DEARBORN, MI – When the ’05 Avalon is unveiled by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. early next year, expect the next-generation model to sell better with a somewhat younger clientele, says an official.

Although he admits it’s unlikely the fullsize sedan ever will appeal to buyers in their mid-thirties, as does the Corolla, Jim Lentz, vice president-marketing for Toyota’s U.S. sales arm, predicts the new, more stylish Avalon will draw interest from those in their late 40s and early 50s.

Toyota Avalon

“I think we’ll appeal to a younger buyer,” Lentz tells Ward’s at a Toyota event here to roll out a new advertising campaign. “We’re not going to be able to get that average age down there, but I think as you look at the Bell curve of what we’re getting, we’ll be able to shift that a little further left and be able to pick up some younger buyers.”

Lentz says the average age of Avalon owners is 62, some 14 years older than the typical Toyota-brand vehicle owner (48). Corolla S buyers are the youngest of Toyota’s customers, with an average age of 30, give or take a couple years, he says.

“You may see some traits of looking for a younger audience, without turning off our niche crowd,” a Toyota spokesman says of the new Avalon, which he promises “will solidify itself as the flagship vehicle for Toyota.”

Despite Ford Motor Co.’s recent admission that it needs to “de-bland” its new Five Hundred large sedan critics have labeled as boring – especially when compared with the new Chrysler 300, don’t expect Toyota to trick out the Avalon anytime soon.

The styling of the 300, which has been a runaway hit for Chrysler Group, “is probably a bit much (for Toyota’s tastes),” says Lentz. “I personally like (the 300), but that’s a typical reaction of males, not necessarily females. It’s a real polarizing car.

“I don’t think Avalon will be nearly as polarizing as that,” he continues. “But it’s a definite departure and improvement from the current generation.”

Lentz describes the ’05 Avalon’s exterior appearance as “much more sleek and stylish” than the previous generation.

The ’05 Avalon will be the third generation of the car that debuted in the U.S. in the ’95 model year, filling a gap left by the discontinuation of the Cressida after 1991. The second-generation Avalon launched in the ’00 model year.

Avalon sales were down in August at 2,884 units, a drop from 4,945 in like-2003. Both calendar year-to-date and model year-to-date sales are tracking down, as well, off 26.4% (26,330 units Jan.-Aug.) and 27.6% (37,125 units), respectively.

Toyota says it will release further details on the new Avalon in January but declines to specify whether the vehicle’s unveiling will take place at the Los Angeles or Detroit auto show.

The ’04 Avalon will continue to be sold until February, when the ’05 model is slated to go on sale.

For the remainder of the ’04 model year, Toyota says it will expand Vehicle Stability Control to the XL trim level. It previously was offered only on Avalon’s XLS grade.