Sometimes pizza tastes better when reheated the next day. Alas, the same does not hold true for cars. Toyota Australia was battling a perception by consumers that its V6 Camry wasn’t a viable alternative to the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon. First, they tried marketing the V6 Camry under a different name (Vienta). Then, when that didn’t help much, they brought out the “big guns”: a locally assembled version of the now six-year old Avalon. Unsurprisingly, the utterly dull 2000 Avalon flopped and was purchased predominately by the same people who were already buying Toyotas.
Unlike Mitsubishi, who attempted to rival Ford and Holden more convincingly by offering the Magna Sports and VR-X, with sports-tuned suspension and racier details, Toyota decided to plod along with a range of plain Avalons. The Avalon’s stuffy image and dull styling led then-head of Toyota Australia, John Conomos, to describe the Avalon as having a “buying audience in God’s waiting room”. This sad-looking facelift arrived in 2003 but did little for sales; Toyota decided to target fleets, including taxi companies, and developed an LPG dual-fuel version.
Toyota never did figure out how to expand its presence in the rapidly contracting full-size segment. The handsome Aurion, a lightly restyled V6 Camry (using Asian-market bodywork) replaced the Avalon and even offered an Australia-designed Sportivo model. While more successful than the Avalon, it gets outsold around 4-to-1 by the fleet-favorite Camry. At least it looks nice.