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View Full Version : Interior issues put Avalon XLS behind its rivals


Nick
03-25-2005, 12:11 PM
MARK PHELAN: Interior issues put Avalon XLS behind its rivals<p>A fallen dashboard dial detracts from the sedan's virtues<p>March 24, 2005<p>BY MARK PHELAN<br>FREE PRESS COLUMNIST<p>Pieces are not supposed to fall off new cars.<p>avalon_inset.jpg<br>ED HAUN/DFP<br>Problems with the new Toyota Avalon include a dashboard dial that popped out of the instrument panel.<br>Particularly not new Toyotas.<p>That's the reason people buy Toyotas. The company's mission statement is practically "the pieces stay where we put them."<p>Mission not accomplished.<p>The all-new $34,629 2005 Toyota Avalon XLS full-size sedan I recently tested had a roomy, attractive interior and a powerful engine, but several quality defects -- including a dial that fell out and left a hole in the dashboard -- leave it trailing the competition.<p>BEHIND THE WHEEL<p>2005 Toyota Avalon XLS<p>TWO STARS out of four<p>Front-wheel-drive five-seat full-size sedan<p>Reasons to buy: Interior room, backseat comfort; powerful engine and smooth transmission.<p>Shortcomings: Quality defects; price; lack of some common features.<p>The Avalon is the largest car Toyota sells in the United States. It marked the company's first direct assault on the traditional six-passenger full-size market when the first model of the car debuted in 1995.<p>The front-wheel-drive car shares its basic structure and many of its major systems with the smaller midsize Camry, and it's built alongside the Camry at Toyota's assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky.<p>Toyota sold 36,460 Avalons in 2004, down from 50,911 in 2003.<p>Avalon prices range from $26,350 for the base XL model to $30,800 for the top-of-the-line XLS. All prices exclude destination charges. The Avalon is Toyota's most expensive car.<p>The well-equipped XLS model I tested had a long list of standard features, including rear seats that recline up to 10 degrees, seven air bags, a power sunroof and antilock brakes. Options included a voice-activated DVD navigation system, a 360-watt JBL stereo with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and traction and stability control.<p>The interior is roomy and lovely, 106.9 cubic feet of leather-wrapped passenger space trimmed with the most attractive ersatz wood I've ever seen, a honey-blond plastic that mimics the finest bird's-eye grain.<p>By comparison, the Buick LeSabre has 107.6 cubic feet of passenger room, the Chevrolet Impala has 104.5, the Chrysler 300C 106.6 and the Ford Five Hundred 107.5.<p>In addition to its wide-open spaces and reclining rear seat, the Avalon has a flat floor in the rear, making the car much more comfortable for middle-seat passengers.<p>Toyota built a six-seat version of the previous Avalon, but that model accounted for only about 8 percent of sales. The all-new 2005 comes only with front bucket and rear bench seats.<p>Unfortunately, the interior's many virtues were undone by several quality problems.<p>The dial to adjust the brightness of the instrument panel lights fell out of the dashboard the first time I touched it. The result was a hole the size of your index finger and the certainty of a visit to the service department.<p>Any quality defect is shocking in a Toyota, but the Avalon had a few more surprises in store for me.<p>The ceiling-mounted buttons for the front dome lights squeaked, and they were made of what felt like the thinnest, cheapest plastic I can ever recall in a Toyota.<p>The spring-loaded drawer that holds the controls for the navigation system never came all the way open on its own, and several pieces of colored trim on the dash and doors did not quite align.<p>The real shame of it is that the big, complicated and expensive pieces of the Avalon performed brilliantly.<p>The 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and five-speed automatic transmission provide strong, confident acceleration and smooth shifts. The disc brakes are powerful and progressive and the steering is precise and predictable.<p>Antilock brakes are standard equipment, but electronic stability control and traction control are options, as are memory seats.<p>Given the Avalon's hefty $34,629 price, I think all those features should be standard equipment.<p>The Avalon's suspension absorbs bumps well, and road and wind noise are barely noticeable, even at high speeds.<p>The ride and handling are tuned much more for comfort than sportiness, but that's exactly what Avalon buyers want and expect.<p>The exterior styling is attractive and consistent with other Toyota models, but neither striking nor memorable.<p>The Avalon has a lot going for it, but in the final analysis the quality problems drop the big Toyota to barely average among full-size sedans.<p>Contact MARK PHELAN at 313-222-6731 or phelan@freepress.com.<p><A HREF="http://www.freep.com/money/autoreviews/phelan24e_20050324.htm" TARGET="_blank">http://www.freep.com/money/aut...4.htm</A><br>

Santeno
03-25-2005, 12:32 PM
It's those anoying little problems that bedevil new car introductions that one would be wise to not buy a new model for at least 6 months to a year after it's introduction. Knowing toyota's past obsession with quality and defect correction, I bet some quality control engineer is probably reading that article as we speak and planning a fix.

Ascariss
03-25-2005, 12:36 PM
Interesting, wouldn't expect this from Toyota. Is it a production model or pre production? If it is production, then this can't be good for toyota, unless it is only one isolated case. Is this a preview of the future, lol. j/k

KebabGud
03-25-2005, 01:10 PM
i fint it funny... then the French built Yaris is flawless.. but the US built avalon is ... <br>.. ill stop there :D

JBlair
03-25-2005, 01:38 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>KebabGud</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">i fint it funny... then the French built Yaris is flawless.. but the US built avalon is ... <br>.. ill stop there :D </TD></TR></TABLE><p>Where its built makes no difference, because the factory procedures and parts are all the same. This is a flaw in the DESIGN of the interior and of the pieces used, not in the method or factory where it was constructed.

Naga Royal Guard
03-25-2005, 02:05 PM
was rushed to production a bit too fast maybe, usually electrical gremlins are the major first-year bug; the previous generaton camry had some sunroof leaking issues on the first few production models - and the matrix/vibe continue to suffer from squeaks and rattles ( tho it has been facelifted) - most companies iron out such things after a few years

-Peter-
03-25-2005, 02:36 PM
the building place very much makes a difference. Why is the quality of mitsubishi said to be horrible in US but all those EU market Mitsus that came from Japan are quite good?<p>and those Corollas that are made in turkey compared to those that came from japan or England.<p>and the best example: 1st gen Ford Focus of Europe compared to the quality of US Focus

Naga Royal Guard
03-25-2005, 03:24 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>-Peter-</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">the building place very much makes a difference. Why is the quality of mitsubishi said to be horrible in US but all those EU market Mitsus that came from Japan are quite good?<p>and those Corollas that are made in turkey compared to those that came from japan or England.<p>and the best example: 1st gen Ford Focus of Europe compared to the quality of US Focus</TD></TR></TABLE><p>that is quite the case indeed <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://images.zeroforum.com/smile/emthup.gif" BORDER="0">

Santeno
03-25-2005, 05:14 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>KebabGud</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">i fint it funny... then the French built Yaris is flawless.. but the US built avalon is ... <br>.. ill stop there :D </TD></TR></TABLE><br>Yeah...STOP there... <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://www.germancarfans.com/images/forums/angry.gif" BORDER="0">

Ascariss
03-25-2005, 05:21 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>KebabGud</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">i fint it funny... then the French built Yaris is flawless.. but the US built avalon is ... <br>.. ill stop there :D </TD></TR></TABLE><p>I say keep going. <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://www.germancarfans.com/images/forums/beigesmilewinkgrin.gif" BORDER="0"> <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://www.germancarfans.com/images/forums/1orglaugh.gif" BORDER="0"> <IMG NAME="icon" SRC="http://www.germancarfans.com/images/forums/1orglaugh.gif" BORDER="0">

KebabGud
03-25-2005, 06:33 PM
i did have more to say but... ohh well..<p>i still want to know if it was production model or pre production

Naga Royal Guard
03-25-2005, 06:43 PM
ive seen avalons on dealer lots, so this must be a production model; and that aint good

ndjan
03-25-2005, 10:33 PM
Given the fact that most new cars outside of Toyota and Honda have these quality issues, I'd like to see if they played as big a part in the the reviewer's other tests. I suspect a big bias. Yes, these quality issues are bad for Toyota, but they're not horrible. And it is possible this guy had a bad example. They do exist, even with Toyota. Personally, I think this guy overreacted and made too big a deal.<p>As far as the issue on where a factory is, it is an important factor, except with Toyota. They've managed to maintain their consistency in every country, especially in the U.S., where they've consistently racked up awards for quality and efficiency.

anonms
03-26-2005, 04:29 AM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>Ascariss</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">Interesting, wouldn't expect this from Toyota. Is it a production model or pre production? If it is production, then this can't be good for toyota, unless it is only one isolated case. Is this a preview of the future, lol. j/k </TD></TR></TABLE><p>It could be an isolated case, a pre-production model, or a situation of a reviewer being rough on the test subject.<p>I sat in a new Avalon and basically pressed every button, opened every compartment, and turned every knob I saw and nothing fell out, everything opened quickly, and everything was aligned perfectly fine.

rman5001
03-26-2005, 12:07 PM
With other manufacturers, this may be an issue. I would question the impact of the origin country with Toyota.<p>What makes the Toyota Production System such an effective tool is that it starts with vehicle design. Interior (and exterior) trim pieces are designed to be "dummy-proof" so that they cannot do not require finessing to be installed. That's why Toyota has plants that are both efficient and produce quality vehicles. It's also why when there are problems/issues, they tend to show up on every vehicle. The production system is such an integral part of the company, it doesn't change from plant to plan.<p>There was a quote from the CEO that goes to the heart of their philosophy. While I don't remember it exactly it goes something like...."other companies have exceptional people, but average processes and therefore produce average cars. We have exceptional processes so that even with average people we still produce exceptional cars."

Flagship
03-26-2005, 03:08 PM
WO WO WO WO WO WO WO wait just A F*****G minute THIS IS SOME BBBBBBBBBBBBBIG BS.I sat in the new Avalon and abused the sh** out of it (Just like I did with the GS) and I saw nothing wrong with it. This is Toyota not Ford the guy who wrote this article is full of. <BR><BR>
<i>Modified by Flagship GT at 1:54 PM 3/27/2005</i>

JBlair
03-26-2005, 03:44 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>Flagship GT</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">WO WO WO WO WO WO WO wait gust A F*****G minute THIS IS SOME BBBBBBBBBBBBBIG BS.I sat in the new Avalon and abused the sh** out of it (Just like I did with the GS) and I saw nothing wrong with it. This is Toyota not Ford the guy who wrote this article is full of. </TD></TR></TABLE><p>Reviewers don't lie about stuff like parts falling out of a dash, no matter whether they're biased toward american or import metal. And just because its a Toyota does not mean that it is completely improbable for it to have quality problems.

anonms
03-26-2005, 05:12 PM
Oh, this got my attention:<br>"The real shame of it is that the big, complicated and expensive pieces of the Avalon performed brilliantly."<p>Maybe the reviewer really doesn't like Toyota.

CalinG7
03-28-2005, 03:33 PM
<TABLE WIDTH="90%" CELLSPACING=0 CELLPADDING=0 ALIGN=CENTER><TR><TD><i>Quote, originally posted by <b>anonms</b> &raquo;</i></TD></TR><TR><TD CLASS="quote">Oh, this got my attention:<br>"The real shame of it is that the big, complicated and expensive pieces of the Avalon performed brilliantly."<p>Maybe the reviewer really doesn't like Toyota.</TD></TR></TABLE><p>No, he was just saying it's odd that the complex, hard-to-build stuff worked perfectly, but the simple, low-tech stuff broke down. I'm not surprised, though. At the rate Toyota is growing all around the world it would've taken a miracle for their quality not to go down. We already say this last year in the JD Powers Initial Quality report, so I don't know why some of you are so surprised. <p>But, like Santeno said, knowing Toyota, even though they're not perfect, unlike many other companies, they don't take news like this lightly. They probably already have a team of engineers studying what went wrong, how to fix it, and how fast.

Bass-o-Matic
03-29-2005, 04:19 AM
Like alot of respondents, I spent alot of time in various Avalons at the auto show and in a dealer-purchased one that we now have in our fleet. No problems with any interior trim or switchgear. Seems to be on-par (at least) with any other current Toyota.<p>I will say this, though... current Toyota passenger cars have definitely been cost-cut and value-added compared to early-90s models. That's not to say that they're not worth the premium that they get for them. Rather, I'd suggest that Toyota (like everybody else out there) has been adding content (both regulated/required and market-driven) and that there's a balancing act going on there. <p>In the case of the Avalon, Toyota has jam-packed the car with content you'd expect in a $45K+ Luxury car and, though (as I said) I think the interior is relatively well done, I don't think it's to the level of quality of materials that you'd expect in Lexus (that would be just too unexpected, given the price point). Nice piece, overall, though, and one that should be a good buy in the long-term.<p>An aside, given some of the previous comments from those in Europe. The fact is that the U.S.-market is an extremely competitive one and that this drives cost more than anybody knows. Though I would agree that individual companies like GM and Ford have had problems with U.S. (versus European) versions of corporate platforms/products (like Focus, for example), I would suggest that this comes down to one horrendous fixed cost dilemna here in the U.S. that, at least, the transplants don't deal with (legacy health & pension costs)... I'm not sure that there is the same issue in European markets, if only because of the way health costs are dealt with in most European countries (i.e. the evil Clinton's failed health plan). <p>In addition, I'm pretty sure that costs are passed on in Europe in a way that market forces here would not allow. The market in Europe has historically not had issue with high-priced small cars that, as far as the mainstream market in the U.S. goes, just wouldn't have flown here. Could be changing a bit, at least on the fringes, but the general rule of thumb here is that small cars cost less (making them something less than the most profitable vehicles for U.S. manufacturers) and large cars cost more (making them more "rich" on the margins). This is one reason that you see U.S. manufacturers so enamoured with Trucks & SUVs, large cars, etc. and, for example, Ford carrying over the "old" Focus in the U.S. while the new one gets launched in Europe. Nobody in their right mind would prefer the old one over the new one.<p>Just some insight into the market here and some of the unfortunate decisions that alot of us are forced into.<p>