New Toyota Avalon previewed at January luncheon

By Paul Borden - 24 of January, 2013

The new year got off to a great start for SAMA with 48 members and guests gathering at the Country Club of Coral Gables on Jan. 24.

Southeast Toyota Distributors sponsored the first monthly luncheon of 2013, previewing the new Toyota Avalon, the company’s flagship sedan.

Several models, including the hybrid version, were on hand, and members were not only able to get a close look at but also to take part in a brief ride-and-drive if desired.

Jason Davis, sales administration manager for Southeast Toyota, gave the presentation for what is the first all-Toyota product under company president Akio Toyoda’s policy announced four years ago that he wanted to see “more exciting” cars in his company’s product line.

“I was at a Toyota dealership for 11 years and this was the car we were waiting on,” Davis said. “Akio, when he took back control of the company he changed a lot of things, and this is the first car that we built and produced that’s completely designed in the U.S. and built in the U.S. completely with the U.S. in mind.

“This is not a global car. Nobody was sending spec sheets back to Japan saying, ‘Is this OK?’ This is our car. This was was really his pride and joy.”

The big difference was in the exterior design, which features such details as tail lamps that match the shape of the dual exhaust tips (except for the hybrid, which has hidden exhaust tips), and in the company’s emphasis on producing a vehicle with a quiet ride to suit its primary audience.

And indeed, though there was no opportunity to take the vehicle out on the expressway, it certainly did prove to be a smooth, comfortable ride through the streets of Coral Gables.

The Avalon comes in either the hybrid version (40 mpg) or with a 3.5-liter, V6 engine that drinks regular, 87 octane fuel at a rate of 21 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway. It is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection on higher-end models.

It’s not a neck-snapper, but with 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, it’s no slouch in the power department.

“It’s not a sports car,” Davis said. “We’re not unrealistic there. But it is a great performing car.”

Pricing for the Avalon starts around $31,000 for the base XLE, $36,000 for the hybrid, and $40,000 for the top-of-the-line Limited model. XLE Premium and XLE Touring versions are in between.

Before the meeting, Vice President Bill Adam presided over a brief business session in the absence of President Jaime Florez, who was tending to family business at the last minute.

Bill noted that at the year’s first executive board meeting, the decision was made to raise the dues by $50, which results in a fee of $100 for an individual press membership.

This is still below what is more common nationally, he noted. In addition to annual dues, some organizations also charge $20 to attend their luncheon, which SAMA does not.

The increase is necessary to help cover some of the costs of our annual events, such as Rides-N-Smiles, Topless in Miami, the Miami Auto Show Awards luncheon, and the holiday party. When SAMA was first formed, the only events were the auto show event (then a breakfast) and the holiday party.

Even though there are sponsors for the events, there are still some expenses that SAMA itself must cover.

Dues for other membership categories are now $200 for corporate press, $150 for individual associate, and $300 for corporate associate members.Treasurer Marcello Serrato said he will be sending out invoices as reminders, but checks may be sent to him now!

Marcello, who also serves as membership chairman, announced four new members have joined the SAMA rolls: Zipporah Sandler of Champagne Living/the Review Broads; Sergio Rodriguez of ESPN; Sebastian Berzoni, of GarageTV; and Luis Gonzalez Jr. and Leon Gonzalez, both of Automovilismonline. Raquel Moreno, who is with Marlen Bedoya’s Fashion Road Magazine, also was in attendance.

Speaking of Rides-N-Smiles, Bill noted that the event continues to grow and grow. The turnout last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway was the best yet, and two hospitals in addition to Baptist Children’s and Miami Children’s have inquired about taking part.

Bill’s answer: The more children (and Wounded Warriors) there are, the better it is.

But he also needs help with organizing and running the day’s event and will be seeking volunteers to handle the multitude of tasks that come up.

That ties in with a suggestion from Woodie Lesesne for the creation of committees to handle the details of planning for the various events. Secretary Tony Lesesne noted that each of the events has unique characteristics and demands.

And speaking of the auto show, John Kiskinis said the dates for the 2013 event in Miami Beach are Nov. 8-17, so mark your calendars now. Wait. Does anyone actually mark calendars? Just put it down in your iPad.

Ron Beasley, who has headed up the judging committee for the auto show awards, pointed out that the 2012 Star of the Show, the new Scion FRS, has gone on to win several other awards. That seems to have been pretty much the case every year with SAMA’s choices at Miami leading the way. The Ford Fusion Hybrid, SAMA’s choice for Green Vehicle of the Year, also has since won more recognition nationally.

All it all, it was quite a way to start off the new year.

We want to thank Southeast Toyota Distributors for sponsoring the luncheon. In addition to Davis, the presenter, Bob Duffin, Vehicle Operations Manager for SET, and Christie Caliendo and Sheba Munn of SET’s PR team attended.

We want to thank them for taking the time out of their schedule to attend and for organizing the event.

SAMA members are asked to keep checking their email boxes for news of the February meeting, which is scheduled now for March 1. (Yes, the February meeting will actually be in March. It’s a short month.)

Hope to see you there!



Photos & Videos by Pepe Delfino - Click on photos to enlarge