Category Archives: competition

Toyota still snug in its “ICE” castle

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Count Carlos

Last fall, Count Carlos over at Nissan surveyed his moat and laughed at the notion of an invasion. “I know the media love to say we have a new superman coming here, and it’s going to make all of you look like dinosaurs. But frankly, the likelihood that this is going to happen in our industry, in my opinion, is very limited.”

Well, now Toyota’s Jim Lentz is proclaiming much the same thing from the walls of his castle. Here’s what he just told The Street:

“At gas at less than $2 a gallon, no [I’m not worried]. I think [the Model 3] is going to be great but today less than half of one percent of the industry are pure electric vehicles.” Lentz is also fond of Volvo’s move to compete with Tesla and offer an electric version on its portfolio of cars. “I think it’s a good move on their part,” Lentz added. “I think [Volvo] sells about 100,000 [vehicles] here in the U.S, – we sell about 2.5 million here in the U.S. When you have a much smaller portfolio of product, it allows you to concentrate in a much smaller niche of the marketplace.” 

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Jim Lentz

Let’s look more carefully:

Cheap gas, eh Jim? Don’t get TeslaMondo started on this subject. Cheap gas is obviously not a hindrance for Tesla, because it primarily sells excitement. Lentz is grasping.

The “N” word, eh Jim? If Lentz is unaware of the Model III’s niche-busting order bank, he’s aloof. If he’s pretending to be unaware, that’s even worse. And if he’s never heard of the Prius, the biggest automotive niche-buster of all time, then The Street must have interviewed a Jim Lentz clone from another planet.

Let’s contrast Nissan’s and Toyota’s hand-wave with BMW’s recent alarmism. The company showed its employees a horror film of sorts, with Musk as the monster — an attempt to shock them out of complacency.

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The odds are very high that behind their fortified castle doors, Toyota and Nissan are NOT in a state of blissful myopia. They’re every bit as rattled as BMW and hear the same scratching at their windows. Nissan resorted to tapping people on the shoulder — people waiting in line for a Model III — and trying to sell them a Leaf. BMW did the same.

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Toyota should try it too. It’s losing a lot of would-be Prius customers, at least, to the Model III. TeslaMondo talks to car buyers every day, so don’t attempt to argue. The brand new plug-in Prius Prime, billed as the most advanced Prius ever, isn’t moving the needle whatsoever. According to Edmunds.com, it has $3,000 on the hood in some markets, same as the lame duck, soon-to-be-replaced, all-but-forgotten 2017 Camry.

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Follow-up: 2018 Camry

A few posts ago, TeslaMondo documented the fact that literally every single Camry launch in history has come with statements from the press, or Toyota directly, disavowing all previous Camrys as boring and hinting at a whole new Toyota attitude. “This time it’s different,” um, every time.

Well, now the 2018 Camry has broken cover. And true to form, here’s a statement from a Toyota engineer: “Previous Camrys have been white bread.” You see? The Camry has once again molted into a whole new creature, with fangs and stuff.

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Why would a Tesla blog pay such attention to the Camry? Because this generation of Camry will have to face Model III in the center ring. People who spend mid-$20s for a Camry, or a Prius, will consider spending a few grand more for a Tesla.

Ah, but this Camry is different. Toyota has taken its steely Cylon grille and bracketed it with angry, organic stress lines, to show it means business. Now it looks more like Predator. Meanwhile, Tesla has totally sidestepped the grille war, wrapping its mouth like a mummy in a show of passive-aggressive mutism. Predator vs Mummy, coming in 2020. Directed by Roger Corman.

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Here comes yet another bold new Camry

Since the dawn of the internet, literally every single Camry generation has been trumpeted with the same word track about abandoning the plain styling of the previous generation, even though the previous generation was supposedly far sexier than the one before that. To wit:


Image result for 1992 camry silver1992 Camry:
“Remember when Nissan and Toyota made four-door sedans that, despite being as dependable as the sun and as trouble-free as an anvil, were sort of dumb-looking? It’s time to file those memories away with your eight-track tapes and your Bob Dylan records. The times have indeed changed, and there’s no more stunning example than the new Toyota Camry.”

 

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1997 Camry: “The designers have mixed in some sporty cues to give it a more youthful appeal and to help separate it from its larger Avalon cousin.”

 

Image result for 2002 camry silver2002 Camry: “Styling is all new, designed to add sensuality to what has been a bland design.”

https://i0.wp.com/www.usedcarsgroup.com/2007-toyota-camry-mcallen-tx-i3514655842952350219-2.jpg2007 Camry: “Toyota engineers opted for enhanced performance and style, shooting for an athletic, energetic image. ‘Camry buyers,’ Toyota executives explained, ‘felt that the car was too ordinary.’”

 

https://cnet1.cbsistatic.com/img/9eZn-D9xnKOcbw9AG3xmMANpTDc=/770x433/2011/12/07/6ba47c1e-67c3-11e3-a665-14feb5ca9861/35090245_OVR.JPG2012 Camry: “The 2012 Camry was just introduced, and among the usual remarks about the car being more fuel efficient, less expensive, and filled with safety equipment, the company said another goal was to give it an ‘engaging driving experience.’”

 

Image result for 2015 camry LE silver2015 Camry: “So even though plain-Jane styling and everyday driving dynamics have served the Camry very well over the years, Toyota’s decision to unleash a more stylish, more responsive Camry for 2015 was actually a pretty safe bet.”

 

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2018 Camry: “Previous Camrys have been white bread.” — Toyota engineer. “For Toyota, the overhaul of the Camry has transformed a “vanilla” sedan into a small ice cream cart of flavors.” — Automotive News

What’s the point of this post? Toyota may have finally exhausted their “This time it’s different” pitch after milking it for — oh, let’s see — twenty-five years. Tesla is about to build something that’s truly different, for not much more money. What if Camry customers catch wind of this?

 

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Count Carlos surveys his castle, laughs

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Big Auto is pretty safe from scrappy invaders like you-know-whom. The walls are high and the moat wide. So says Count Carlos.

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Meanwhile, Nissan is reduced to tapping the shoulders of people waiting in line for a Tesla Model III and offering them a handheld vacuum instead.

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Granted, this episode is confined to a tiny corner of the auto world, but few believe it’s going to stay in the corner. Looks like you can count the Count as one of those few.

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This echoes the breezy sentiment of Lexus and Mercedes, before Tesla systematically removed some of their internal organs.

The clip below illustrates the Tesla invasion perfectly. About a decade ago — when Elon had a panoramic forehead and Bob Lutz hadn’t yet joined the dark side — the Tesla invasion seemed so petty, so hopeless and so distant, and suffered so many blatant setbacks, that the castle guards were lulled into complacent inertia. Until . . .

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Honda, whiffing with hybrids, looks aged

A few posts ago, TeslaMondo pointed out that Toyota is unwillingly handing the baton to Tesla as the automotive tech front runner. Toyota pussy-footed around electric cars and autonomous tech while Tesla held its nose, yelled Cowabunga and did a cannonball jump right into the middle of both.

Well, Honda is standing poolside next to Toyota, getting drenched. Today we learn it’s killing the oddball CR-Z hybrid coupe, punctuating the company’s long, awkward affair with hybrids. Just a couple years ago, it put the Insight out of its misery after serving 15 years as the Prius’ punching bag. And let’s not forget the absurd Accord Hybrid of 2005-2007 — available in V6 only. Oy!

Besides the Prius, which is getting long in the tooth, name one “Wow” engineering moment for either company in the last 16 years. Remember when Toyota and Honda represented the crème de la crème of auto tech — variable valve timing an example — and also seemed to know what consumers wanted before the consumers knew? Those world-beating and mind-reading days are over. They’d better hope their fuel cell Hail Mary passes connect in the end zone, because Tesla is starting to make both companies look a bit like Sony, which spent way too much time refining moribund devices instead of inventing new ones.

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Volvo dissage continues

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Volvo is trying to become more visible. It’s spending much more on marketing. And it’s drawing attention to itself by knocking Tesla. Well-played?

  • April 27, 2016: Volvo engineer Trent Victor: “It gives you the impression that it’s doing more than it is,” he said about Tesla’s Autopilot, also calling it a “wannabe.”
  • June 11, 2016: His boss declares “It’s trying to kill me.”

Volvo’s technology is better because it’s always on, the company says. No chance for confusion about whether it’s active or not. Problem is, you might mistakenly assume the car has the technology when it doesn’t. That’s exactly what happened in one of Volvo’s three failed safety demos. The other two are just plain system failures. Maybe Volvo should just STFU about this subject before some dummy gets hurt, eh?

More rival camps take shots at Tesla here.

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Toyota, Honda losing clicks to Model III

Tesla stealing attention from German automakers? Not news. Stealing from Toyota and Honda? That’s news. Edmunds says consumers are starting to weigh Tesla against the likes of Honda and Toyota, as Model III lowers the $$$ barrier of entry.

The Prius, as predicted here, may become a Prime loser. Pun intended. What pun? Toyota is about to launch the Prius Prime, with plug-in range of 22ish miles and a big iPad-like display inspired by Tesla. Google it. The price and timing will drop the Prius Prime into the boxing ring with Model III, not to mention the updated Leaf, updated BMW i3* and Chevy Re-Volt.

It’s good to see the “affordable” EV segment fleshing out, and it’s good to see Tesla will offer the most potent product in that segment. Toyota and Honda have essentially forfeited this ball game while they pursue the Mirage of fuel cells. Will they one day find Clarity there?

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*BMW’s i-team went AWOL in China. A setback? Probably.

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Volvo disses Tesla Autopilot, eh?

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Despite three high-profile safety demo disasters — or perhaps because of them — Volvo recently joined the list of rival companies that have brazenly disparaged Tesla despite glaring shortcomings of their own.

Ford Model “E” finally cummin’

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And the nice thing is, Ford doesn’t have to really achieve a 200-mile range. It can just fabricate the range and pay a speeding ticket later for lying, That’s been the company’s M.O. for quite a while now.

This is the model that caused coitus interruptus in Tesla circles years ago, ruining Tesla’s S.E.X. lineup and forcing Tesla to take matters into its own hands and find another way to pull it off.

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Time for some “Tesla-killer” updates

Remember this ongoing compilation of headlines that directly warns Tesla about scary competitors, as if journalists are Tesla’s avuncular protectors? Well, the most credible among the ol’ “Tesla-killers” are the five below. Let’s see how they’re doing now.

Chevy Volt and Re-Volt: The Volt didn’t flourish as expected. But oh boy, here comes the new and improved version. Some say GM stole Tesla’s thunder with the forthcoming Bolt. Others say just the opposite, given the 400k Model III pre-orders. TeslaMondo leans toward the latter. But GM’s Dan Nicholson boasts: “I am very proud of the Chevrolet Bolt that’s coming out, which will be the first to market as a long-range affordable battery electric vehicle,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “It will have more than 200 miles of range and it will be in production by the end of 2016, so it’s not necessary to put down $1,000 and wait until 2018 or some time after that.”

Dan, the Honda Insight was the first hybrid in the US market, beating the Prius by almost a year. Toyota then wiped the floor with the Insight for a decade and a half until Honda finally euthanized the poor thing.

Caddy ELR: Everyone except Bob Lutz knew it would bomb. What was he smoking? Maybe his original sales pitch will shed some light on that question. GM’s ad agency apparently was puffing the same stuff. Yeek! and more Yeek!

Nissan Leaf: The company is taking the GM tack even further. Instead of merely reminding the press about its timeliness in the EV segment, Nissan is tapping the shoulders of people waiting in line for a Tesla. It just released an ad saying, “Why wait when you can drive an all-electric Leaf now? And why drop $1,000 to stand in line when you can $4000 cash back and best-in-class range? Nissan has been the global leader in electric sales since the Leaf was unveiled in 2010. And we have one waiting for you right now. No reservations needed.”

TeslaMondo thinks Nissan made two big mistakes here. One, using the words “has been.” Bad connotation. And two, reminding the world that yes, hundreds of thousands of people would rather have a Tesla later than a Nissan now.

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Audi has used weasels to test the robustness of its wiring. Insert joke here about VW ferreting out its human failings.

Diesel weasels: The Audi A8 diesel was a Tesla-killer according to Anton Wahlman, the same quack who thought Nissan’s electric utility van could crush the Model X because they’re both electric vans. Jim Cramer actually publishes this nonsense on his site? Maybe it slips by him while he’s busy blow-drying his pit stains.

Anyway, VW’s formidable “clean diesel” program relied on a cheating kit that dated back to 1999. The company has since decided, a few days late and a few dollars short, to stop the connivery and think electric. But wait, there’s more. A Bosch programming trick is triggering recalls and even government raids of other European marques, all of them diesel weasels. Oy!

BMW i3: This is the vehicle that Citron, a.k.a. Andrew Left, highlighted years ago as evidence of Tesla’s pending doom. “Valuation has no respect for real competition,” he tweeted. Yessiree, wait till BMW’s Panzer division arrives. Well, it arrived and promptly ran out of gas. The division leaders abandoned their tanks and scampered off. They found sanctuary in China and are studying Mandarin to prepare for a new life. This story has two takeaways. One, war can take bizarre turns.

And two, Left isn’t always right.

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