At the launch event for the 2012 Toyota Camry, the presenting executive noted price reductions of up to $2,000. Quite often such reductions are accomplished by deleting previously standard features. Case in point: the 2012 Volkswagen Passat, where we found that once you adjust for feature differences a $7,180 price drop shrunk to a much smaller, if still substantial, $2,400. So with the redesigned Camry I withheld commenting on the price reduction until I could run the car through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool.
The results are much more interesting than I expected (cars with automatic transmission):
|2011 Camry Base||22005||22005|
|2012 Camry L||22715||-175||22540||+535|
|2011 Camry LE||23460||23460|
|2012 Camry LE||23260||-225||23035||-425|
|2011 Camry SE||24725||24725|
|2012 Camry SE||23760||-825||22935||-1790|
|2011 Camry SE V6||27400||27400|
|2012 Camry SE V6||27400||-2975||24425||-2975|
|2011 Camry XLE||26725||26725|
|2012 Camry XLE||24725||+615||25340||-1385|
|2011 Camry XLE V6||30605||30605|
|2012 Camry XLE V6||30605||-2060||28545||-2060|
|2011 Camry Hybrid||27810||27810|
|2012 Camry Hybrid||26660||-160||26500||-1360|
In every case but the XLE, the feature adjustment is actually in the 2012s favor, widening rather than narrowing its price advantage. So the price decrease is real…with one notable exception: the price of the cheapest Camry actually went up. In fact, the size of the decrease varies considerably by trim level and powertrain.
To highlight the pattern, let’s compare trim levels:
|MSRP||Feature Adjust||Adj. MSRP||Diff.|
|2012 Camry L||22715||22715|
|2012 Camry LE||23260||-725||22535||-180|
|2012 Camry SE||23760||-2175||21585||-1130|
|2012 Camry SE V6||27400||-4325||23075||+360|
|2012 Camry XLE||25485||-3380||22105||-610|
|2012 Camry XLE V6||30605||-7205||23400||+685|
|2012 Camry Hybrid||26660||-1300||25360||+2645|
So the LE is a slightly better value than the L, but the difference between the two “garden variety” Camrys isn’t large enough to matter. At the other end of the spectrum, the Hybrid has come down $1,360 compared to last year, leaving it (only?) about $2,600 more than the equivalent conventionally-powered car. The XLE and especially the XLE V6 follow a value-pricing scheme, essentially providing a $600 discount for checking off all of the boxes. Ford commonly does this. The Germans, on the other hand, typically go in the other direction, making the base car the best value then charging big bucks for options.
The big surprise is the SE, where Toyota appears to have lifted a page from the Mercedes-Benz playbook. For the past few years Mercedes has been providing a free sport package on the C-Class. More recently they’ve done the same with the E-Class. On other models the “AMG” body kit, wheels, and suspension can cost thousands of dollars. On these models it’s free. Why? Because Mercedes want to change their image from stodgy to sporty.
Similarly, Toyota charges $500 more for the SE than the LE, but fits it with about $1,500 in additional features. Opt for the V6, and they go even further, piling on standard features far more than they bump the price. The 2012 has the same base price as the 2011, but includes nearly $3,000 in additional standard features, most notably the new Entune system which includes nav. So while the 2012 SE V6 lists for $4,685 more than the 2012 L, all but $360 of this price difference is accounted for by its additional features. Not included in this calculation: the SE V6’s more powerful engine, larger whees, stickier tires, and sport suspension. Would you pay $360 to go from a 179-horsepower four-cylinder engine and 16-inch wheels shod with grip-free tires to a 268-horsepower V6 and 18-inch wheels shod with performance rubber? A stupid question, isn’t it?
Given the effective $3,000 price cut, it’s no surprise that the SE V6 also compares very favorably with competitors (all with leather, nav, and sunroof):
|MSRP||Feature Adjust||Adj. MSRP||Diff.|
|Camry SE V6||30260||30260|
|Mazda6 s Grand Touring||32365||+2110||34475||+4215|
|VW Passat V6 SEL Premium||33720||+410||34130||+3870|
|Honda Accord EX-L||32600||+1125||33725||+3465|
|Nissan Altima 3.5 SR||32470||+425||32895||+2635|
|Ford Fusion Sport||33135||-775||32360||+2325|
|Hyudai Sonata Limited 2.0T||31055||+375||31430||+1170|
|Dodge Avenger R/T||28035||+1175||29210||-1050|
Only the Ford includes more stuff than the feature-laden Camry—notice the often sizable feature adjustments. So the Camry has both a lower sticker price and more features. Wonder why the Mazda6 doesn’t sell better? Now you know at least part of the reason. The “reduced price” Passat might now be in the hunt, but it’s also near the top of the range. Toyota has even managed to significantly outdo the aggressive Koreans. Only the lame duck Dodge manages to undercut the new Camry. And if you compare invoices rather than sticker prices, even it ends up about $200 more. (Toyota dealers enjoy wider margins than most, so all of the above comparisons would shift even further in the Camry’s favor if we compared invoice prices.)
Apparently Toyota is sick of hearing about how boring Camrys are to look at and drive. To counteract this, they want fewer LEs and more SEs on the road, and they’re subsidizing the price of the latter to make this happen. If the styling and suspension of the SE simply aren’t your thing, they’d prefer that you opt for the Hybrid. Dead set on the L or LE? Toyota will still sell you a driving appliance, but they’re easily the worst values in the bunch.