During a presentation at the 2015 CAR Management Briefing Seminars, Jeff Bracken, group vice president and general manager, Lexus Division, talked about the importance of attracting younger people to the brand. It’s not that they’re disinterested in the Baby Boomers that essentially helped create the successful marque that Lexus is in the U.S. market, but a recognition that they need to pay attention to more than that aging cadre.
Bracken said, for example, “Our ‘F’ brand and other performance efforts are helping to change the perception of Lexus, attracting a new generation of younger buyers to the brand who may not have considered us before.” And, “So. . .we’ve expanded our line-up and processes to cross a more broad spectrum of appeal, from Baby Boomer like myself to Gen X and Millennials.”
Without question, the older generation is important. There are a lot of them--~74.9-million—and they have non-trivial wealth.
However, the number of Millennials is passing the Boomers this year--~75.3-million—and their number will grow (not because there will be more of them born, but through immigration). What’s more, this year there are ~66-million Gen Xers, so if you add even a portion of the Millennials to the Xers. . . well, let’s just say they’re really important.
For Lexus, there are cars like the LS and the GS which are Boomer oriented (I was recently in a GS 350 sport sedan, and while the vehicle is sporty—it has a 306-hp 3.5-liter V8 and all-wheel-drive; it has more power and performance than anyone is likely to use in daily existence, but which is the sort of thing that people would like to know they have beneath that right pedal—it is the more sedate sedan side—10-way adjustable power front seats draped in leather, premium audio system, moon roof, etc.—that is undoubtedly of more appeal and relevance to the Boomer buyer), but there are also the IS and the NX are for the younger generations, probably in that order (IS for Gen X, NX for Millennials).
One might argue that Toyota Motor Corp., the parent of Lexus, also has Scion in its stable, and the reason for being of Scion is to attract younger buyers into the entire Toyota corporate franchise. But you can get into a Scion (iA) for an MSRP of about $16.5K, and the least-expensive Lexus is the CT, at $31,250. Clearly, there are different economic brackets being addressed by these brands.
But then there is the Mothership, the Toyota lineup, which is all things to all people, whether it is someone who is looking for a subcompact Yaris, a hybrid crossover like the Highlander, a full-size Tundra pickup, or practically anything else—with the exception, at least for now, of anything that would get into the performance segment of the market.
Lexus now offers not only the IS and GS sport sedans, but the RC coupe, which is a stunning car. And in the Scion lineup, in addition to the sporty(ish) tC, there is the no-apologies FR-S.
All of which leads me to the Toyota Avalon.
The 2015 Avalon is a handsome car. Handsome like, say, George Clooney. Yes, Clooney is a Boomer.
It is striking, not flashy. It is comfortable without being sofa-like. It is upscale without being haughty or unobtainable. It is roomy and well equipped. It is appropriately powered. It is fuel efficient for its size.
It is where, perhaps, the Lexus ES was.
Arguably, if it wasn’t that Lexus sold so many, they might cede that type of vehicle to the Avalon.
The Avalon XLE Touring has an MSRP of $36,080. That’s before the $825 for delivery. And in the vehicle I was in there was one option, $225 for mats.
Yet it would be hard for me to discern what it might be that someone would really want to add. There is leather for the seats and steering wheel and shifter. Premium audio and a seven-inch touchscreen. Pushbutton start. Homelink. Quadrabeam headlights in the front, dual chrome-tipped exhaust pipes in the back. A blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
Missing from that car were lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control, but those are far from being deal breakers.
The Avalon has a 268-hp 3.5-liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic. Yes, there are paddles on the sides of the steering wheel for those so inclined, but let’s face it: you don’t drive in a big sedan to satisfy that inclination.
The biggest problem that the Avalon has is that many people probably don’t know that it exists—or at least don’t know that it has gone beyond when it was a somewhat bland, bloated and pretty much innocuous barge meant to compete with Buick. (With the current Avalon, Buick probably wishes it had the car in its lineup.)
Boomers really ought to learn about this car.
Engine: 3.5-liter, DOHC VVT-I V6
Material: Aluminum block and heads
Horsepower: 268 @ 6,200 rpm
Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Steering: Electrically assisted rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 111 in.
Length: 195.3 in.
Width 72.2 in.
Height: 57.5 in.
EPA passenger volume: 102.3-cu. ft. (w/ moonroof)
EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 21/31/24 mpg