There Goes Another One

  • November 11, 2023

You may have heard about Toyota’s replacement for its Avalon sedan – the largest sedan Toyota sold that isn’t a Lexus. It’s called the Crown – and what’s perhaps most interesting about it is that unlike the Avalon, it no longer comes standard with a V6. Or even offers one as an option.

It comes only with a four cylinder/hybrid drivetrain now. Readers of this column will know why.

It is not because buyers have been clamoring for a four cylinder engine in an almost-full-sized sedan. It is because a four cylinder engine – with the aid of a hybrid (i.e., partially electric) drivetrain – is essential for Toyota, which has to deal with a looming (2026) Great Leap Forward of federal gas mileage mandatory minimums from the current mid-30s to just shy of 50 MPG.

The 2023 Crown hybrid comes close to “achieving compliance” with this. Not quite all-the-way. But averaging 40 MPG (which the Crown hybrid does) is much closer to the pending mandatory MPG minimum of nearly 50 MPG than the V6 Avalon’s 26 MPG average.

And so sayonara to the V6.

Also to the Avalon’s lower price.

The final (2022) model of the latter stickered for $36,825 to start. The new Crown stickers for $39,950 to start, a difference of $3,125. That’s how much extra you’ll be spending to “save on gas” – per the logic of the government. And you’ll also be losing – to the tune of 65 horsepower. That’s the difference between the power output of the formerly standard 3.5 liter, 301 horsepower V6 that came standard in the Avalon and the newly standard 2.5 liter, 236 horsepower four cylinder/hybrid combo that comes standard in the new Crown.

There is a little bit of good news in that you can choose to buy a new Crown with a smaller (but stronger, because turbo-goosed) 2.4 liter engine, also paired with a partially “electrified” hybrid powertrain. This combo makes more power (340 horsepower) than the force-retired 3.5 liter V6. But it’ll cost you Lexus money – $52,530.

This version of the Crown is – by far –  the most expensive sedan Toyota has ever offered.

It is also the heaviest – by far.

This version of the crown weighs an astounding 4,306 lbs., which – for the record – is almost as heavy as a 1970 Cadillac Sedan deVille, which was a much larger car, with a much larger (472 cubic inch or nearly 8 liter) V8 engine under its hood. And – by the way – the ’70 deVille, which was a Cadillac and a top-of-the-line model for Cadillac – stickered originally for $6,118 which, in today’s money, is about $2k less than the base price of this top-of-the-line Toyota.

Interestingly, the 340 horsepower version of the Crown only average 30 MPG – or only 4 MPG better than the sayonara’d V6 Avalon achieved.

It’s interesting because it tells us – without spelling it out – what the real cost of “saving gas” is.

Let me spell it out for you:

Toyota is still offering the power of the V6 Avalon – in the form of the 340 horsepower iteration of the Crown – that has the power you used to get standard in the Avalon. But the cost of acquisition is much higher – to the tune of $15,705. That is the difference in price between the new Crown with its optional (more powerful) turbo-hybrid drivetrain and the no-longer-available Avalon that came standard with a powerful drivetrain.

And here’s where it gets really interesting.

By dint of its price, fewer people will opt to buy the new Crown with its available drivetrain, which is why Toyota is able to offer it at all.

If that sounds counterintuitive it’s because you don’t appreciate how CAFE – Corporate Average Fuel Economy – regs work. CAFE being the formal acronym for the federally mandated gas mileage mandatory minimums that are about to Great Leap Forward to just shy of 50 MPG. They work by punishing (via fines) the selling of vehicles that do not comply with the regs. The manufacturers thus are incentivized to not sell them. Or – more finely – to sell as few of them as possible as fewer sold have a lesser impact on the manufacturer’s overall CAFE “fleet average.”

A really effective way to sell fewer cars – or trucks or SUVs – is to make it so that fewer can afford to buy them. Yet it is still important for appearances’ sake to offer the kinds of vehicles most people used to be able to afford. Or which they could at least aspire to owning. More finely – as regards this case-in-point – Toyota can tout that a 340 horsepower version of the Crown is available and that this version of the Crown is more powerful and so, putatively an upgrade over the old V6-powered Avalon.

But the fine print – so to speak – is that you probably won’t be able to afford this upgrade. And even if you can, fewer other will be able to.

In brief, CAFE is not about “saving gas.” It is about proletarianizing cars. The people who can afford it will always be able to get the power they want.

It is the rest of us who will be unable to get it, because we’ve been priced out of the market.

This is the mechanism (one of them) by which a new variant of feudalism is asserting itself and re-establishing the old prerogatives and status of wealth and privilege. It is not enough for the new Lords of the Heath to own nice things; it is everything (to the Lords of the Heath) that we do not own them.

Once you understand this, you will understand everything.

. . .

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