New Toyota Avalon designed and engineered in Ann Arbor area
Photo courtesy Toyota
The goal for the new Avalon was a complete redesign and re-conceptualization of the car. Toyota had never left the design and engineering of a car entirely to its North American offices. This project was given the go-ahead and had minimal oversight from Tokyo until a finished product was presented.
At a media event Wednesday, Toyota vice president Bill Fay said that when CEO Akio Toyoda saw the new Avalon, all he said was “It's cool, don’t change a thing.”
“It did not go through the traditional review that it would have if it had been a world car,” Fay said. “The design part, doing that here is really a big step for the company.”
The creation of the Avalon is just the first step toward designing, engineering, and producing cars primarily sold in North America on the continent, Fay said.
“This will be the beginning of a trend,” he said.
“I think we as a company will do more of that here in the U.S. and here in Michigan.”
Photo courtesy of Toyoto
For Chan, one of the most important aspects of the car’s North American design is its improved dynamic driving performance.
“This vehicle is very different from other Toyotas because the performace was tested here by local engineers,” he said.
“We focused on the local market here in North America, so this is a car that was designed for you and to be sold here.”
Calty, a firm that has offices in Newport Beach, Calif., and on Geddes Road in Ann Arbor Township, designed the car, the Toyota Technical Centers in York and Ann Arbor Townships were responsible for the vehicle’s engineering, and the car will be manufactured at Toyota’s plant in Georgetown, Ky.
Fay said Toyota plans to market the new mid-size Avalon, revealed at the New York auto show in April, to a younger and more diverse buyer base.
Avalon sales have dropped by about 2 percent to date in 2012, despite strong overall sales for the company. Toyota hopes to help catch the Avalon up by lowering the average age of buyers, currently in the mid-60s to around 55 years-old as it attempts to appeal to younger baby boomers and older Gen-X buyers.
With the Lincoln Town Car discontinued, Fay said Toyota also sees an opportunity for the Avalon to make headway in the livery and chauffer transport market. The company designed a special livery package for the car that includes heated rear seats.
There have been some livery pre-orders, but Fay hopes that the sector will pick up as the company shows off the new model at livery trade shows and markets more aggressively to regional companies.
The Avalon will also be sold in the Middle East and in Korea. Models sold internationally will be manufactured in Kentucky and then exported to other regions.
The car will go on sale Dec. 1 across the continent. The starting price for the standard XLE version will be $30,990. There is also a hybrid option for the vehicle with prices starting at $35,555.
Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2