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.

Speaking to Wards Auto, Carter expressed the view that automakers did in fact see the crossover trend approaching, but that cars remain vital components in Toyota’s lineup. That’s reflected in the fact that Toyota’s brand boss Jack Hollis believes the industry will settle in with a 63/37 ratio of light trucks to cars, ending the passenger car sector’s rapid decline.

And while the launch of an all-new Camry looks like the very kind of event that could squeeze the already-fading Avalon out of Toyota’s lineup, Toyota’s Bob Carter believes the opposite is true. “Because we’ve taken Camry to such a significantly different place… that really increases the importance of Avalon.”

Toyota has sought to up the Camry’s performance ante and emphasize its sedan nature with lower ride height and more aggressive styling.All Four Toyota Avalon Generations - Images: ToyotaPrevious to Carter’s exchange with Wards, a plant executive at the Georgetown, Kentucky, facility where the Camry, Avalon, and Lexus ES are assembled essentially confirmed the TNGA-based Avalon’s timing. With Carter’s commitment to the Avalon’s future, one wonders whether Toyota can produce the same kind of temporary rebound the fourth-gen Avalon achieved in 2013.

Toyota had averaged only 31,000 annual U.S. Avalon sales for the half-decade prior to the then-new 2013 Avalon’s launch. But then Avalon volume jumped to 70,990 units in 2013, a six-year high, albeit well off the 95,318-unit sales pace achieved in 2005 when the third-gen Avalon was launched.

U.S. Avalon sales fell 5 percent in 2014, 11 percent in 2015, and 20 percent in 2016. Through the first seven months of 2017, U.S. Avalon sales are down 55 percent compared with the model’s 2013 launch year. The Avalon is easily outselling the Buick LaCrosse, but trails the Dodge Charger, Nissan Maxima, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, and Ford Taurus by wide margins, claiming a 9-percent share of the segment.

[Images: Toyota]

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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32 Comments on “Full-size Sedan Faithful, Take Heart – Fifth-gen Toyota Avalon Due Next Year; Toyota Says “We’re Committed”...”


  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    We love our 2015 Avalon, although it doesn’t ride as well as our Sienna or the 2012 Avalon I test drove a few years ago (I think they remedied some of the ride issues with the 2016 model). The delta between a top of the line Camry and entry Lexus ES looks to be closer than ever. It will be interesting to see where this new Avalon settles into the mix. I’m not sure lowering the car even more is going to be helpful, it’s lower than I like it now.

    We plan on keeping our car for another 10 years so our daughter can take it over and use it through college. My wife says she wants another car versus SUV/CUV (pretty rare to hear nowadays). At that point, I would probably step up to an ES.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I wish they could muster up a business case for a new Solara Convertible… it’d have essentially zero competition. But, alas, the market for a drop-top with four usable seats and a usable trunk doesn’t appear to be nearly as high as one would think.

    I’m pretty sure my wife is going to keep her ’06 until the wheels fall off…

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I’m strangely attracted to these.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I don’t think it’s strange at all. This is a damn nice car.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        Agreed. There isn’t a vehicle made by Toy motors right now that I’d spend money on, except an Avalon. Rented one out west a few years ago & loved it. Powerful, quiet & smooth. Buddy picked up a lightly used one recently in Limited trim, sweet ride!

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Thirded. No excuses necessary. Not the most emotionally exciting vehicle to drive (or look at, although I think they are handsome), but an utterly competent and comfortable and long lasting car.

  • avatar

    The chicken is involved in your bacon & eggs. The pig is committed.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    This is by far the best car you can buy from Toyota. Very solid piece. Glad it’s sticking around.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Business Insider (they show up in my Google Play Newsstand) had their auto guy drive the current Avalon. He compared it to the dear departed Lincoln Town Car (in a good way) and admitted that it was hard to beat for the roughly $37,000 sticker price of the example he was driving.

    He says he recommends it to friends with long commutes who still go out and buy Audis and MBs paying far more than he thinks they need to just to get the badge.

    • 0 avatar
      a5ehren

      And God help you if you pay sticker on one of these. They’ll give you $5k off if you show up with a pulse.

      The XLE Premium for $32k is a hell of a lot of car for the money.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    A solid entry for the folks who populate the 55+ communities.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I can see why the Avalon struggles. Between a XLE Camry (in 4cyl, Hybrid, or V6 trim) and a lightly used ES300h/ES350, it’s a hard place to be pricewise. My father in law came down to comparing a new Avalon hybrid and a lightly used 2 year old ES300h, the Lexus won out. His car before that? A Camry XLE Hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Given Toyota resale values (deserved or undeserved I don’t think I’ll ever buy a Used Toyota/Lexus again) – might as well pony up for new.

      Although I’m not as brave as gtemnykh and buy 150,000 mile examples that are fully depreciated. ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Well the ES does in fact depreciate, not as much as other vehicles perhaps but it is still substantial. I think he paid about $31k for a loaded ’13 with 32k miles. Not sure what MSRP is but it was a matter of comparing a new Avalon with a few cheaper interior bits and fewer lux features for $33k to the ES which was immaculate and with only 32k may as well have been new.

        If I were cheap-commuter shopping again, I’d slide just slightly higher up the scale from my current bottom-feeder bracket up to about $3k-4k. That would get me an early 2000s Avalon with 150k-ish that still had life left in the struts and would have hopefully be only mid-way through a timing belt interval. Drive for 2-3 years, sell for $1000 less than purchase price (during tax time) with minimal investments in refurbishment. My current Ranger that I bought for $1700 has ran up a parts bill of about $800, with another $1k or so in labor. Plan is to drive it another year or so and sell in the tax-refund feeding frenzy on CL for a cool $2500-2700. So overall low running costs, but I wish I just didn’t fix anything and could sell it for the same $1700 that I bought it for. I’m honing in on beater nirvana lol

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The 5g Avalon was developed over the last 3-4 years, before the CUV wave became obvious, so Toyota isn’t going to just walk away from that investment. The 5g will be the last Avalon, in all likelihood.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I like the ES more.

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    All the guys are my local VA office will love that news. I’ve never seen more Toyotas and especially Avalons parked in one place than a VA office, except maybe a Toyota lot.

  • avatar
    scott25

    They have to build something for the older folks who want a trunk and sedan silhouette but for whom the Camry is too aggressive. I wouldn’t be surprised if the new Avalon is closer in size to the Camry than it’s ever been.

  • avatar
    mchan1

    If that photo is a current model Avalon, then it looks too much like a Camry.

    Why buy an Avalon when one can buy a pre-owned Lexus? The price differential isn’t that great and pre-owned Lexus models are relatively affordable.
    New Camry vs Pre-owned Lexus? Tough choice, for some.

    • 0 avatar
      Coopdeville

      But then why buy a used Lexus when you can buy a used Avalon for even cheaper? I cross-shopped Lexus and still ended up about $5k below the best ES350 deal I could find for similar age and miles to my Avalon Limited, which has all the same tech stuffed into its admittedly down-market interior as the Lexus had. The simply badge wasn’t worth $5k to me, and I couldn’t get the ride and size I was looking for in a Camry.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “But then why buy a used Lexus when you can buy a used Avalon for even cheaper?”

        Real wood interior.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Grippin Woodgrain, Yo!

        • 0 avatar
          Coopdeville

          Maybe, if they all actually looked like that. :) In the years I was comparing the interiors looked like this:

          https://static.cargurus.com/images/forsale/2017/07/11/09/56/2012_lexus_es_350-pic-1105844675988308115-1024×768.jpeg

          Nothing against what’s important to you, if it’s important to you. The money in the pocket was far more important to me than the wood and the badge.

          There’s also the not insignificant fact that buying a Lexus (nobody would have asked or cared that it was used and/or a “great deal”) would be seen as an inappropriately flashy car for someone in my position. I worked for a small firm in which even the owner, who has donated millions to local causes, drove a 10 year old Toyonda.

  • avatar
    kobo1d

    It would be interesting to see Toyota’s demographic information on its Avalon customers. Anecdotally, this car has got to be the poster child of stealth wealth / millionaire next door types.

  • avatar
    walleyeman57

    This is good news. I had a 2000 that I bought with 125k miles and pushed up past 250k without issue. My current 2007 touring had 180k when purchased two years ago and now is at 255k without any problems. Stay away from the cooled seats- they’re not as comfortable. I also love the lack of sunroof- I’m tall and don’t like what little hair I have left to brush the headliner.
    Then again- I’m old (ish) 59 and I appreciate a quiet comfortable ride with lots of room.
    In a couple years I’ll be looking at the 4th gen with well over 100k.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    The Avalon is a better Buick than any current Buick.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I had a brand-new Avalon as a rental from Savannah GA a few weeks ago. And now I know how you make a Camry worse. Make it bigger and more wallowy, but with that nice too low profile tire shudder/jiggle over bumps. My Grandmother would have loved the thing, but she is no longer with us.

    The radar cruise control was amusing though. It almost made up for the awful touch buttons all over the console, and the worst touchscreen ever made by the hand of man.

    Just not my cup of tea. This week’s MB CLA may be a Jetta with delusions of grandeur, but it is soooo much better than a grannymobile.

  • avatar
    la834

    It should be inexpensive to build a next-gen Avalon. Basically take a Lexus ES 350, tweak the styling inside and out, de-content it, and price it lower to compensate. Should be profitable even if they only sell 40,000/year or so.


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