The Next Toyota Avalon Is TNGA, Assuming the Next Avalon Is
Stiffer 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?
Wards was told by plant officials that the fifth-generation Avalon will debut on Toyota New Global Architecture “next year,” and it would be followed by a new Lexus ES “soon afterward.”
Yet when we asked Toyota HQ to confirm that the next-generation Toyota Avalon will be assembled in Georgetown on TNGA in 2018, Toyota basically went silent.
“We do not discuss future products,” a Toyota spokesperson told TTAC.
To be fair, that’s not surprising. Automakers are reluctant to describe their products in detail well in advance. Not only would Toyota prefer to control the Avalon message itself, but Toyota also doesn’t want to give competitors an unnecessary information advantage.
But wasn’t the cat already out of the bag? After all, the fourth-gen Avalon will enter its sixth model year in 2018, so it wasn’t surprising to hear Toyota’s Kentucky boss essentially announce the fifth-gen Avalon’s timing.
If we could think of one reason for Toyota to avoid outright confirmation of a next-generation Avalon, however, the utter collapse of the current Avalon and its full-size sedan segment would be it.
After losing 8 percent of its sales in 2014, dropping another 12 percent in 2015, and sliding a further 8 percent in 2016, America’s large car segment is down 18 percent through the first-half of 2017.
Hyundai has already announced the discontinuation of its Azera, a direct Avalon alternative. The Ford Taurus’s future is not on solid ground.
As for the Avalon specifically, sales are down 28 percent this year, but that’s only its most recent downfall. After declines in 2014, 2015, and 2016, sales this year are on track to be less than half as strong as in 2017 as they were in 2013; 64 percent lower than in 2005.
This is no mere Avalon trend. The Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, and Nissan Maxima have suffered precipitous declines over the last two or three generations, as well.
Is this an environment in which an automaker would want to bring a new large car into the world?
[Image: Toyota Motor Corporation]
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.
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