By on August 15, 2017

2016 Toyota Avalon - Image: ToyotaU.S. sales of full-size, volume-brand sedans fell 17 percent in the first seven months of 2017, a sharp drop following noteworthy declines in each of the last three years. Despite the growth the market has seen since the auto industry’s collapse in 2009, big sedans have lost 37 percent of their U.S. sales volume over the last four years.

Compared with 2013, that’s 18,000 fewer sales for the segment every month. Even compared with 2016, that’s 6,500 fewer sales every month.

In what was historically a fleet-dependent corner of the passenger-car market, many automakers’ reduced emphasis on sales to daily rental companies plays a major role. Numerous players in the segment also attempted to move upmarket, further away from the midsize cars that now offer the requisite interior volume. It hasn’t turned out so well for some. Remember the Mitsubishi Diamante and Mercury Montego? We’ll soon forget the discontinued Hyundai Azera. The Ford Taurus is likely not long for this market, either.

Yet in a market that’s lost 17 percent of its sales this year, the Toyota Avalon has shed 28 percent of its year-to-date volume, a loss of 7,475 sales. With an all-new 2018 Camry set to generate more than its fair share of Toyota sedan sales, does the Avalon even deserve a place in Toyota’s 2018 lineup?

Indeed it does, as Toyota will launch the fifth-generation, TNGA-based Avalon in 2018. “We’re committed to Avalon,” says Toyota North America’s executive vice president for sales, Bob Carter. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2017

2016 Toyota Avalon - Image: ToyotaStiffer structures, a lower center of gravity for improved handling, more shared components, and a 20-percent cost cut are all benefits of the Toyota New Global Architecture. Eventually, Toyota wants all of its front-wheel-drive vehicles to use TNGA as a starting point.

You first witnessed TNGA in the 2016 Toyota Prius, then in the 2018 Toyota C-HR, and most recently in the 2018 Toyota Camry that’s trickling into dealers now.

But beyond the ability to improve existing nameplates and spawn dramatically different new cars, TNGA is also intended to improve plant efficiency. Yet a massive shift at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant, detailed by Wards Auto, hasn’t yet resulted in the efficiency rewards.

“When we change over in the future with the Avalon, we’ll be able to pull that efficiency out of (the operation),” Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky president Wil James told Wards.

Ah yes, Avalon. How could we forget? (Read More…)

By on May 26, 2017

2016-Toyota-Avalon

Lyft, the ride-hailing company with nowhere near the amount of bad press as Uber, has launched a luxury black car service in five American cities as a challenge to its rival.

Luxury models in “excellent” condition from model years 2011 and newer are qualified to shuttle around Lyft Lux passengers, assuming the seats are either leather or “leather-like.” However, while Lincoln Town Cars owners will be dismayed to hear their vehicles don’t make the cut, newer flagships from other brands remain suspiciously absent from the accepted vehicle roster. (Read More…)

By on December 2, 2016

2013 Toyota Avalon Limited, Exterior, Avalon badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

“Well, I bought that car last night.” Craig has this unnerving habit of simply appearing at my cubicle while I’m trying to do something productive, like texting people or reading random articles from the Last Psychiatrist archive on my phone. He’s a soft-spoken fellow, entering late middle age the same way that I am but not showing nearly as much evidence of blunt trauma, well-compensated in his engineering job but modest in appearance and disinclined to spend money.

Regarding my life and temperament, I like to follow the example of Robert Bly in quoting Cesar Vallejo: “Well, / On the day that I was born / God was sick / gravely.” I suspect that on the day that Craig was born, by contrast, God was in perfect health and settling down with the newest issue of Consumer Reports. About a month ago, Craig started seriously thinking about replacing his 150,000-mile Honda CR-V. It’s been a faithful companion for a freeway commute that takes about an hour in each direction, but even the most prosaic of Hondas eventually reaches a point where the cost of maintenance starts to become a factor. Not in money, necessarily, but in time.

Knowing that I dabble a bit in things automotive, Craig had asked what I thought about the new CR-V. This was a subject on which I was glad to speak, because I absolutely despise the “cute-utes” and will take every opportunity to rooster-block the purchase of one.

(Read More…)

By on April 14, 2016

Bark M. wearing fancy Blue Oval threads, Image: © Bark Jr./The Truth About Cars

Since we’ve been doing these Ask Bark columns at the beginning of the year, I’ve received well over a hundred questions from you, our loyal readers. While I truly want to answer all of them, some of them don’t need a 1,000 word response, so they’ve been languishing in my inbox because I can’t turn them into a full column on their own.

So, today we’ll be doing some quick hits and answering several questions in one column. In other words, here’s your chance to call me an idiot multiple times, which I know that some of you are already quite giddy about.

Let’s get to it.

(Read More…)

By on March 8, 2016

2015 Ford F-150

Steve writes:

Mr. Bark:

My lady lives 650 miles away. Most of the time I fly to see her, but over the past 18 months I have put 40,000 miles on my Ford F-150 due to the odd weekends where it’s too expensive to fly, I can’t board my dog, or I want to do a detour and visit my parents in Arkansas.

What do you think is the best vehicle for frequent, long road trips? There has to be come kind of calculus that will help determine a balance between comfort, economy and longevity, but I keep coming back to my F-150. Also, breaking off the relationship with the lady is not an option.

Thanks,

Steve H.

Thanks for the formal greeting, Mr. Steve. Gosh, so many variables to consider, and less than a thousand words to do it in! Let’s get to it.

(Read More…)

By on January 15, 2016

06 - 1988 Cadillac Coupe Deville Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

When I was a kid, there was a plentiful selection of automobile choices for old people. There were Buicks. There were Cadillacs. There were Lincolns. There were Oldsmobiles. There were even a few Japanese cars that clearly catered to the elderly. “Enlarged Speedometer Font” was an actual option on more than one vehicle when I was younger.

But what about today?

(Read More…)

By on October 19, 2013

2012 Toyota Camry SE Circa October 2011

One blah Monday morning, you’re commuting to the anonymous office park some 90 minutes away from the bedroom community you call a home in your equally anonymous Toyota Camry Hybrid, listening to yet another story about Congress kicking cans down roads and/or some wacky antics your favorite DJs had the past weekend while you take another swig of that mermaid-branded caffeinated goodness.

(Read More…)

By on April 22, 2013

The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a problem complicated by the re-invigoration of the large sedan market by the American brands. In hopes of resurrecting sales numbers, which have slid to 25% of their 2000 year shipments, Toyota has injected something hitherto unseen in an Avalon: style. Is it enough?

(Read More…)

By on September 13, 2012

Sergio & Co aren’t the only ones partying it up in Vegas. Toyota is hosting its own bachelor party in Sin City, complete with products like a new Avalon, RAV4, Scion tC and a next-generation Corolla described as

“…cool. It is hip, it is fun. It is everything that the consumer is not expecting in that segment.”

(Read More…)

By on April 5, 2012

 

The closest I’ve ever come to dying in a car was at the wheel of a Toyota Avalon, and I credit the nice, long wheelbase, stable handling and strong V6 engine for helping me avoid a major catastrophe. The new 2013 model, with its swoopy styling, looks like something that just might get you into trouble rather than keeping you out of it.

(Read More…)

By on March 27, 2012

Toyota released a teaser of a new sedan with an “…elegant yet athletic look.” The sedan is apparently a production ready car and not a concept and if it really is the new Avalon (what else can it be) it looks like that the stodgy old retiree-mobile is getting some youthful new duds. Sort of like seeing your Grandpa wear Air Jordans because he bought them for $29.99 at Marshall’s. Except this time, it seems to be intentional.

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