Avalon's future questioned

An automotive trade publication is casting doubt on the future of Toyota's Avalon, which is produced in Georgetown.

Edmunds Inside Line has reported that Toyota is ”studying whether to cancel the planned replacement for the Camry-based Avalon.“

Attributed to unidentified Toyota insiders, the publication's story said Toyota might instead build a long-wheelbase Camry in Georgetown, beginning in about 2010 or 2011.

Toyota spokesman Rick Hesterberg in Georgetown said Toyota does not release information about future product plans ”for obvious competitive reasons.“

Haig Stoddard, an automotive analyst with research firm Global Insight, said the Avalon's lower sales, and the market in general for large cars, could be driving any such decision-making.

”The large-car segment, which is bigger than what we would call a midsize car like the Camry, is kind of getting squeezed in favor of cross-utility vehicles or people moving to smaller vehicles,“ Stoddard said.

Sales of the Avalon were down 34.4 percent during the first six months of the year, according to recently released figures by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

”Even though the Avalon is typically something that has sold close to 100,000 cars a year, which is a pretty good volume, I wouldn't say it's ever caught on as a household name,“ Stoddard said. ”When you think Toyota, you think Camry and Lexus.“

”I wouldn't be surprised if what they're thinking is they need to sell Camry Hybrids and they're going to need more volume for the Camry overall when ... the market starts to take off again,“ he added.