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Toyota ponders radical engine plan

Crown and anchor: The Crown concept and Toyota Australia senior executive vice-president John Conomos.

Next generation Avalon could be the only V6 choice from Toyota

29 Oct 2003

TOYOTA Australia is seriously considering a strategy to make the next generation Avalon the only mainstream V6 choice, restricting Camry to four-cylinder power.

Currently Avalon and Camry share the same 3.0-litre V6 engine. Camry is also the dominant player in the medium segment in 2.4-litre four-cylinder form, as well as being a vital export revenue earner.

The strategy is a way Toyota believes it can finally ignite the sales of its under-performing locally-built large car and present true competition to the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon.

"We haven’t decided that fully, but that’s a direction – a very strong direction – we are pursuing," Toyota Australia senior executive vice-president John Conomos told GoAuto at last week’s Tokyo motor show.

Mr Conomos believes 30,000-40,000 Avalons could be sold per annum domestically post-2006.

That sort of result would make it a true third leg of its local large car strategy alongside Camry and Kluger, which will eventually be built locally.

This year Avalon will sell around 6000 examples. But it is being outsold by V6 Camry and their combined total for 2003 will probably be a couple of thousand units under the 21,280 the 660T Camry managed on its own in 1999.

"There is a risk taking V6 out of Camry," admitted Mr Conomos. "But while it is a very successful four-cylinder car, it frankly didn’t sell well up against the big cars, so accordingly with the new generation cars coming that’s an option we are considering."

Toyota Australia’s developing styling department – led by Paul Beranger – has submitted its ideas for the next Camry

But a final decision on the strategy depends on the design direction the new generations of each car take as they head toward their 2006 launch.

As now, they will be based on the same platform – a new generation of the Toyota Modular Platform – but next time round they will also share the same chassis.

Toyota Australia’s developing styling department – led by Paul Beranger – has submitted its ideas for the next Camry and is represented on an international panel that will design the car.

The Australians will have a higher degree of autonomy in terms of changing the detail design of the next local Camry than ever before, but the Avalon is where they will really be able to spread their wings.

While that car will share the same hard points and door apertures as the Camry, sheetmetal will be substantially different, with even the door skins possibly restyled.

Toyota Australia also believes there will be opportunities to spin derivatives from the new generation design.

"When we see the final designs of the cars we will then know if that (V6) strategy will work or not," Mr Conomos said.

"At the moment there are not even sketches of the new cars, so conceptually we are pursuing this." Mr Conomos said the future of the Sportivo brand was also mixed up in this decision-making process, with the possibility Camry-based V6 models may still be available through that route.

However, Toyota’s attitude to its sports models is set for a substantial makeover with a new SVO division set to start operation in 2004.

Under the skin of the new Avalon, power will come from a new generation of direct-injection V6 engines previewed at the Tokyo motor show by the Crown concept.

In Tokyo, Toyota revealed 2.5 and 3.0-litre designs mated to a six-speed sequential shift automatic gearbox, but there are believed to be both 3.5 and 4.0-litre versions coming in the future as well.

The Crown itself was examined as a possible Avalon replacement, but was eventually ruled out as being too expensive for Australia.

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