rich Wielkiewicz

What a historic opportunity for US manufactures to regain the market. They have been caught on the wrong side of things twice, once in the 70's and again now. If they would pick up the PHEV ball and run with it they could be leaders again in a few years. -- Bob Sweeney

We all need to educate the public on PHEV's. Every other word out of your mouth should be PHEV. Being the teacher is perhaps the most important thing we can do on this planet. Here is your chance. Don't force it down people's throat, just tell them that you will be getting 100-200 mpg while they are still getting 25 mpg. The technology is right under our noses. God has blessed America, but Heaven help us if we miss the boat on this one. -- Bob Hunckler

At this point, I believe the pressure should be applied to Ford, since Ford is selling the first American hybrids, and Bill Ford has publicly stated his goal of a complete turnaround for the company. -- John Foster

It's only natural that people who didn't think of an idea, or improvement on their idea, resent others improving their brainchild. And they will go down the drain fighting it. Intelligent management should over rule them. Obviously, PHEVs can be improved greatly but in the meantime lets adopt what we have as an immediate improvement. PHEVs are not the ultimate answer but the ultimate answer is still a ways away. Change NASA to read NESA (National Energy Solution Administration). First things first. -- Norm

I just called and had a nice chat, telling the rep. that I am considering canceling my Prius order to wait for Toyota, or someone else, to come out with a PHEV.-- Tom Schaffter

Look, Toyota is a huge corporation. They have a process. They have a story. This is causing grief to their story, and they can't stop it. Subsequently this is the only way they can react. You are getting the corporate response because that its the only response that is possible under the circumstances. Show some patience, but please whatever you do don't stop what you're doing. It is the only available method for affecting real change. This is a classic case of what is commonly called "Mead's Maxim" (but really should be called "Mead's Axiom"): "A small group of committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead The CalCars Initiative and the resulting commercial derivatives are to the automotive industry what open-source and open-standards are to the information technology industry, a reality completely out of their control and out of their business model, a reality that cannot be controlled, spun or lobbied out of existence. It takes a while for any an organization to recognize that such things are not a threat but an opportunity, and the larger the company the harder the effort Think about this. Think about companies in the automotive industry that now face oblivion. One or more may turn around, much like IBM. There is cause for optimism, as long as CalCars et al do not stop. Never stop, because you have the advantage. Run with it. An individual tinkerer has limited liability. This is not so for any large corporation, which must assume downstream risk. As soon as you stop Toyota wins. It can decide what to do next including do nothing. Toyota just can't slap together a plug-in hybrid and put it on the market, without asking itself about downstream issues including safety and liability. It requires questioning conventional wisdom. It requires the ability to admit that a mistake was made, at the executive level this is usually a career-limiting move. In a large corporation such work takes time and requires diplomatic skills. In the meantime they have to say what they are saying. Toyota will soon become the Microsoft of the automotive industry, facing similar problems. Like Microsoft they will have every option available them including ignoring good advice, as there is no perceived competitive threat. The curse of great success is that the downstream consequences always appear to be low, at least from the inside. In the meantime another company, another giant, may well realize there is a risk but has little to lose and much to gain. It can look at what is happening and run with the ball, stealing the lead from Toyota. It has happened before. It can happen again. What company that is I don't know, but it won't be a company that is comfortable in its own skin. Look for one that needs to save itself That is your quarry, not Toyota. If you want a company to run with this at a commercial level, find one under stress with nothing to lose. -- Michael Slavitch

I'm a Corolla owner looking to upgrade to a Prius soon. The NPR story makes me want to buy a Honda hybrid or go biodiesel. It's like a really smart and competitive automaker had a brain seizure. I hope for the biosphere's sake they can turn their thinking around. -- Julian

Imagine going to a gas station and having these choices: gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel, ethanol, methanol, natural gas, and electricity. Today if you want choices it's unleaded, mid-grade, super unleaded, or diesel. Let us apply pressure on the oil companies, automakers, and government. Let's educated everyone we know the benefits of having choices. -- Carl Agustin

I thought one of the car makers (I believe it was Lexus, which IS Toyota) did a study that found that people would like to reduce how often they need to go to the gas station. Wouldn't the plug-in hybrid be the perfect car for these people? I know I will NOT buy a new car until I can buy one that I can plug in. -- Jenn

We are getting close to the tipping point when suddenly the PHEV will emerge as a viable route for a major manufacturer. At least that is what I hope. I agree, it should be the Prius, but it may take an independent source, possibly even a DoD research lab. There is a lot of DoD research money going into quiet (electric) military vehicles and the associated technology. For myself, I have ordered a PHEV vanity plate for my classic Prius.-- John Bennett

1) Plan a visit to your Toyota dealer, preferably with friends, relatives & neighbors. Take your check book along. 2) When you arrive at the dealer's lot, ask to see their PHEV model. When they admit they have none, ask when they will. When they say there are no plans to offer such, tell them you have no plans to buy Toyota until they do. 3) All of you pull out your check books & offer to leave a deposit for the new PHEV Toyota when it arrives, which it will, because Toyota will not miss the PHEV bandwagon. If you find a willing dealer, discuss the terms of your (collective?) loan/deposit at the dealership. 4) During the planning stage, blog this suggestion so it can be picked up & implemented nationally & internationally to add breadth to local depth in the PHEV movement. Also during the planning stage, invite the local press to get the dealer's reaction & perhaps a dealer commitment to pass word of the demand upline. Use the block party model to drum up local support for the dealer visit & the PHEV movement. Potluck? Fundraiser for deposits on the first Toyota PHEVs to arrive? 5) Not every dealer, if any, will take deposits on a PHEV not in stock, not in production, not on the drawing board. But this is the opportunity to visit every Toyota dealer in your county or area, leaving no stone unturned. It could be planned as a weekly or monthly event until all are visited. Happy planning, blogging, & executing dealer visits & leaving deposits on PHEVs. -- Lum Loy

Did Toyota ask their customers if they are interested in plug-in? How can you be interested in something that you don't know to exist? We need to call Toyota this week en masse, so they get their feedback on their silly statement that nobody wants plug-in, when they did not investigate their claim. Go see your Toyota dealer. Make it clear you want a PHEV. -- Cor van de Water

"Our customers tell us that that is one of the features they like about the vehicle, they don't have to plug it in." It's not easy to respond to a statement like that. Toyota is asking the question, assessing the answers and coming to a conclusion. We don't know what the question was, or who was asked. We don't even know if Toyota actually polled its customers on the subject of plugging in. We can be pretty sure that if Toyota asked "would you like a car you never had to plug into the gasoline pump?" the response would be a resounding YES. Can anyone think of a situation similar to this one we are discussing? Has there been another situation where a bunch of citizens have tried to push (or pull) a corporation or an entire industry in a specific direction? I can't come up with one but possibly if we can find a similar past situation we can learn from that. -- Lee

I think Cal Cars is doing a wonderful job of promoting the Plug-In Hybrid Concept. A tremendous amount has been accomplished over the past year. We should not get impatient or discouraged with Toyota. Toyota has a point. They need to build cars they can sell in massive numbers. If the Toyota Train isn't going where we want to go, maybe we should look for another train to get us there. One possible way to get Toyota more interested in the plug-in hybrid is to start talking to the smaller car companies that may be interested in taking the lead away from Toyota. That would hit Toyota where it really hurts. No one wants to loose the right to be the leader. If you get the little guys chasing the plu- in hybrids the big guys won't be far behind. -- Tom

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