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2016 Toyota Avalon Gets Makeover

Top-end midsize sedan gets a touch up rather than radical remake.

by on Feb.12, 2015

Toyota introduced the 2016 Avalon in Chicago. With a boatload of advanced technology, the sedan should remain at the top of the segment.

More than 40 years ago, Robert Plant waited for “the angels of Avalon.” Well, he needn’t wait any longer as Toyota let fourth generation Avalon spread its wings at the Chicago Auto Show today.

More evolution than revolution, the new Avalon relies on a preponderance of technology and a shot of adrenaline under the hood to mix with Toyota’s good ol’ fashioned quality, durability and reliability to set it apart from competitors in the high-end midsize sedan segment.

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The tweak may be coming at the right time for the Avalon. Even though it was the best-selling premium midsize sedan last year, sales were down 5.4% to just over 64,000 units. It’s had a nice rebound in January, up 7.4%, but that may be as much about the lower gas prices than some renewed appreciation for the car. (more…)

Toyota Recalling Avalons for Airbag Problems

Devices on 119,000 vehicles could inflate for no reason.

by on Mar.28, 2014

The 2003-2004 Toyota Avalons are being recalled due to an airbag issue.

For the second time in less than a week, a Japanese automaker is recalling vehicles due to an airbag issue; Toyota is recalling 119,000 2003-2004 Avalons.

The maker said the car’s airbags could inflate without warning or cause, frightening the driver and causing a loss of vehicle control resulting in a collision. Toyota said it is unaware of any accidents or injuries related to the problem.

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Toyota reports that certain circuits within the airbag control module may be susceptible to damage if they are exposed to other types electrical components. It’s that contact that could cause the front airbags and/or seat belt pre-tensioners could inadvertently deploy. (more…)

Ten Best Base Model Cars

No econoboxes, these.

by on Jun.13, 2013

The base Honda Civic LX offers some big surprises for a "base" car, including a rearview camera.

New car prices have been rising fast in recent years.  That’s priced a lot of potential buyers out of the market while others have been forced to downgrade their aspirations.

Not all that long ago, trying to find a nice new car, truck or crossover on a budget meant settling for some stripped-down econobox that offered little more than basic transportation.  But these days, makers seem intent on upgrading their base models to keep customers happy – betting that will increase loyalty and return sales when owners can afford to trade in on something more lavish.

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“Just because you might not be able to afford all of the bells and whistles in a car doesn’t mean you have to sing the base-model blues,” said Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief of the website “Some automakers are packing even their base models full of features making them more valuable to shoppers looking for a good deal.”


Chevy Aiming for Big Surge in Impala Sales

But have big car sales simply slumped too far?

by on Apr.09, 2013

The 2014 Chevrolet Impala will now be offered with a 2.5-liter I-4 as well as the 3.6-liter V-6.

General Motors has big plans for its new full-size sedan, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala, and is hoping that a new emphasis on leasing will gain the redesigned four-door some traction after years as little more than a fleet car.

Going up against some tough competitors that include a new Toyota Avalon and recently updated Hyundai Azera, the new Chevy Impala has been garnering strong reviews since its launch – especially for its distinctive, coupe-like styling.  And by adding a new low-cost lease program as well as a higher-mileage inline-four engine, GM officials said this week they see an opportunity to gain some momentum for Impala after years  on the sidelines.

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“We’re looking forward to grow segment share and really attract people from other segments into the large car segment,” Don Johnson, Chevrolet’s vice president of sales and service, said during a media briefing.

But whether Chevrolet – or its full-size competitors – can lure buyers in remains to be seen. The large car segment slipped substantially in recent years, market share falling by half, to just 4%, between 2007 and 2012, according to industry data.


First Drive: 2013 Toyota Avalon

Toyota pumps some passion into its big sedan.

by on Oct.30, 2012

Toyota rethinks its design language with the new 2013 Avalon sedan.

This story has been updated to include pricing and other information.

For a brand long known for high quality but plain vanilla design, Toyota sent shock waves through the industry when it revealed an all-new version of the big Avalon sedan earlier this year.  The new, full-size sedan is perhaps the single best example yet that Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda was serious when he promised to put more “passion” into the brand.

The long-popular Avalon has been completely revamped for 2013 and is now the most “American” car the Japanese maker has ever developed, the striking new design emerging from Toyota’s styling center in Newport Beach, California, with the maker’s engineering center in Ann Arbor, Michigan taking lead on that end of the product.  Production will be U.S.-based, as well.

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Avalon is clearly part of Toyota’s quest for younger buyers, the 2013 remake boasting a fresh exterior design that moves away from the conservative and cautious approach that had characterized earlier versions of the big sedan. But looks aside, we set out to see if the 2013 Toyota Avalon really lives up to all the hype as we headed to California for our first test drive.


For Toyota, Continued Growth Requires “Change”

High quality no longer enough, concedes autos chief.

by on Aug.14, 2012

The new Camry is gaining ground, says Carter, by appealing to a new generation of buyers.

“We’re changing who we are,” proclaimed Toyota Senior Vice President Bob Carter during an industry conference in New York.

That might seem an odd and risky strategy for a company that has been operating at the top of its game for most of the past few decades – with only a few uncomfortable setbacks like its unintended acceleration crisis of 2009 and 2010.  But despite growth that’s outpacing the overall industry recovery, Carter said Toyota can’t simply expect to maintain its growth by doing business as usual, even if the maker is “back on the top of our game.”

There’s no question 2012 is turning into a good year for the giant maker.  Sales are up 30% for the first seven months and while July’s numbers were “only” up 27% that positioned Toyota as the market’s number one brand in terms of retail sales.

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During a speech to today’s J.P. Morgan Auto Conference, Carter, Toyota’s Vice President of Automotive Operations, acknowledged that the Japanese maker has picked up sales from loyalists who waited on the sidelines last year due to product shortages caused by Japan’s March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  “But it would be a mistake,” the Toyota veteran insisted to think that “was the only reason for our growth as a brand” this year.


Toyota on Track to Regain Sales Crown

Maker sells nearly 5 million vehicles in first half of 2012.

by on Jul.25, 2012

Though a late arrival for 2012, the next-gen Avalon could add momentum to Toyota's sales drive.

Crushed by last year’s devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Toyota Motor Co. lost the global automotive sales crown to not only General Motors but was also passed by German rival Volkswagen AG.  But if the Japanese maker’s pace during the first half of 2012 is any indication it may very well be back as king-of-the-hill this year.

Toyota sold 4.97 million vehicles worldwide between January 1 and June 30th, a commanding 300,000-unit lead over GM, according to newly released numbers.  Barring another setback for Toyota, industry analysts suggest it will be difficult for the U.S. rival – or VW, for that matter – to catch up by year-end.

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Toyota’s rebound reflects a number of factors including, most notably, its recovery from last year’s Japanese natural disaster which forced most of that country’s makers to shutter key plants for a month or more due to component shortages and then only slowly restart production in Japan and at their overseas plants.


New Toyota Avalon Hybrid to Hit 40 MPG

Compact fuel economy from full-size sedan.

by on Jul.12, 2012

The 2013 Avalon will be the first of the big Toyota sedans to get a hybrid drivetrain.

Who says big cars have to get low mileage?  The EPA has given Toyota’s newly redesigned 2013 Avalon sedan a 40 mpg rating, about what much smaller cars as the Hyundai Elantra are getting.

The asterisk is that the newly approved rating covers the 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid, one of several different powertrain options that will be offered when the new sedan reaches market later this year – and likely at a significant price premium over the Avalon’s conventional, gas-powered alternative.

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Nonetheless, Toyota is betting it will generate some serious buzz with that sort of figure at a time when fuel economy has become the number one consideration for a large swath of American new car buyers.

The 40 mpg number is for the EPA’s City and Combined cycle tests, the Avalon will get 39 miles to the gallon on the Highway, according to the federal test cycle.  One needs recall that hybrids break the traditional rules and do better in stop-and-go driving that helps them recharge their batteries.


Avalon to Get First-Ever Hybrid

Full-size sedan will yield up to 40 mpg.

by on Jun.26, 2012

Toyota will add a new hybrid drivetrain option for the 2013 remake of its big Avalon sedan.

Toyota’s big new Avalon will be getting a hybrid drivetrain for the first time, the remake of the full-size sedan to share the powertrain line-up offered in the Japanese maker’s smaller Camry model.

The move underscores Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda’s goal of offering a gas-electric alternative in virtually all products sold for the Japanese giant.

Beyond the addition of a first-ever hybrid, the new Avalon is a significant departure for Toyota.  First shown at this year’s New York Auto Show, the 2013 Avalon was developed entirely in the U.S. and features a striking new shape that’s a distinctive new look that’s a striking shift away from Toyota’s traditionally plain vanilla approach to styling.

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Set to go on sale late this year, the Avalon will be one of six new models or variants to get a hybrid.  The maker earlier this year unveiled the compact Prius C, as well as a plug-in version of the original Prius hatchback.


Toyota Hiring 100s of Engineers, Designers

Will focus on Detroit area, but also opening new Silicon Valley tech center.

by on Apr.05, 2012

Engineered in Detroit - the 2013 Toyota Avalon.

Toyota plans to hire about 250 engineers to help it continue a shift from global to localized product development. The bulk of those new employees will be based out of the maker’s new R&D center in suburban Detroit, but it will also open a new high-tech facility in Silicon Valley.

The move reflects the significant shift in Toyota’s whole management structure.  It has traditionally operated as a global monolith but is giving increasing autonomy to major regional operations, especially those in the U.S., the maker’s largest market.

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The shift is underscored by the launch, this week, of the 2013 Toyota Avalon at the New York Auto Show.  The flagship sedan was developed entirely in the States, largely in the Motor City, with additional styling at CALTY, the advanced Toyota design center in Southern California.