With a concert at Third Man Records, a tour of the Toyota’s new research and development site on a former mental hospital outside Ann Arbor, the automaker unveiled its new 2019 Avalon with the highest-level JBL audio system of any Toyota in the history of the company it’s claimed. (Toyota Prius Prime Sees Electric Range Increase to 120, GM Celebrates Old Tech Center as Volkswagen Builds New One)
Premium automotive stereo systems are not new, of course, going back decades when the Chevrolet Corvette debuted a Bose sound system designed exclusively for what arguably remains the best sports car value on the market. (Corvette ZR1 Sets Lap Record at VIR)
The newest Toyota sedan – already known for its quietness – and the modern facility represent a heightened level of cooperation between Toyota and suppliers by working from concept to roll out of a vehicle. JBL is no stranger to Toyota vehicles. Again, this is standard industry practice. However, the large Toyota facility is cleverly designed so suppliers have access to the entire first floor of the main building that includes bay doors to bring vehicles and large parts in, conference rooms and CAD machines.
The sedan is a backdrop for an investment in Michigan by the Japanese-based automaker as the Trump administration is beating the drums of a nascent trade war with importers of countries that tax U.S. goods and services at a different level – often far, far higher – than the U.S. The Japanese company has put $154 million into Michigan over the last 18 months, including expansion of an existing powertrain facility in Ann Arbor, construction of the new prototype facility at Saline as well as the construction of the supplier center building in Saline.
The plan involved moving 300 positions from Kentucky and California to complete the 1,600-member work force located outside Ann Arbor. Toyota continues to recruit talent, partially by raiding the Detroit Three, who are also desperately looking for electronics, programming or autonomous vehicle skills. Overseeing the testing and execution of the audio system, that sounds more like a private recording session than a concert hall, are Randy Stephens, Avalon Chief Engineer, Clinton Williams, Group Manager, Electronic Systems and Chuck Jimenez, Group Manager Electronics Systems. Two rooms are dedicated to sound testing, and there are other labs that test audio too as part of their different roles.
Toyota told MLive.com in 2017 when the supplier facility opened that it gets about 95% of the steel for American made Toyotas from within the United states. However, only 71% of Toyota vehicles sold in America are made in North America. The company has 69 manufacturing facilities in more than 30 countries – such is the nature of the global car business, but that was before Trump on unfair trade.
Designing a sound system from the tires up means looking at every part of the car. Dynamometer testing specifically for sound helps identify existing buzzes, rattles and squeaks. Listening to Pink Floyd barely impinges on road noise in the Avalon until a pothole takes out a tire and the testers are left with a run flat tire and scratched rim. The thump, thump was there, but barely, well, audible.