By on June 1, 2012

The Toyota Camry and Honda Accord were once bitter rivals for the title of “America’s Best-Selling Car”. The Camry is still top dog year-to-date, but the number two spot has changed. Meanwhile, Honda’s two core products rank third and fourth.

The Toyota Camry has a comfortable lead on the Nissan Altima at the half-way point in 2012. The Camry has outsold the Altima by 46,507 units so far, but the Altima’s real challenge could come from the Honda Civic. The Altima has a mere 425 unit lead on the third place Civic, which seems to be finally pulling away from the Corolla/Matrix. The compact Toyotas were also best (barely) by the Honda Accord, which is likely getting the royal treatment from the factory and dealers as a new model changeover compels them to get rid of the “old” model.

For the full table of the top 20 best sellers, check out Timothy Cain’s sales report

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35 Comments on “Toyota, Nissan, Honda Duke It Out For Best-Seller Bragging Rights At Halftime...”

  • avatar

    31,849 Toyota Corolla/Matrix sold.

    31,849 people that didn’t cross shop at all in the C-Segment.

    Yes please, I would like an under powered ancient 1.8L 4-banger that gets middling fuel economy attached to a 4-speed automatic with rear drum brakes and an interior with about as much charm as a dentist’s office waiting room at the free care clinic, wrapped in a dated body attached to a really dated chassis.

    But – I guess when you’re giving them away with $149 lease payments people over look middling fuel economy, 4-speed automatics, under powered engines, ancient chassis and rear drum brakes.


    • 0 avatar

      People want reliable, efficient, and cheap. If the only luxury you want is A/C, the Corolla is often the cheapest compact sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      For the record, the Corolla, with it’s ancient engine and transmission, actually gets near-class-leading real-world fuel economy and performance. I mean, they could add GDI and a couple more gears, but really, why?

      And rear drum brakes are a handicap when you’re driving at 9/10ths, as most Corolla drivers do in the ~2800lb front-drive econobox, and that they’re longer-lasting (and thusly cheaper to own) doesn’t factor in at all.

      • 0 avatar

        This. So much this.

        <— Owner of a 191,000mi and change Matrix. Parents bought it new in 2002. I bought it off them with ~140,000 on the clock when I finished graduate school.

        All it has ever received from either owner is routine maintenance. Fluids, Filters, Tires, and Gas.

        They simply do. not. break. And that's what matters to the majority of their buyers.

        TTAC'ers complain a lot about cars as appliances. What they seem to forget is that most people actually exchanging money for cars – i.e. the people the manufacturers actually care about – WANT appliances. Dead reliable, cheap to own appliances. Toyota has that. Toyota *invented* that, and has perfected that to a far greater degree than anyone with the possible exception of Honda and the Civic. Through that strange lens, the Corolla is class-leading.

      • 0 avatar

        I just do not get the fetish for rear disc brakes on small economy cars. In that application they accomplish exactly nothing except to increase maintenance costs.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re on to something, Sleuth.

        I’ve put several sets of front discs on my 91 Accord, but only one set of rears in 21 years. I keep finding that hard to believe, so – once again – last time it was in for front brakes, I asked if the rears needed to be done too… and was told there was still 40% left. Some day I’ll scratch the itch to have new brakes all around, but so far the car isn’t letting me.

        Stopping power? It stops fine, just like it always did.

      • 0 avatar

        disk brakes are easier to service. I have never noticed a significant difference in the price of pads vs. shoes. My mother owns a corolla but hers is a 5 speed. It is decent enough in that combo. With a 4 speed auto? not so much. Anyway, it’s your money.

      • 0 avatar

        Drums are cheaper to build because of the parking brake. You have to either build a redundant drum brake assembly into the “top hat” of the rotor of come up with a cable operated “caliper” over the hydraulic one. Since FWD cars are nose-heavy to start and braking tends to shift more weight onto the front tires, drums are way more than adequate. They last almost forever so the cost of replacement parts and labor is a non-issue.

    • 0 avatar
      Volts On Fire

      Well, it IS reliable. Not my personal cup of tea, but you cannot fault how Toyota accommodates its target buyer perfectly.

      I’d wager 99.999999% of the Corolla drivers out there don’t care a whit about a 4-speed automatic, or rear drum brakes, as they drive their 100,000+ mile Corollas past broken down GDI Hyundais, Focuses with blown transmissions, or Cruzes that have caught fire.

      In a related note, it’s nice to see Toyota rebound from both the tsunami, and the DOT-led smear campaign.

      • 0 avatar

        I hear the NHTSA is opening up an investigation on Toyota Camrys for engine fires.

        Appears a Toyota Camry immolated itself with an “apparent engine malfunction” while driving on I-95 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 8, 2012.

        …A Fort Lauderdale firefighter was in the right place at the right time when a car burst into flames on northbound Interstate 95 on Tuesday but the Toyota could not be saved…

        …The cause was a mechanical malfunction with the fire starting in the engine compartment, totally destroying the vehicle, he said…

        Then there was the Toyota Camry that crashed into a Chevy Volt on May 23rd that caught on fire after the crash. The Volt was not involved and the battery remained intact.

        …Instead the Camry went through the intersection, hopped over a ditch, plowed across a lawn, struck two cars sitting side-by-side in a driveway, pushing the cars back 25 feet, and causing damage to the house. The car taking the brunt of the damage, a brand new Chevy Volt, was destroyed beyond recognition, in part because the Camry landed on top of the Volt. The 1998 Grand Cherokee Jeep sitting next to the Volt was also damaged enough to be declared a total loss. The collision caused a fire in the Camry’s engine, quickly put out by neighbors, and sent the Camry’s driver to the hospital with severe injuries…

        Two engine fires – investigate! Investigate! Investigate! ;-)

        * For the obtuse – this is snark. Just as I think an engine fire investigation for the Cruze is ridiculous based on two fires with over 850,000 units sold (globally) investigating Toyota due to these two incidents, equally ridiculous.

        ** Doesn’t change my opinion that the Corolla is a dated penalty box on wheels and there are better choices in the C-segment and better choices in general if you move out of the C-segment (Kia Soul) for the same or less money.

        *** I’m not a fan of the Elantra either – but I would certainly cross shop it at least over the Corolla.

        **** What, no mention of the Honda Civic? At least its a bit more fun to drive and gets better MPG.

      • 0 avatar

        Honda has incentives on the out going car? Will Honda do like Toyota and offer incentives on the 2012 Camry in December 2011, or about a month after release?

      • 0 avatar

        My Hyundai Tucson has given me not 1 issue in the 70,000 miles I’ve owned it. In fairness, neither has my mother’s Corolla HOWEVER the corolla’s interior has not held up worth a darn. The bezel and boot on the shifter never stays attached, the turn signal switch quit working once and the power mirror switch became detached. Meanwhile the Hyundai, with equally dated 4 cylinder and 4 speed auto chugs along with no issues whatsoever and its interior shuttles around 2 boys who are hell bent on destruction while the Corolla shuttles around my retired mother.

        Forgive me if I’m wrong here, but doesnt a dated engine attached to a 4 speed auto with generic styling and an interior that won’t hold up sound a lot like an early 90’s Buick?

        And mileage past 150k is all about maintenance. My fathers old supposedly craptastic Ford Bronco II went 350k with regular oil changes and decent maintainence (though it did get a new Mitsibushi 5 speed during its life. Meanwhile my supposedly able to survive the apocalypse 80 series land cruiser’s straight 6 spit its internals into the oil pan at 248k. The simple act of checking the oil regularly (previous owner did not I came to learn) is as important as anything at that point.

    • 0 avatar

      APaGttH – Just because you dont like a Corolla, it doesnt make it stupid to buy one. Reliability is more important than rear drums to many buyers in this segment. Reliability is more important than an extra 10-15 hp via a DI engine to many buyer. Corolla is also fairly spacious and has a nice upright greenhouse for visibility. If I were recommending a car to a young school teacher who makes 40K a year, I would probably include the Corolla. Drive it for 10 years, just add gas, oil, tires.

      Your snarky dismissal of reliability shows your narrow minded ignorance of the actual market.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t you know that APAGttH is our intellectual superior? Anybody who would buy a Corolla without even cross shopping some flash-in-the-pan domestic is not worthy of breathing his air.

        His perpetual arrogant crankiness about Japanese-branded cars is always good for a laugh.

    • 0 avatar

      The Corolla is horribly cheaply appointed and generally boring in every other way, but it’s still reliable and almost unbelievably efficient in the real world. It’s also cheaper than many competitors now, at least going by MSRP. For people that just want a transportation appliance, it’s not hard to see the appeal.

      Of course I’d prefer almost any other car in that class over the Corolla, but I actually have an interest in cars and like driving.

    • 0 avatar

      “interior with about as much charm as a dentist’s office”

      Don’t say that. My dentist office waiting room has a chic modern design and excellent quality.

    • 0 avatar
      VA Terrapin

      Trying not to factor in reliability when considering a Corolla or any other mainstream sedan is like trying not to factor in performance when considering a sports car or cargo capacity when considering a truck or van.

      I’m pretty sure everybody on TTAC gets it ApaGttH, you really hate Corollas. Instead of constantly bashing Corollas on TTAC, why don’t you use your own money to pay potential Corolla customers to buy something else if you don’t already do that?

  • avatar

    Corollas are great cars for people who don’t care about driving or image. And that’s not an insult to Corolla drivers. Folks who care about driving might be the kinds of folks to needlessly test the strength of their rear brakes on public streets. Folks who care about image might be the kinds of folks who will “stretch their budget” to lease a stripper C-class and have no savings. There’s an element of rationale missing in the folks who demand more from the Corolla than it delivers- and to the average, rational person it delivers a lot.

    Now would I drive a Corolla? Well, maybe if it came in stickshift. But that would only be doable if I could keep my motorcycle as a second vehicle. So I too am a victim of vanity and testosterone. But the point is, just because you might think a car’s essence is nothing more than its 0-60 time or EPA fuel economy rating doesn’t mean it is to anyone else, or that it is period.

  • avatar

    We’ve just gone through the worst recession since the great depression, and people are still complaining about others buying boring economical cars. Maybe there was a lesson to be learned in the wake of 2008…

  • avatar

    I actually like the looks of the new Camry, though it is a refresh of the old model, but still more pleasing to my eye.

    Would I buy one? Who knows? I WANT a new Impala, but if I still have my long commute for the next 5 years, comfort will win the day.

  • avatar

    I hate Toyotas… always have, always will. I will never own one. But I certainly recommend them to people who just want a toaster to drive.

    • 0 avatar

      I get the feeling that if Toyota ever changed the name of the Corolla to the Toyota Toaster, it wouldn’t affect sales one bit. In fact, it might even help since the Corolla can aptly be described as the ultimate toaster on wheels (and that’s exactly what the people who buy them are looking for).

      I mean, in the classic GM style, Toyota builds the Corolla so it’s just good enough to maintain its reliability lead. Any concerns about poor driving dynamics mean little to that demographic. It starts, drives, and gets reasonable fuel mileage with virtually no drama, and will continue to do so for hundreds of thousands of miles.

      That’s all those buyers want.

      • 0 avatar
        VA Terrapin

        When the current Corolla first came out, Chevy was selling the Cobalt, Ford was selling a 90s era Focus, VW was trying to shake off its reputation of horrible unreliability across the board, and Hyundai was selling a very plain Elantra. The only interesting competitors to the Corolla back then were the Mazda3 and Honda Civic.

        Gotta like competition. Chevy, Ford, VW and Hyundai seem to have improved their latest C segment entries for North America a lot. We’ll see how well the next generation Corolla keeps up.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      A friend owns a generic silver Corolla. Not my first choice, but it’s cheap to own with lots of interior volume.

      The 2010 and 2011 Toyota Camry SE drives like a Honda, but without so much road noise. Not bad if you need a fairly big car with good fuel economy. The 2012 is literally geared for better fuel economy and I’m not sold on electric power steering, but it’s a decent car for it’s price.

  • avatar

    Ive been a Hyundai salesman for 4 years, and now find myself in the unusual position of being the higher priced option compared to the Civic with the Elantra. Not only does Honda offer less expensive packages vs the Elantra, but they are giving them away as well. We are being undercut by $2-3k when comparing the Civic LX to the Elantra GLS (the Civic has less equipment). I never have people cross shopping with the Corolla, though.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t agree with you more on your Corolla statements, and as you can tell by the stories of loyal of Corolla owners facts and figures will not sway them, and for good reason. The majority of Corolla owners do not care how the Corolla performs in the quarter mile, or how it handles tight curves on a mountain road. What they want is something cheap and reliable. I also suspect the vast majority of Corolla owners possess two X chromosomes, and all they care about is that it doesn’t break down. Toyota perfected this formula and has been using it for years, successfully. Only when those who buy Corollas realize there are better products out there and that they are being milked for Toyota’s profits, will they change. Right now, the Corolla is a laughing stock of the auto industry, but it is cheap and reliable. Corolla owners think they are laughing their way to the bank, and they may.

    • 0 avatar

      The “it doesn’t break down” thing is a bit of a canard these days. The gap between most reliable and least reliable is pretty darn narrow (and the studies support that if you chaffe out the niche Euro crap at the bottom of the reliability reports).

      Reliability is a function of maintenance today. Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual to maintain the warranty, use good gas, keep it washed and waxed, and ANY car you buy today will go 150K miles without much drama and will likely go 300K miles.

      Before the Corolla masses come out with their torches on this blasphemous suggestion, TTAC stated it themselves in a piece written just yesterday, about how any car bought today can go 300K drama free miles if you just avoid C.R.A.P. (ping) up the vehicle you buy.

      It just works argument is thin when there are better offerings. But I’ll concede that the Corolla is a great toaster on wheels, and the toaster in my kitchen I bought almost 30 years ago. A couple of times it acted like death was upon it, but just as I would go to replace it – perfect toast made fast. Yay!

      I strongly disagree with some who have suggested that buyers don’t care about being “almost as good” in the MPG department. Toyota is clearly concerned about perception in the MPG universe, and doesn’t want to bring it’s middle-lower pack MPG status into the mix. Their latest advertisement does not mention MPG at all, it calls it, “legendary.”

      When I hear the world “legendary” I think legend, legend strongly implies the past – not the present. Even Honda is calling out specifically in their Civic ads, which strongly implies it is going after Hyundai (without coming out against them directly) that they have 39 MPG. When you don’t mention a number – you’re appealing to the base – not conquest. That strategy didn’t work out well for Detroit long term.

      • 0 avatar

        “Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual to maintain the warranty, use good gas, keep it washed and waxed, and ANY car you buy today will go 150K miles without much drama…”

        That’s VW talk.

        If you lovingly maintain your car by the book then yes, the Toyota is probably not the way to go. However, I’ve heard from Corolla fans that they like the car (and its old technology) because it holds up to abuse and deferred maintenance better than its competitors. It’s not really that much different than why some people like the Panthers- there is just a lot more people buying the Toyota.

        You call it a toaster, I’d call it a mule.

    • 0 avatar

      Careful on the chromosome guess.

      I love my Corolla (Matrix) specifically because it’s such a good appliance. It lets me live my life easily and hassle free when I have a project going on my other vehicle (pickup) and need to leave it disassembled for a few days.

      This is exactly what I want from my DD. Appliancehood. The Pickup gets used for truck things and wheeling. When its paid off, the pony car (likely 5.0 Mustang) that will join them both in the driveway will also be served well on the mileage and longevity end by not being forced to tromp around town every day.

      I very much have a Y chromosome, very much love cars, and very much love my Corolla because it’s always there to handle my transportation needs when I don’t want to drive my other toys.

    • 0 avatar

      > he majority of Corolla owners do not care how the Corolla performs in the quarter mile, or how it handles tight curves on a mountain road. What they want is something cheap and reliable. I also suspect the vast majority of Corolla owners possess two X chromosomes, and all they care about is that it doesn’t break down

      Not necessarily, but funny story that. In one summer, three of my friends and acquaintances found their future wives or at least steady girl friends while driving Corollas…. one while he was driving a loaner while his heavily modded Honda was in the shop, one because it was the only beater car he could afford, and one because that was the family car they had at the time. All of them praised the mighty studliness of the Corolla.

  • avatar

    I think most everyone is hitting on the same thing, but let me say it a little different way: Toyodas are popular because we as a society have changed. People supposedly want toasters, but again why?

    1. They are supposedly reliable and cheap to maintain: Maybe, if you are driving is the same slow speed trip around town, or the easy highway drive commuters have, even in traffic. It’s easy to keep a car reliable if you never put any stress on it, or make the car work to do something out of the ordinary.

    2. It’s easy to have a toaster if you fit in the same box as the car. If you are 5’10”, with a spouse that size or smaller, with little kids, or no kids, then the box fits. The Toyoda and the junk pile Nissan is the true “people’s car”, at least if you are just like ‘everyone else’. Don’t tow anything, don’t have needs for lots storage, and don’t have needs for anything but the utilitarian choices the Toyoda/Honda/Nissan decides you need, and it may work for a long time. Maybe.

    3. How many of those modern cars can be maintained by their owner? None of them. Modifying a car risks damaging it, or allowing the owner to do anything else but take it to the quicklube, the dealer or the car wash to sweep it out makes the car a risk for unreliability. So these manufacturers make the cars unrepairable by their owners, and it works as long as you don’t stress it, or heaven forbid wanting to do something to it so it’s your car. Keep the car in the manufacturer’s ‘sweet spot’ of use, and it will last. Rah!

    4. In my opinion, toasters would have real competition if a person could get a car they wanted. But as Bertel or jack wrote a few months ago, Ford has pioneered ‘big 3 toaster making’: You can go to your Ford store and only buy a car with a certain group of options and limited number of colors chosen by some bureaucrat at Ford. Choice? There is no choice. Joe average person can’t get a car with a blue interior anymore, Ford wants to sell us toasters instead of something that makes it my car, something I want to drive in, work on, and care for. Everything is becoming the same…

    5. Not only do they make cars on in certain ways for people based on some worthless statistical model, the quality of materials in a car is not what it used to. My “new” 2001 SAAB 9-5’s interior totally blows away modern interiors in terms of quality, fit and finish. The old worn leather seats are better than new car seats, there are soft touch materials all over the place, not hard plastic everywhere you turn. There are neat little additions to the car that you don’t find in any other modern car made today. Why?

    5. The economy is bad or whatever term you want to use: Yes, the economy has not been good for a while. But in the past, people would pay a little extra for higher quality items. Now, for good or bad reasons (your choice), people buy the de-contented,cheap materials car because manufacturers would rather pay some slave laborer pennies to make components from the cheapest crap they can find then overcharge for it. Toyota and Honda make second-rate stuff, unless you fit the profile, where the cost-cutting and cheap 8th rate parts won’t hurt too bad.

    That’s not how it used to be. But now, being 6’4″ means I don’t fit well in a toaster with very uncomfortable seats made for someone 5’8″. I drive lots of miles, way more than average, and I need space to carry materials and do my work. A toaster may last 200K but doesn’t work for me or many people when they are not comfortable to drive, adjustable to different needs of owners and versatile enough to do everything a car needs to do.

    I hope one day somebody wakes up and makes a car that truly appeals to people and actually meets their needs. Along the same lines, I hope a car company decides to make a car again that people can take pride in owning and taking care of, then toasters like the Toyoda, Honda, and Nissan will disappear forever.

    One day a new niche car maker will change the market overnight, and lead us away from the common alliance car.

  • avatar

    Corollas is like a cockroaches – prospers defiant of evolution while others got extinct at one point or another and it will survive nuclear war. Imagine if Ford model T still made today and was a best-seller. With Corolla is not a fantasy. Why? Because cockroaches are primitive, low profile and therefore indestructible.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “My “new” 2001 SAAB 9-5′s interior totally blows away modern interiors in terms of quality, fit and finish.”

    My 2004 Saab with only 40k looks like ass with all the chipped rubber paint off the dash. Love the turbo though.

    I have to give props when they’re due – the Camry, especially in SE flavor, is a more than competent hauler for the long run. Note that Honda is bringing out a sport-tuned Accord in a few months, so they feel the heat from Toyota.

    I love the engineering and driving dynamics of our German and Swedish cars. But I love the reliability of our Japanese car. It goes from point A to B with minimal pain. Sometimes that’s all you need.

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