Toyota unveiled its redesigned Avalon full-size sedan, which is built in Georgetown, at the 2012 New York International Auto Show on Thursday.
"It's a car that captures Toyota President Akio Toyoda's vision for more exciting vehicles," said Bob Carter, vice president of sales for Toyota in the United States. "It's designed, engineered, manufactured, sold and serviced in America."
The new Avalon was designed at the company's studio in California and engineered at its technical center near Ann Arbor, Mich.
The automaker involved its manufacturing employees in Georgetown early on in the process, said Wil James, president of Toyota's sprawling plant in Georgetown.
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"Typically, we get involved much later in the process," he said. "This time, our folks were able to get involved right after the initial design concept."
James said it's another example of "what we'll see as Toyota brings more autonomy to North America."
Among the highlights of the redesigned Avalon are a more stylish exterior and enhancements to the stability and handling of the vehicle, according to Toyota.
Inside, there is more headroom and a larger storage compartment, the company said.
Jim Lentz, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Sales for the United States, said other names were considered for the Avalon. In the end, Lentz said, Toyota decided it would cost too much to change the name of the new full-size sedan.
Since its launch in the mid-1990s, the Avalon has been Toyota's main full-size sedan. It has always been a solid performer, with standard V6 power, lots of interior space and a reputation for reliability.
But in 2011, Avalon's sales lagged behind competitors. Toyota sold 28,925 Avalons in 2011 compared with 171,434 Chevrolet Impalas, 63,526 Ford Tauruses, 58,474 Buick LaCrosses, 58,737 Nissan Maximas and 36,285 Chrysler 300s. However, Impala, Ford and Chrysler all get a significant percent of their sales from fleet buyers.
The Avalon was last redesigned in 2005. And while it was considered a capable contender with powerful engine options in the full-size segment, it was priced higher than its newer and more modern competitors.
Toyota's workers in Georgetown will build the new Avalons alongside the flagship Camry, Camry Hybrid and Venza. The latest generation of the Camry was unveiled last year, and an updated version of the Venza was revealed earlier this week at the auto show.
"Right now is honestly one of the most exciting times for our folks in Georgetown because of the newness of the products," James said.