By on August 8, 2013

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  0% financing for 60 months. Up to $2,000 in dealer rebates, most of which winds up going into customers’ pockets. Rental lines bulging with high-trim sedans as dealers desperately attempt to shovel away product and make room for truckloads of new arrivals. Savvy shoppers are shaving three, four, and even five grand off of MSRP as average transaction prices land in the basement for the class. Despite massive inflows of manufacturer cash, sales volume stagnates and declines as competitors grab more and more market share. All in merely the second model year of Toyota’s marquee product, a legendary nameplate with a (supposedly) loyal customer base and years of carefully-crafted reputation. What, pray tell, is going on here?

            Of course, the midsize sedan wars are no mystery to industry watchers and TTAC readers. Tim Cain’s latest update on the segment helped expose the extent of the bloodletting. For the purposes of this story, the most important takeaway from Tim’s article is just how hollow the title of “best-selling car in America” has become. That moniker now belongs to a single car in a single segment where the largest player has roughly 15% share. Despite the meaninglessness of the crown, Toyota shows no signs of stopping the discount war and forcing volume. Perhaps prodded by a belligerent Nissan’s price-cutting regimen, transaction prices for the Camry are trending ever lower. It’s difficult to tell exactly who is letting their wares go for the lowest price, but if Toyota isn’t at the very bottom, it’s close. Lest I be accused of selective myopia, it’s true that incentive spending is up across the board in this segment, and that many other manufacturers are offering generous sweeteners on their midsizers. In any case, an absolute ranking of incentive spending in a shallow pissing match is not what I’m after here. In the overall game for the heart of the segment, we’re seeing radical market realignment. To stay on top, Toyota is choosing to use the same kind of techniques to maintain sales levels that many of its competitors were once lambasted for utilizing.  Let’s think about what that means for a minute.

            We are now in the position to credibly compare Toyota’s incentive spending, fleet dumping, and overproduction to Nissan and GM, to say nothing of Ford. On a two-year-old model, no less: the car that has defined Toyota’s legacy in the US for the better part of two decades. Not some outdated and soon-to-be-replaced relic like the Corolla, but a nearly-new car with a storied history and an impeccable pedigree. A car that supposedly sold itself until a very short time ago barely moves off dealer lots without a pile of cash and some of the most desperate-sounding marketing in recent memory. (Cars.com counted 38,844 Camrys for sale nationwide at last glance, compared to about half as many Fusions). Toyota is supposed to be above this sort of nonsense, right?

            The Toyota dealer used to be the hallowed ground where you tread lightly and wrote whatever size check the dealer demanded. You were humbled to drive as superlative a machine as a ’92 Camry off the lot, at any price. That market softened with time, but the general pattern stayed the same. Toyota asked, and you handed over the money. As the domestic and second-tier import dealers engaged in progressively wilder fiscal gyrations to move the metal, Toyotas quietly slipped off the lot at or near MSRP. Not a ridiculously large amount of money; plenty of normal proles brought some of the Toyota magic home for themselves, after all. But it was a sharp distinction that became a refrain for the brand’s defenders: People pay more for Toyotas because they’re worth it. They don’t have to be pushed or prodded with cash on the hood and exotic financing because the cars are too good for that. And that’s how it went for years.

            Fast forward two decades, and those halcyon days are gone. Ford is busy hoovering up the top end of the market, while Honda, Nissan, and Hyundai-Kia cut out the middle. Toyota has no chance of beating Chrysler and GM in the deep-discount game. Mazda, VW and Subaru are still stuck on the fringes that Toyota never cared about. The Camry can’t be a car for everybody, but increasingly it looks like a car for nobody. For years, we were led to believe that neatly arranged rows of little red circles were what sold cars in this segment. For years, Toyota racked them up like no one else, Honda included. Today Toyota has just as many little black circles as it ever has, but now it finds itself adrift amongst a sea of competitors with their own paper rag recommendations and their own unique, appreciable traits. Toyota seems completely flummoxed by this; it’s as if there was no contingency plan should the competition ever become decent. The response has been reminiscent of the bad old days of the domestic industry, except that in Toyota’s case there’s less of an excuse for blatant overproduction.

            In short, we’ve seen the Camry leave the orbit of Planet Toyota and come crashing down to Planet Earth instead: a place where price matters, styling sells, and quality, reliability, and fuel efficiency can be sourced from a wide range of sellers. Most of all, it’s a planet where legacy matters little, as the new generation of car buyers grows up not knowing tales of brand-new cars that don’t start, thirty-thousand-mile major mechanical failures, and rust that destroys in five years. They’re ready to indulge their automotive fantasies in a way their conservative parents would never have dared; they can be comfortable knowing that even if they buy the very worst new car on the market, they won’t suffer too badly for it. The inevitable retort is that every one of these new automotive rebels will be horribly burned by their collective ownership experiences and that they’ll be back in the fold in no time. Maybe that will be the case, but I wouldn’t bet on it. That’s not what happened with those crummy little imports in the 70’s, it’s not what happened after Hyundai brought out the Excel, and it hasn’t stopped VW from mounting a serious comeback effort despite that brand’s well-known issues. Lingering quality problems haven’t prevented the German luxury brands from going absolutely ham on the American market either; meanwhile, Lexus and Acura seem increasingly moribund.

            This Camry isn’t a bad car; far from it. If you want one, I wouldn’t tell you no, especially not when they’re available at such fabulously low prices. But forget the Dart and forget the Malibu: the 2012 Camry is the most important flubbed launch in recent memory. It might be the most important flubbed launch since the X-cars. And it’s for this reason and this reason alone: this Camry didn’t stop Planet Toyota from becoming just another rock in a big solar system. The Camry came out of the gate as a completely solid player, a car with no major faults that was unlikely to disappoint its supposedly loyal ownership base. Yet, for whatever reason, more and more customers in the United States started saying no. They continued to say no even as discounts piled on and marketers wringed their hands in desperation. Suddenly, a realization: competence was not a superlative trait anymore. Their competitors over at Honda were busy figuring this out too, as they dealt with their own messy 2012 release. The entire superstructure on which the Camry was positioned came crashing down as more than one competitor started making decent family sedans. Some will probably say the rot started earlier, with the unloved XV40 platform and a swelling crop of credible alternatives. But the next generation was the chance to reverse the decline and sweep out the fleet sales and incentives. It never materialized, and now here we are.

              This Camry has shown without a doubt that the sainted days of Toyota in the United States are over. Nobody is “beyond the market” anymore; the man on the street wants a deal, and he’s not willing to pay extra for Product X if it’s not immediately apparent why it’s superior to Product Y. Was this an avoidable situation, if the Camry had just a little more secret Toyota sauce on it? Maybe, but the response thus far has been anything but ideal. What happens when the previously unshakeable resale values start to go down the tubes as well? Toyota must learn to live in the new reality: Camry as yet another competent family sedan in a sea of competent family sedans. Now it’s Honda’s turn to prove whether or not they can maintain their own halo, so recently jarred by the 2012 Civic and now riding on the outcome of the 2013 Accord. Give it a year or two; the news from Planet Honda might be more of the same.

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244 Comments on “Op-Ed: Was The 2012 Camry A Stealth Failure?...”


  • avatar

    The 2012 Camry’s biggest problem is that the Ford’s Hyundai’s and Honda’s have caught up. I went shopping for a Camry and an Avalon and was amazed how dull and boring they were. The Camry SE 12′ I tested (as well as the new Rav 4) was in many ways not as attractive as the old model. Little things: The Nav screen in the l;ast model was larger than this smaller “entune” crap.
    The Rav 4′s spare tire mounted on back added more character…

    I honestly don’t care if they succeed or fail.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Outside of the FR-S (which we can also thank Subaru for their effort) and the long gone GT-S Celica (we can also thank Yamaha for their brilliant engine work) and the MR-S (mid engine, rwd can never be bad…Fiero aside) Toyota for the past 10 years has been vanilla and boring. Same problem Honda has had as they chase the mass market sales and the billions spent on hybrid powertrain options. Honda however has never chased the overall sales crown (it’s not that they didn’t want it) like Toyota or Ford has done with huge discounts and cramming sales into fleets. The #1 sold car to consumers for the past 20 years has been the Accord. An average of 1-2% goes to fleets versus 20-25% for the Camry and 25-30% for the Fusion (and up to 50% for the Taurus before that).

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        The Celica, MR2 and Supra did not help sell Camrys and Corollas. Hybrids are relevant to more people than performance cars. Maybe one day you will figure out that your personal tastes have little to no bearing on market forces…

        • 0 avatar
          jaje

          Well if sports cars were not at all relevant no one would ever make them and dedicated performance OEMs like Ferrari or Porsche would not exist. When you are driving the tail of the dragon and there’s no traffic which car would be more relevant?

          I do agree more people buy the Prius than an FR-S. But when you go to the showroom which car do you gravitate towards? When driving down the street and you see a nicely kept and unmodified Supra and a Prius which car do you look at and admire. When your kid asks to borrow the car to take his date to prom which keys would he beg for? The Prius, Camry or a MR-S.

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          maybe not immediately… but if someone youngish buys a celica, MR2 or supra, then get older/family/kids

          that positive experience with their toyota might lead them to get a camry, avalon, venza, etc

          the first vehicle i bought new off the lot was a 1985 honda elite 80 scooter, and since then id always admired their engineering.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        Camry failure? Lets see. Last quarter, Toyota made more money than the Detroit 3 combined. Multiples more. Much of that from selling base LE Camrys for 18K. Detroit can not sell base models at 18K and turn a profit. And, customers want base model LEs that last longer and have better resale than high priced optioned up Detroit midsizers. Verdict … Bust for Detroit.

        FYI … there is no shortage of Fusion on the east and west coast. Pleanty are lined up for sale at dealers. The shortage is Fusion buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          billfrombuckhead

          Toyota made money from the Japanese government buying the yen down. Japan has a far higher debt per capita than Greece. Wouldn’t surprise me if more Camrys sold to rental fleets than Fusions. You see hundreds of Camry rental cars at the big auctions.

          • 0 avatar
            84Cressida

            Toyota was making money even when the yen was far over valued. Infact, it’s still over valued, just less so. That argument doesn’t hold water. The only time Toyota has not made money since their founding was 2008 or 2009.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Except, Toyota was on the lower end for the major automakers when it came to profit margins.

        • 0 avatar
          toxicroach

          That’s how the defensive thinking starts… oh, but look at this bright spot, and these guys aren’t doing too great over here, so we don’t have a problem.

          IMO people in general like supporting the domestic manufacturers, so long as the domestics are producing competitive products. That’s why they got away with producing such crap for decades. That was missing for a long time, but not anymore. I’m sure Toyota is doing quite well now, and will probably be doing quite well for decades even if they don’t change anything since they are still producing quality cars, but they need to spice things up a bit.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          The days supply inventory says another story. Well below industry average.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Toyota’s sales were always based on being vanilla, inoffensive, and *dead solid reliable*.

        Nobody bought, e.g., the old pre-Tacoma US-market-Hilux because it looked interesting or was especially powerful or amazingly fuel efficient.

        They bought them because they Just Worked – if not always then far more so than the competition – and lasted “forever”.

        Likewise the Camry (and the Accord, for Honda), in their glory days: they sold like hotcakes to people who wanted a car they wouldn’t have to pay a lot to keep running for most of a decade (or more!), or always have in the shop.

        Now that bar’s a lot lower.

      • 0 avatar
        IndianaDriver

        Don’t forget that Toyota owns a chunk of Subaru and has Subaru produce Camrys in their Lafayette, IN factory alongside their cars. Toyota gives Subaru a lot of support to help come up with vehicles like the FR-S and they are making a good profit off of Subaru’s increased sales. I have a neighbor who just bought another Toyota Corolla after 145,000 trouble free miles. He doesn’t care about styling – just good and reliable transportation. Vanilla or not – Toyota just delivers quality vehicles that don’t stand out in a crowd.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      I agree. The 2007-11 Camry wasn’t very attractive, but the styling of the 2012 model (both inside and out) is even worse. The 2012′s instrument cluster is a complete cluster#$&k.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        I still need to be reminded that the current Camry is actually a new model and not just a bad restyle of the previous Camry.

        While I also still need to be reminded that the current Accord is actually a new model, it at least looks as if is a significantly improved version of its predecessor.

        • 0 avatar
          segfault

          Yeah, the 2013 Accord looks like an evolution of the 2008-2012 models, but it’s a lot less awkward looking than the previous gen. The infotainment system on the 2013 is awesome.

          I disliked the overboosted steering when I drove the new Accord, but would never fault someone for choosing it. Other than that, it drove really well, and both the interior and exterior look classy.

          I didn’t even consider a Camry, as I’m too shallow to get over the styling, and as I noted above, the instrument cluster looks like something out of a 1980s GM product. Vomit.

          • 0 avatar
            George B

            The Camry turnoff for me is the combination of cost-cutting and styling that makes zero effort to remind the viewer of a more expensive car. The new Camry looks like Corolla Grande to me. About as upscale as the departed Pontiac G6. However, the large number of Toyota Camrys in the rental fleet may come back as solid used car values at the right price.

            What cars like the Honda Accord, Kia Optima, and Ford Fusion get right is reasonably attractive styling that blatantly rip off design features of luxury cars. Look close to the details and it’s obvious that they’re competing in a price sensitive market segment, but from across the parking lot they look pretty good. Like the difference between a slightly chunky middle aged women wearing a flattering but inexpensive dress vs. the same woman in mom jeans.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            I’m biased here because my 2013 Accord Touring is my fourth Honda in 20 years. But the new Camry was across from the final year of the last-Gen Accord at the Auto Show last year, and that Accord’s interior bested the Camry even then! My new one, which is only a half-step below Acura in general interior fitment, ergonomics, etc., kicks the Camry’s ass every day and twice on Sunday! (My only real complaint other than the lack of a glovebox light and rear-seat pass-through is that the Honda voice-recognition system still sucks! This is one area where Ford is pretty good, at least with SYNC-only; I’ll wait to pass judgment on MyWhateverTouch until I see the redesigned units with a few more buttons. (The touch-screen stereo isn’t as bad as some say, though the “premium” audio sysem could sound better, or have some of the Acura-spec bits available (plug-n’-play speakers, etc.) as dealer-installed options.) At 3,500 miles, the interior is tight and rattle-free, unlike all my previous Hondas, which had to go back to the dealer within a month of ownership for squeak/rattle fixes, though I admit I’m OCD about that stuff!

            This year, I literally laughed out loud at the cheapness in the RAV4 and Avalon interiors!

            To borrow an oft-used phrase invented on this site, Toyota has definitely lost the plot!

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          i thought both were just major revamps, like the 92-2001 civics all being related under the skin

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Toyota did a half-arsed job with the “new” Camry, but they are doing what they’ve been doing for a while – saving on development costs, carrying over powertrains for the umpteenth time.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      I think the Camry’s biggest problem is that a lot of previous Camry shoppers (and other mid-size shoppers) might be a bit squeezed and holding off purchasing new cars, or may be migrating to the C-segment. Also the Prius has probably shaved a good slice off the higher-end Camry buyers, since it is now “THE Toyota.” I think the Camry may be destined to whither on the vine as Toyota sees the future in other models. Much like the current Lexus line, according to Lexus engineers…

      • 0 avatar
        epsilonkore

        +1

        Prius is killing the Camry internally while Fusion, Optima and to a lesser extent Accord eat its lunch on the outside.

        I agree with the above post that the FR-S (thank you Subaru) Celica GT-S (Yamaha) provided blips of individuality to Toyotas otherwise Borg like “perfection without beauty or soul” personality.

        The one stand out Toyota achievement is the Synergy Drive that powers all Toyota Hybrids and the specially designed Prius chassis that complements its language into steller MPG efficiency.

        Lexus is an amplification of everything I stated above with its stand outs being the IS-F and LF-A and neither can fully beat its respective competition.

        I have a neighbor with a 2012 Camry 4 pot, and he loves it over his previous loaded 2009 Maxima. With a ton of rebates powering his grin, I wince a bit at the thought of Toyotas old sales slogan “Its only a good deal if its a good car”… they better be glad its actually a good Camry… even if its not a good Fusion/Optima.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          The Prius is indeed available with leather, bi-Xenon HIDs, and even Active Cruise Control, IIRC. I think all it needs, based on a ride I had in a late 2011 or early 2012, several months ago, is a little less chintzy interior. Probably wouldn’t hurt mileage much, and might even convince me to look at something like that if I could get some TRD bits on a future model for a little more giddyup. (BTW, I mean the original model, not the V or cheapskate C).

          My Accord is a V6, and if Honda drops those, I’d like to stay away from turbo 4s, so if a hybrid is the only way to go thanks to CAFE, the Prius would end up on my short list, especially since they seem to be overbuilt in the classic “old-school” style.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Except, looking at sales earlier in July, the Camry had the LOWEST ATP out of the 8 best-selling midsize sedans.

        The problem with the current Camry is the same as that with its hardly indistinguishable predecessor – bland exterior + low rent interior to go with the Camry’s sense-dulling drive (Toyota attempted to make the Camry “sportier”, but all they succeeded in doing was making the ride less compliant) – so compared to the competition (the Accord, Fusion, Optima, etc.), the Camry looks less appealing unless heavy discounts are thrown into the mix.

        Toyota did a much better job with the Avalon which is selling well – so the argument that shoppers are being “squeezed” and holding off on new cars doesn’t hold, esp. as the auto market as a whole has been surging of late.

        Also, the Prius is a good bit smaller than the Camry and many sedan buyers still refuse to purchase a hatch (and besides, the Camry hybrid is selling well, probably the best Camry variant to buy).

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          When they advertise the Prius in my market they usually tout how it is the best selling car in Western WA a title it has held since cash for clunkers. So it can’t be helping Camry sales that is for sure.

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          Average transaction price means squat if the company is making money on the cars. Also, thinks like the price of the car come into play. I’d bet the ATP of the ES350 is higher than the Camry too, since it’s more expensive. The Accord & Fusion can be topped out way beyond the Camry. Honda especially can get away with it since they do not have a car above the Accord to risk eating sales from. Toyota has always had either the Cressida or Avalon right above the Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Funny how ATP meant a lot when the Camry had the highest (along with the Accord).

            Now, the Accord is still up there but the Camry is now towards/at the bottom.

            There’s a reason why Toyota has had one of the lower profit margins in the industry.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            ATP is meaningful when comparing direct competitors, not when comparing luxury cars to basic family sedans.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Hence the reason my Accord Touring, with LED headlights and Adaptive Cruise exists. (You need to ante up for either the Acura RDX SUV or the new RLX to get those features; the kissin’ cousin Acura TL only gets Xenons and no ACC. Acura should be bringing out a new TLX which will split the difference between the existing TSX and TL, and I would hope that the “jewel-eye” LED headlights would be standard, and that you wouldn’t have to step up to the top model to get the ACC.)

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          but now they have the prius V and C models as well

      • 0 avatar
        J.Emerson

        I didn’t really consider the effect of the Prius- that’s an interesting theory. But even so, it’s a very different kind of car and I doubt that it’s doing much to vampire off a lot of sales. I do think that the Avalon is making a major dent, though.

    • 0 avatar

      “The 2012 Camry’s biggest problem is that the Ford’s Hyundai’s and Honda’s have caught up.”

      More than “caught up”. The Corolla (and even more so, the Civic) got beat a couple of years ago by the Focus on one side and the Elantra on the other. Big surprise for Toyota and Honda. Same thing happened here: Toyota stepped it up with the 2012 Camry, but the other guys stepped up bigger, and suddenly the Toyota’s not the easy no-brainer choice for a lot of people anymore. Even if lots of those folks end up buying a Camry, you know they checked out an Altima and a Fusion first, which would not have happened 4 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        had a friend that leased a camry, turned it in for a optima lease. just wanted some variety for 3 years. i think the optima might have had better incentives though.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      See, this comment surprises me. Even when the last gen Camry came out, we saw comparo’s in 2006-2007 that put it behind many of it’s competitors. The first gen Ford Fusion wasn’t a great vehicle, even for it’s time, but I’d argue it was probably better than the Camry in many ways. All of GM’s Epsilon cars were better than that Camry. The Sonata’s 2006 redesign made the Sonata, at the time admittedly not a looker, very competitive with the Camry. The problem is nobody noticed, because Hyundai was still kind’ve a joke in the automotive world.

      There honestly wasn’t much to rave about the last-gen Camry except *maybe* real world fuel economy. The interior isn’t terribly big and the materials are crap. The exterior is subjective, but admittedly pretty boring. I just don’t get the ranting and raving.

    • 0 avatar
      Cobra427

      Toyota has seen the writing on the wall. Camry is undergoing crash redesign program to produce a new model for the 2015 model year…at least two years sooner than its typical five year design cycle.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    J.Emerson has been doin work these past weeks.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      “The Camry can’t be a car for everybody, but increasingly it looks like a car for nobody.”

      And very good writing!

      • 0 avatar
        mies

        The latest batch of Camrys looks like it was designed by a comittee. It won’t upset anyone, but it won’t make anybody happy either. Toyota really needs to step up its game.

        • 0 avatar
          SoCalMikester

          i kinda think theve almost always been that way since at least the early 90s.

          the 92-96(?) was a pretty inoffensive bubble looking car. kinda looked like a japanese caprice… for some reason thats one of my favorite generations though.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            That generation was the one that, IIRC, was the platform for the Lexus ES 350, and they dropped the Camry on it, with the same attention to detail.

            And it’s been downhill since. (Well, I think the 200-2004/5-whatevers were an improvement, but the last two generations have been stinkers.)

            As I always say, no flame wars, just correct me if I’m wrong! :-)

  • avatar
    Brian P

    To most people including me, the “new” 2012 Camry looks like the 2011 model with a different grille and taillights. Same old, same old.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      This may well be the main argument against this piece. This is the only “all-new” Camry in recent memory that looks like a simple sheetmetal refresh.

      But there’s lots else going on, clearly.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      The interior is pretty thoroughly re-worked, but other than that I agree 100%. The exterior is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Actually, this is an important point. I think the lights of the radio unit in the previous one were the chintziest thing I had ever seen in a modern interior before. They reminded me of those 7.99 alarm clocks sold a PC Richard and Son. I am not kidding. So the new interior is better in that sense.

  • avatar

    TL;DR
    – Camry has GM-level incentives (or would it be Ovoid Ford Taurus incentives?)
    – The “best selling” moniker could be a white elephant
    – Is Honda in the same boat?

    I’m still laughing at “In Short.”

    * * *

    Camry isn’t as appealing as a Fusion or as engaging as a Mazda6. The market is responding accordingly, Toyota isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Worse than not responding: Toyota Camry races in Nascar. Thanks, but I don’t want my ‘sliced white bread’ going round in circles like a turd in the bowl.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        So does the Fusion. Your point? (Not that either one really does, just Fiberglas-bodied sprint cars shaped to resemble them.)

        • 0 avatar
          Tosh

          My point was that I don’t like anything about Nascar, and so the implication was that other people might feel the same and actively AVOID it for that reason.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            Ah but you bought a car from a company than drops hundreds of millions of dollars on NASCAR. Including TRD talent and engineers. If you had bought a Kia instead and communicated to Toyota that you didn’t buy one of their products because of their NASCAR involvement; you might just be a tad more credible.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          Uh no, NASCAR uses sheet metal and very exacting templates to measure the care bodies. They also have fenders and can/are fixed with high tech devices like baseball bats, sledge hammers, and foot wide duct tape.

  • avatar
    James2

    Good. Maybe this car’s ‘failure’ will force Toyota to up its game. But, judging by the ugly new Corolla that’s coming, maybe not. Too many decades of being the appliance of choice has hamstrung Toyota.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    It takes skill, condescension and manipulativeness to try and gainsay sales figures you don’t like. Got the right author.

    • 0 avatar
      Wacko

      Like your avatar, is that the 2012 Camry?

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        2010 LE. Mine’s better than beige, it’s white!

        • 0 avatar
          Wacko

          With the LE you don’t have leather, but the A/C is hard to beat.
          I kinda like that hard white plastic interior. A real nice place to just chill.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Thanks :-)

            I did have a weensy problem once backing it up to the brick wall of a church on my wife’s campus. Guess my neck doesn’t whip around like it used to…

            Banged up the coils pretty badly and of course lost all the refrigerant. Had to have everything except the compressor replaced.
            My bad.

            But it still keeps everything inside nice and crispy if I leave it set on 4.

          • 0 avatar
            EquipmentJunkie

            You have no idea how much I’ve enjoyed this banter. I almost choked on my breakfast toast!

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Glad you had a chuckle, sorry about the near choke.

            Hope nobody seeing this tries to ban toast. I couldn’t live without toast.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Competition is more fierce than ever, it is no wonder they ned to be more aggressive with incentives. A failure? I wouldn’t quantify it as one as they still sell the most, and are certainly generating a tidy profit for Toyota. The question is, does the Toyota sales department consider it a failure? Probably not.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Fair point, but it must be making less of a profit than in the past because a) volumes are lower and b) they are having to throw money at it. A radio add for Leith Toyota in Raleigh shouted “20% off”. That is a novelty and it must hit profit margins.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Note that they lowered prices on the 2012 vs a comparably equipped 2011 in hopes of stopping or at least lowering the incentives. So yeah while they might not consider it a failure they certainly are disappointed and they likely make less money on the Camry than Honda does selling fewer Accords with their higher average transaction price, which according to what I’ve read here is about a $1000 difference.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Wow there has been a change in editorship here!
    A fair article, the Camry is a competent car but it is having to sell on price now. Back 5-6 years ago it could sell for a premium. Honda still has the magic with minimal incentives (for the segment) and minimal fleet sales. It is the retail volume leader.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      True dat..most “incentives” on Hondas are 0.9% or 1.9% financing deals, which are pretty good, since it seems the “average” car loan APR is above 2% and climbing. Correct me if I’m wrong, B&B. :-)

  • avatar
    Jimal

    The answer to the Camry is similar to the answer for the Passat; the competition got better. Whereas in the Passat, VW made a decision to go after the mass audience with bland offerings while the competition finally put some effort into their mid-sides cars, Toyota was a leader who began coasting to the finish and has been passed by its competition.

  • avatar
    210delray

    Before this gets to 200+ comments, I’d better get my say in!

    Despite all of the article’s premises, the Camry is still #1.

    Its poor rating in the new IIHS small overlap frontal test may have some buyers defecting to the Accord, Altima, and Fusion (all of which scored a good or acceptable rating in the same test). Even the lowly Avenger was acceptable.

    Word on the street is that this poor rating will be banished in the new future — stay tuned!

    BTW, it’s RED circles, not black ones!

    • 0 avatar
      J.Emerson

      “BTW, it’s RED circles, not black ones!”

      You are correct! My bad, I had them backwards.

      http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/a-guide-to-new-car-ratings-and-reviews/index.htm

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Except, the Camry used to outsell competitors like the Sonata and Fusion by multiples of 3, if not 4 and like the Accord, had an ATP that was significantly higher than the others (Accord is still up there, but now the Camry is pretty much at the bottom).

      And let’s not forget fleet sales (rental); in total nos., Toyota pumps as many Camrys into rental lots as GM does the Malibu and Ford, the Fusion, despite being an import brand.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    “Despite all of the article’s premises, the Camry is still #1.”

    Moloch angry! People die!

  • avatar
    Prado

    “For years, we were led to believe that neatly arranged rows of little black circles were what sold cars in this segment” If you are referring to Consumer Reports reliablily reports, you have it reversed. Black dots are bad. Red is Good.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    ” It might be the most important flubbed launch since the X-cars. ”

    Not feeling it. The X-cars were hyped like nobody’s business, they were supposed to restore GM’s competitiveness, drive the imports back into the sea, and were an engineering disaster of Hindenberg-esque proportions. The Camry is just “meh”. I’m not sure there’s anything Toyota could do to retain it’s 90′s magic, the competition is just so much better now.

    Markets change, and with the Prius in the lineup I think Toyota’s doing OK as far as anticipating and adjusting. Camry isn’t as critical as it used to be. But yeah, the cash on the hood isn’t good.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      It is true the competition got better but Honda who only launched the Accord 1 year after the Camry worked at it. Whereas Toyota didn`t work as hard at improving it – so it isn`t as simple as saying they were destined to be caught up.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      The X-car launch was terrific as I remember. Massive publicity. Motor Trend Car of the Year. First year sales were close to one million units. Then sales declined by about 50% each year as word got out that it was a POS. Government recalls really hurt. GM gave up the ghost after just a few years.

      The car had some good points. It was undeniably rugged. You could beat it like a red-headed stepchild, and it would still run. My ex-wife bought one and later gave it to our son, so I did get to try one out. It was really a depressing machine to drive. It was even inferior to my 1953 Olds 88. So much for 30 years of ‘progress’.

      GM and small cars were star crossed in those days. Corvair followed by the Vega, both were engineering failures. The Ford Pinto was better except its gas tank exploded, and people found out. Only Chrysler’s Valiant and Dart were much good.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        Would have been interesting to see what car (Fusion, Accord, were the Toyabaru twins in this year?) would have won MT’s COTY this year were it not for the Tesla Model S.

        I respect C&D somewhat more, so the reappearance of the entire Accord line in the Top Ten list was cool.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    I blame Kubrick for my aversion to thinking about red circles.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    “Toyota is supposed to be above this sort of nonsense, right?”

    Really? Have you missed all those annoying “Toyotathon” commercials that have aired over the past several decades? The mere sound of Squire Fridell’s voice makes me want to shoot my TV.

  • avatar

    The world tosses, heaves and turns and all comes back to the same point. When you sell based on one attribute and one attribute only, when others get into the mind-space you previously occupied pretty much by your lonesome, you will lose sales.

    I see it this way: Toyota=Reliability. When others encroach on your claim to fame, you’re lost. Something similar happened at Volvo. Volvo sold almost exclusively on safety. When other cars were perceived to be almost as safe, or just as same, Volvo sales fell and fell and then fell some more.

    For example, the Fusion. Maybe it’s not your cup of tea, but most people see it as a beautiful car with a good ride. Despite what CR tell ya, as well as some internet commentators, as a whole the experience with the Fusion and recent Fords of the past have been positive. So the customer, instead of buying his tenth beige Camry, decides to go wild. Time will tell if they’ll go on being wild or if they’ll sheepishly go back to Toyota.

    Finally, there’s the more you see them the more they sell. On your block, every second car was a Camry. It’s human nature to follow the lead. As the Camry becomes less conspicuous and other cars are more widely seen, this spells future trouble for the Camry.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Having a sleekness to the body, and being grounded to the ground, is no longer enough, Toyota.

    The thing with the 80s and 90s Toyotas is that they still had character and a Toyota aesthetic. No, they were never going to be confused with an Alfa, but they were honest, handsome designs that spoke of an understated, but elegant, quality.

    Today, they look like bars of plastic soap. There’s just no personality there whatsoever. When left with picking from equals, the consumers is going to look at something else to be drawn to. Toyota gives you absolutely nothing else.

    Apart from the “new” Camry, the supposedly “new” Corolla certainly doesn’t seem to be fixing this problem either. The FRS is perhaps a step in the right direction, although I wouldn’t call it beautiful.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Please, which modern car *doesn’t* look like a giant computer mouse with a few creases and front-clip tweaks that the slipstream won’t much notice?

      • 0 avatar
        Nostrathomas

        Unfortunately, you’re right in that most cars look like giant ugly blobs. But Toyota sure seems to take it to the next level…they don’t even bother with the creases and tweaks. I think their nicest design at the moment is also their most unique offering… the Prius of course. That car reminds me of old Toyota in some ways…its not stunning, but it at least has personality.

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          Yes, Toyota is very conservative in its styling. I like to think it’s because they know their faithful buyers like me consider styling something best left to the sad, harried ladies at Cost Cutters.

          Or to Hyundai.

      • 0 avatar
        morbo

        300/Charger/Challenger, Sonata, Elantra, 6.

        But point taken, fuel economy driven aerodyamics and safety driven beltlines/rooflines/grill sizes do conspire to force modern cars to a single evolutionary dead end. Like Marv said in the Hard Goodbye (Sin City)

        “These keys say the Padre drove a Mercedes

        Or at least that’s what they’re passing off as a Mercedes these days

        Modern cars. They all look like electric shavers”

        • 0 avatar
          Kenmore

          “300/Charger/Challenger, Sonata, Elantra, 6.”

          Well, I see the Sonata and Elantra as the auto equivalent of Psy. But yes, the 6 stands out from the melted doorstops.

          The 300 and Charger, especially the 300, seriously need a greenhouse.

          But the Challenger…. now it does something to me. You can’t roll a gorgeous neo-fusellage body past a guy my age without consequences.

          I been prudish & practical fuh thutty year now, but that Challenger do stroke me.

          • 0 avatar
            morbo

            I have an ’11 300C. The greenhouse on it is actually bigger (IMHO) than the Charger. It’s easier to see out of. The Charger still has bunker vision like from the previous generation.

            Test driving a 6 this weekend (along with an TSX and ILX) with a friend. I’m curious to see how good the car really is.

  • avatar
    Prado

    More journalistic nitpicking..and slightly off topic…but “(Cars.com counted 38,844 Camrys for sale nationwide at last glance, compared to about half as many Fusions).” Cars.com is a place dealers advertise cars for sale and does not accurately reflect total inventory of any car. If there were only 38,844 Camrys out there for sale Toyota would be doing great since they sold 35k last month. Please find an accurate source for inventory levels, or more importantly don’t use an inacurate one in making a point.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    With every carmaker buying their electronics and other parts from the same supplier, heck even FIATS are reliable, dependable, rust free and safe. Who would have imagined such a thing!

    There is no reason to buy a Toyota or a Volvo anymore (unless you are so pigheaded you insist on buying an American-made car).

  • avatar
    carguy

    The Camry is not a failure but Toyota clearly underestimated the competition and are now suffering the consequences through higher incentives. Honda was in much the same position with the 2012 Civic.

    They might have fallen behind in interior quality and are no longer leading in fuel economy but I am fairly sure that Toyota has plans to fix that.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      @ Carguy, the comparison to the 2012 Civic is a good one. Honda went into emergency mode and has already made changes. Let’s see how long it takes Toyota to do the same.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I don’t know about fuel economy. The existing 1.8L 4, 2.4l 4, and 3.5L V6 have had incremental improvements but are soldiering on like the now defunct ye’ ol’ GM 3800 V6. They are all GREAT engines, reliable as boat anchors (sans oil gelling issues in some motors in the late 90s and early 2000s) but there is no innovation,

      Look at the new Corolla coming out, most will sell with the same 1.8L that you could have bought almost 20 years ago with the same 132HP.

      Innovate or die – you can only sell on reputation so long.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        The 2ZR-FE in the Corolla came out 5 years ago in the 2009 Corolla. 20 years ago the engine in the Corolla was the 7A-FE, and then after that was the 1ZZ-FE that died when the 9th Gen Corolla went out of production. This misinformation on the ‘net really needs to die. The new Corolla has what, maybe 8 HP less than the Civic’s 1.8? Big woop. And the Corolla Eco has identical HP. As for MPG, Toyota hasn’t released any figures yet. Expect those any day since they said 2014 Corollas could show up on lots at the end of August.

        The 2.4 I assume you’re talking about is the 2AZ-FE, which debuted in the 2002 Camry and has been largely replaced now. I think the only cars that have it are the Scion xB now that the Corolla XRS is dead. The Camry dumped it for the new 2.5 liter 2AR-FE in 2010. The 2GR-FE debuted in the 2005 Avalon. Getting up there, but still competitive.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Possibly this is due to a largely soft market in general for what amounts to an appliance car. The segment as a whole isn’t healthy.

    This isn’t an impulse-buy product, and it’s not going to attract aspirational buyers. Meanwhile, the core buyers, who are pragmatists to a fault, are feeling the economic pinch and are looking at cheaper alternatives or not buying at all.

    I believe Toyota still has very high retention rates, but the churn that kept sales stupid-high isn’t happening because we’ve hollowed out the class of people that buy these cars.

    Hence the incentives: Toyota (and anyone else in this industry) has to keep up production or die by fixed costs. Shark, swimming, etc.

    I don’t think Hyundai or Ford, or Honda for that matter, can keep it going either. Once the styling wears off they’re going to face similar dilemmas.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “we’ve hollowed out the class of people that buy these cars.”

      Nutshell. Toyota in America dies with our middle-class. But so does everything else between 18-40K. 10 more years of business as usual, give or take, with the Koreans holding on longest.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Fusion. Accord and Altima are still relatively fresh (as is the Mazda6) and the MCE Optima will be hitting the lots soon and an all-new Sonata is due out in about a year.

      Chevy also has a refreshed Malibu on the front-burner, so things will only get worse for the Camry unless Toyota does something.

    • 0 avatar
      J.Emerson

      “The segment as a whole isn’t healthy.”

      I’m not really sure what your justification is for that conclusion. YTD, the segment is up fairly significantly in overall volume, but Camry’s share is down. Saying that the market is soft or that the class of people that buys these cars is “hollowed out” seems to fly in the face of every statistic we’ve seen about the new-car market over the past year or so. People are buying, but they aren’t willing to pay traditional Toyota price premiums. When you see how much Camry’s share has declined while the Koreans especially have surged, it really makes me wonder if the vaunted owner loyalty is a castle made of sand.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “Saying that the market is soft or that the class of people that buys these cars is “hollowed out” seems to fly in the face of every statistic we’ve seen about the new-car market over the past year or so.”

        But the other Ozzie said:

        “There’s nothing that says hard times are among us more effectively than a ~$30k CUV with ten airbags, leather, and interior toys out the wazoo flying off dealer lots.”

  • avatar
    KixStart

    If you consider that Toyota has two midsize cars in the lineup (the Camry and the Prius), it’s harder to read the tea leaves. If you rank “midsize” by brand or manufacturer, that puts Toyota way out in front (unless I’m missing a couple cars, somewhere).

    Also… 38K units on hand? That’s only 1.2 months or so of inventory, not exactly a crisis.

    Still, if margins are shrinking, then Toyota execs should be worried and I expect they are. The segment as a whole does not seem to be expanding and this will only intensify the competition.

    Of course, there are other basket cases to consider: Camry’s sales performance probably looks pretty good against the Malibu which had hit 20K/month for a while (if memory serves) and is now at 12-13K/month. The same factors are at work there, I’m sure.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Don’t forget that they dropped the list prices on the 2012 in a feeble attempt to prevent the high incentive levels they used to keep it on top in 2011 as noted in this story. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/pricing-analysis-2012-toyota-camry/ Yet they still heaped on the incentives and still have a lot of new 2012s in stock across the US.

    If you go to Cars.com and sort your search for new Camrys by model year you get to page 26 before you get into the 2013s.Sure I bet some of those 2008s have likely been sold and not removed from the listings but still the fact that they are running their clearance adds for 2013s and still have so many 2012s is very sad.

    Speaking of those adds around here they are running one quite frequently where the family walks in and asks if they are too late to get a Camry. Knowing just how many 2012 and older models the dealers are stuck sitting on just makes me laugh.

    So the good new if you really want a new 2012 Camry there likely is one in stock at a dealer not too far from you.

  • avatar
    BC

    Nothing in this post mentions the currency fluctuations of the Japanese yen. For about 8 years the strong yen and the pressure to carve out profits has led to the decontenting of most all Toyota products. Yet with superior engineering and attention to detail, they continued to put out superior, albeit bland, products as compared to the domestics. The ’12 Camry is a miss for Toyota but would be a home run if it was gm badged. I don’t think it looks all that well built. The exterior looks as if they stopped designing at the bottom and cut off excess metal with a pair of tin snips. Of course, its still a Toyota and so will have fewer mechanical problems than most all it’s competition. Additionally, with the weakening yen, Toyota will be under less pressure to decontent future models. The Camry will be back.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “For about 8 years the strong yen and the pressure to carve out profits has led to the decontenting of most all Toyota products. ”

      Almost all the parts and labor that go into an Avalon or Camry are made in the US. Yen doesn’t really factor into it.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Camry hasn’t been “superior” for more than a decade.

  • avatar
    Prado

    I’m guessing that the new Avalon is assisting in supressing transaction prices of the Camry. Why buy a 30K+ loaded Camry when you can get into the more styish Avalon for the same price. A bland reliable appliance car may sell well at 20K, but people buying at the upper end of the segment expect more than the Camry offers.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Judging by the number of Avalons that I see on the road, it probably has a negligible effect … or maybe the Avalon is just so bland that I don’t notice them. The Avalon seems pretty widely regarded as an old person’s car.

  • avatar
    Commando

    An awfully long article that didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t. Countless cute metaphors of what is happening but zero insight on the whys.

  • avatar
    ant

    I tend to think of the Avalon as a Camry….. although a bit bigger. They redesigned that car, and I think some Camry buyers are getting Avalons instead.

    I think the Hybrid Camry offers an awfully compelling package, even if it does drive like crap.

    Meh, whatever, who cares?

    I think just in general, Toyota has too many models. What is the point of Scion again? Why doesn’t the yaris wear a corolla badge? How many different freaking truck models do they need to make?

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “Meh, whatever, who cares?”

      Precisely.

      People like me will adore them, authors like this one will pretend to see through Toyota’s desperate schemes and car guys will continue to scorn them.

      Nothing to see here, folks.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      The Avalon is bigger by a margin that really does put it into another class. Sales of that are up significantly; it could be you are right and it’s stolen some Camry sales.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        Since the 70′s Toyota’s success has been a mirror of middle-middle class America. A lot of Camry owners are now looking at retirement in the near future and want something a bit more posh but still consider Lexus to be foppery.

        This is my cohort and the new Avalon has a lot of eyes agleam.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        I definitely think the disparity between the Camry and Avalon has helped the Avalon, where as before the Camry was so much nicer to the point the Avalon made sense only for those who wanted the true premium car, needed more room, or the few features the Avalon had over the Camry.

        Now, the Avalon is a significant upgrade from an XLE Camry and is selling well because of it.

  • avatar
    Tucson Tripper

    I just bought a new Altima in this segment. I test drove the Malibu and the Camry as well as the Fusion. I thought they were all capable but it came down to styling and comfort for me. I agree with the person that said the Camry is meh. There is nothing compelling about the car.

    I liked the Fusion, but I was put off by the horrible reviews of the “My Ford” computer interface.

    btw. After 3 months, I love my Altima and I haven’t had a single problem with the car. My only grumble is the resolution on the backup camera sucks… not really a big deal.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Camry is really only popular in North America.

    Rest of the world recognizing them for what they are?

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      More like Toyota recognizing the rest of the world (excepting China) for what *they* are.

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      Really most of the world doesn’t respond to this size/class of cars at all. Camry is hardly alone in that regard.

      • 0 avatar
        cpthaddock

        Yup – in the rest of the world, people shopping for a Camry-size vehicle tend to be looking for more of a luxury vehicle. I figure this is why Honda developed a separate Accord for the US market and ROW (our Acura TSX). Higher content smaller vehicles are more equivalent to the Camry here in the US.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    Wow. Sensationalism much? You should’ve just wrote “Toyota sucks”. It would’ve been a lot more believable than what you’re peddling. I also do love how you fail to mention that Camry fleet and incentives are still significantly lower than cars like the Fusion, Malibu, and Altima. I work at Enterprise, the top trim level Camry I’ve ever seen is the base SE, and Camrys are still vastly outnumbered by the above cars, along with the Sonata, Elantra, and Mazda 6. But shhh, Toyota sucks right?
    The Camry is increasingly becoming a car for nobody? Are you for real? Toyota total fleet sales last month were less than 5% (And Toyota typically does most of the fleet that they do in the first half of the year and backs off significantly for the rest of it; Camry cumaltive YTD fleet % will very likely be below 20%), and even if we’re to assume that 20% of the 35K Camrys sold last month were fleet, that’s still 28,000 Camrys sold last month to retail buyers! Unless of course, 28,000 people are now nobodys, which I’m sure you think is true, since those blind sheep bought a Toyota and not brand XXX some of you wanted.

    Could Toyota put more effort into the 7th Gen Camry? Sure. I’ve made my thoughts clear about it on other forums that the design needed to be distanced more from the 6th Gen and I think that’s what really holding them back. But this car is far some geriatric pile some are now portraying it as. The assumption that Toyota will also let its best seller wither on the vine like GM would is also hilarious to me. Toyota execs have acknowledged the competition is strong and will not let the Camry stagnate without updates and a bad IIHS Overlap score.

    Oh yeah, and my family has been buying Toyotas for over 30 years. Incentives and deals existed back then too. Toyotathon is over 30 years old.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “Toyotathon is over 30 years old.”

      How could anyone forget that? But in fairness, I think this casually opinionated youth is about 25.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      If this article had been about GM would you have gotten alittle moist down there?

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        I have no problem giving GM credit when it’s due. I think their new trucks are very nice and have always had a soft spot for the Corvette. I even strangely enough think the 2013+ Traverse is a really nice design. The place is run by the biggest idiots in the world, and they deserved to go out business, but they have made cars I have liked.

        So, try again.

        • 0 avatar
          billfrombuckhead

          Consumer Reports picked the new Impala as the best car besides a Tesla better than any TRDyota and it even looks good while beating JapanInc. Consumer Reports even said it liked the new Chevy better than a Lexus LS. Clearly GM is starting to do a lot of things right. Remember how all the pundits chastized GM for building all those old body style pickups? Guess what, they sold them! And look at the change at Cadillac. Most car critics have to admit it handles better than competitive BMW’s and JapanIncmobiles.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          84, I think your over-reacting a bit. The gist of the story is that at one time you would never have found cheap financing, cash on the hood, and aggressive discounting on MSRP. A Camry, and most Toyotas, sold for more because they were correctly perceived as being worth it. Kind of like buying a Maytag in the early 70s. The product was better than the competition and the transaction priced reflected that. Things are different today. Toyotas are still mostly great products, but if you are honest, you have to admit they are not built and designed to the same standard they once were. That does not mean Sucks. Also, the competition has advanced greatly. It just boils down to the fact that the real, not perceived, difference in quality relative to some other makes has evaporated. There is a lot of buyer inertia that brings in Toyota’s repeat customers but if one is willing to look at other products they might find that the next car in the garage is not made by the big T. Toyota recognizes that and is doing what it can to try to stop it. The easiest way to do that is to make the financials more affordable. But this short term solution carries pitfalls. Once buyers become accustomed to the lower price, they may not be able to re-establish a higher transaction price. Not to mention what this does to resale values.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            All true! But equally true is that Toyota products have lost many customers since they started building them in America.

            My personal experience is with the comparison of our 2008 Japan-built Highlander against the US-built Highlanders of my wife’s three sisters. They’re just not the same vehicle!

            And while Toyota products are still better than the domestic offerings, the foreign offerings from Nissan, Hyundai, Kia and Subaru are taking an ever increasing toll on Toyota sales.

            To keep Camry America’s best selling sedan Toyota has to do something to attract potential buyers, and they have jumped on the Ford/GM/Chrysler bandwagon, put money on the hood and/or cheap financing. Anything to move that iron.

            Because every sale for Toyota is one less for the competition.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “gotten alittle moist down there”

        Sexist and vulgar…hmmm… please step to the Charger line, sir.
        Thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Ehh, wrong again.

      The Camry had the lowest ATP out of the top 8 selling midsize sedans during the early part of July and for the month, had the highest incentive spending save the Malibu.

      And Toyota’s rental fleet % for models like Camry, Corolla and Yaris are among the highest in the industry.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        Nope, actually the domestics, Koreans, and Nissan still outrank Toyota in incentive spending and fleet. It’s quite hilarious to see those call out Camry fleet sales, ignoring the fact that every single American competitor’s is higher. Toyota’s average incentive spending is also among the lowest in the industry.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Uhm, no.

          For all of last year, the incentive spending for the Koreans were a good bit lower than for Toyota (esp. for Hyundai).

          Also, fleet sales of the Accent, Elantra and Sonata are lower than for the Yaris, Corolla and Camry.

          There usually are about twice as many Corollas and Camrys in rental lots than Elantras and Sonatas.

          As for the domestics, over 40% of the Fusion’s fleet sales is for govt. and commercial fleet; whereas for the Camry, over 90% is to rental fleet.

    • 0 avatar
      J.Emerson

      This isn’t a “Toyota sucks” article, because if I felt that Toyota sucked I would come right out and say it. Seeing as how my Toyota is currently sitting in the driveway, waiting for me to go pick up something for dinner, I probably shouldn’t say anything to hurt its feelings. I am quite aware of the continued existence of Toyotathon. I am also aware that the level of discounts being offered on Camrys right now, outside of Toyotathon, is enormous and without precedent for this model in its second year.

      Toyota reported that in July the whole brand ran about 5% fleet, but Camry was much, much higher. The truth is that if you had told someone a decade ago that Toyota would be leaning on rental fleets to dispose of a large chunk of its best-selling product, they would have called you insane, and rightly so. That nobody bats an eye at that fact now should tell you something about Toyota’s new set of diminished expectations.

  • avatar
    marc

    I take issue with the author’s theory for a number of reasons, some of which have been mentioned earlier. Though clearly these views are in the minority here.

    First and foremost, the Camry is maintaining a very large lead. A new intender to the crown seems to pop up each month, only to be beaten down by someone else next month, allowing Camry to stretch its lead. Camry is on pace for another back to back 400,000 year, a remarkable feat coming off of the lows of the recession, witchhunt, tsunami and floods.
    Second, yes, let’s not forget the adversity that Camry was subjected to by Ray PARK YOUR TOYOTAS LaHood. Followed by twin natural disasters. Toyota’s and Camry’s recovery has been nothing short of astonishing.
    Third, the current yen/dollar ratio allows heretofore overpriced Japanese cars to be more attainable. Why shouldn’t Toyota kick back a little when it can afford to.
    Fourth, price is important in this class. If you want to sell well, you have to compete on price. This is not new. Those vaunted ’92 Camrys never sold very well. They were consistently trounced by Accords and Tauruses. The Camrys we all love to hate from ’97 on are the ones that sell. And they have sold by having lower comparative prices than the ’92 Camrys, which would be priced like a Lexus in today’s dollars. Low price sells. Ask Chrysler/Dodge.
    Fifth, Avalon and Prius. Who else has 3 top selling mid-sized cars on their lots?
    Sixth, The only mid-sized cars knocking on Camry’s door are all newer-Altima, Fusion and Accord. Indeed the Camry, even at 2 years old, is already one of the older players in its segment. I can’t imagine a class of vehicles that has seen turnover of all its players in such a short time. Yet again, Camry holds off the intenders to its crown.

    So all is not glorious in Camry-land (and it hasn’t always been). Toyota has itself said that its years on top are numbered. And they will clearly do whatever it takes to extend that limited time as much as possible, even if in the final breaths, it comes across as a little desperate. But make no mistake, Camry will be number 1 this year. And there seems little out there (from over priced Accords, to boring Altimas, to not-so-much game changer Fusions) to knock it off its perch even in the subsequent couple years. And then, hey, it’ll be time for nice little mid-cycle refresh. And sales will increase again, followed by refereshed Altimas, Fusions and Accords nipping at its heels. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      Well stated. I do want to point out though that the 3rd Generation Camry was a strong seller. Not #1 seller, and Accord and Taurus were cheaper and outsold it, but they sold 2-300,000 pretty consistently back then. And to those that thing that car sold with no deals, youtube old commericals for it. You can hear Martin Sheen reading out special lease deals or factory-to-dealer incentives (the lingo used at the time) in some of them.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Except the Accord leads in RETAIL sales and it wasn’t that long ago that the Camry was outselling the likes of the Fusion and Sonata by multiples of 3 (or more) and have a higher ATP (which it no longer does).

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        “Camry was outselling the likes of the Fusion and Sonata by multiples of 3″
        Not even close. The Fusion sold 250,000 copies in 2011, before its remodel. The Sonata sold 225,000 that same year. And the Sonata’s massive increase says a lot more about the vastly improved Sonata than the Camry. And furthermore, Accords have always had next to zero fleet sales, so for years people have been claiming that it was the retial sales leader of the class. This myth that somehow the mid-sized car market has been flipped on its head due to a misstep by Toyota is just not true.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          I’m talking about the late 1990s-2000s.

          In 1999, Toyota sold 445k Camrys.

          That same year, Hyundai sold 30k Sonatas.

          In 2007, Toyota sold 473k Camrys.

          That same year, Hyundai sold 145k Sonatas and Ford, 149k Fusions.

          So as late as 2007, was outselling the Sonata and Fusion by more than 3X (and much more so in 1999 compared to the Sonata).

          Also, I’m well aware of Honda’s low fleet sales, but the thing is, Toyota at one time was known for having low fleet sales as well. But over the past couple of generations, Toyota started to rely more and more on fleet sales.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        You’re severely overrating Camry past sales and underrating Fusion/Sonata sales to try to prove a false point. The Camry hit peak sales in 2007 and was not selling multiples of 3 or more over either of those cars. Never did, and there’s no way Toyota could even build that many Camrys to do that. As for sales drop off the peak, which I know you’ll mention next; Tell me, what exactly happened the next year, 2008? Didn’t fuel prices climb to record highs? Didn’t the economy experience the worst recession in 70 years? Didn’t people lose their homes, their jobs, their financial freedom due to said recession? Didn’t the auto industry see record low sales in over 30 years?

        As for 2009 and 2010, not only did the problems in 2008 continue to persist or get worse, we all know what the SUA witch hunt did to Toyota and sales, and by that point, the Camry was already 4 years old and facing an improved Sonata, which is really the only reason why their sales gap has gotten smaller, and not because the Camry suddenly went out of style. And even after all that, Toyota still sold more. In total numbers. In retail numbers. Because I know you like numbers.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          See above – the FACTS prove otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            marc

            Facts prove what you want depending on what facts you use. This is a ridiculuous argument. The Fusion and Sonata weren’t big boys in the market back in the mid 2000s. The Accord was doing big numbers though, and even beat Camry one of the years in the 2000s. It wasn’t Camry 450,000, everyone else in the dumps. You’re simply cherry picking numbers. And the most recent numbers I used show that Fusion and Sonata had already been making inroads on the last generation of Camry. Completely nullifying this theory that the new Camry is having a problem.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Uhm, that’s EXACTLY my point.

            Back as recently as the 2000s, the Sonata and Fusion, much less the Optima were not big players in the segment and even the Altima did not sell as well as it is doing presently.

            All of these have chipped away at sales of the Camry and Accord (totally cognizant that the Accord has been up there with the Camry in sales – which is why I had stated with the exception of the Accord; during the 1990s, the Accord actually outsold the Camry), except that for Honda, they are still commanding a price premium on the Accord and are not relying on fleet sales to boost volume.

            In contrast to during the 2000s, the Camry is no longer selling in multiples of the competition (aside from the Accord) and no longer has a price premium (in fact, is purchased mostly for its deep discounting) and is selling to rental fleet more than ever before.

    • 0 avatar
      J.Emerson

      “Very large” is a nebulous term to be sure, but I’d say that about a 30k unit lead over the next closest competitor in the segment (240k vs 210k) isn’t much. Especially not when the market is so incredibly fractured. I sure would hope that Camry doesn’t lose the sales crown after Toyota has paid so much for the privilege of wearing it. You say that cheaper yen is making Japanese cars more competitive, which is true, but how is the Camry “Japanese” in anything but nameplate? Whatever discounts are being offered on the Camry won’t be that easy to swallow.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        I appreciate your understanding of the Ameican-ness of our red, white and blue Camrys!

        The reason I say the increase is large is because 30,000 now means 60,000 by the end of the year. And in this market, that is significant. Every month its lead appears to be growing, as competitors are having exceptional months followed by weak months. No one has really stepped up consistently month after month.

        The weak yen helps because it provides the leeway for Japanese companies to make market adjustments in price for any models without affecting the bottom line immensely, though Toyota insists that is not happening.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The only reason the Camry is doing as good as it is YTD is due to the very strong July they had at end of June they were down ~2% vs 2012 and now they are only down .6% so if they have a few more of their lack luster months while the Accord matches it’s recent performance it could be down to a few hundred units at the end of the year, in which case we will see Toyota leading in the incentive spending wars since they will not give up that #1 title w/o a fight.

          • 0 avatar
            marc

            Well that’s why you have to look at YTD and not single months. Iventory and other issues fluctuate too much.

            If I had wanted to really prove a point, I could just direct you to July’s sales, and show Camry way up and Fusion, Sonata and others down. The trend is Camry down ever so slightly, Sonata and Malibu also down, but the new guys-Accord, Altima and Fusion up. This should come as no surprise. And it hardly indicates a sea change in the market.

            Perhaps the OP should have printed this story a month ago, when it might have looked more convincing. My bet is that the argument will be even less compelling by the end of the year.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ….to boring Altimas….

      I have yet to drive a Camry that is as entertaining as my Altima, even with the annoying CVT.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Well thought out, well written, and well argued stand point. Agree with the conga line of replies:

    None of the D segment cars are bad

    The Camry isn’t bad, it’s just a big bag of meh in a highly competitive class

    Deep inventory, $3100 average incentive spending, $189 a month leases on well equipped SE models, and 20% fleet sales are not good signs.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    @marc

    Your second paragraph FTW!

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      haha thanks, it’s not easy defending Camrys in “enthusiast” communities. But I think my points are based on facts and sound reasoning. Those 2 things are hard to come by on the ‘nets.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Toyota is GM 1970 in the sense of “You’ll buy what we build because you love us and you’ve bought Camry’s since 1992. We don’t need to give you a compelling reason to buy anymore. We can cheapen the interiors and phone in the design and you’ll never notice because we’re Toyota.”

    Meanwhile the competition has learned they need something to make them stand out. GM and Ford are concentrating on building the best damn cars they can and even a Mitsubishi Galant or Dodge Avenger is far superior in build quality to the mid 80′s Celebrity that might have blown up in the Toyota dealers parking lot on the way to buy your first Camry.

    Interestingly enough here in Gallup the Toyota dealer is owned by the same proprietor as the Chevrolet dealer. I wonder which side of the business is turning a greater profit right now?

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      The Chevrolet side is. They have more product, including their trucks which stomp Toyota trucks in sales.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Yep, Toyota has increasingly become like the “old” GM.

    • 0 avatar
      marc

      No compelling reason?

      Compared to 2011, the 2012 was less expensive, roomier, more fuel efficient, had higher quality materials, and sharper styling. It offers a sublime 3.5L V6 and still arguably has the best hybrid set-up of the mid-sized (non-Prius) group. It is more lightweight than many contemporaries, still has excellent resale, and can be counted on for 250,000 trouble free miles.

      Those are a lot of compelling reasons.

      Nothing at all like GM in 1970, whose cars plummeted in those metrics generation after generation until the past 5 years.

      Again, it may be (relatively) no 92 Camry. But that vehicle was built to a cost point that was not sustainable, and it is still being sold. It’s called a Lexus now.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Back in the mid 1950′s the Big Three had a price/market share war that laid waste to the independents. The product offerings were sparer then – fewer models – so the war had substantial collateral damage.

    Not long ago CR, when they refused to recommend the Fusion, predicted large discounts. I suspect that the intense competition will make this segment profitless for some participants. Toyota commands a unique position in that regard, and can sell Camrys at a loss and still be hugely profitable.

    Discounting pride, Toyota would be better off using Camry capacity to build Subarus.

  • avatar
    Chopsui

    People who like Camrys don’t like cars. There, I said it.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      No, there is definitely an American market for a fairly big sedan at a reasonable price. There are people who restore and customize classic Impalas, the Camry of its time. While the Camry is reliable and practical, it just looks wrong for its intended purpose. Imagine if Toyota had a car that combined the understated but fairly nicely proportioned looks of the Passat with reliable Toyota parts underneath. In my opinion, that would be the Camry that would sell without incentives. The current Camry has a goofy disproportionate small car styling supersized. Damn European pedestrian safety standards have inflicted chunky vehicle proportions on the world, but other manufacturers have done a better job of hiding the extra height.

  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    Great story. Thank you. It reinforces many of my suspicions.

    I like Emerson’s tie-in to Honda at the end. I have been following sales data for Honda very closely in recent years. Honda is in dangerous territory. Every one of their top-5 best sellers is in a very competitive market and outside the best sellers is a list of products that represent major marketing & product goofs. A brief stumble in the marketplace with the best sellers and they are quickly overtaken by competitors. Mistakes are not options at this point.

    My travels to Europe this spring made me realize that the North American market differs considerably with the European market. Japanese cars are even less of a factor than Korean ones. Seeing a Japanese car is nearly bordering on rare. Why is this? My brother (who was with me in Europe) had an answer that made sense, “Japanese cars in Europe are bought by cheapskates…and the Koreans are stealing the cheapskates.” Are we in the middle of similar shift here in North America?

    CR’s circles are dumb. They are hard to understand which is proven by the author and prior comments.

  • avatar
    kkop

    Driving a Camry right now; a rental that’s been with me for the last four days, driven for about 500 miles now. It’s in AVIS’ ‘full size’ group, along with cars like the Charger, Impala, Fusion, and other models I drive monthly.

    I wasn’t excited when the only full-size left was the Camry, and I’m even less so now. There is absolutely nothing that stands out about the Camry. Its blandness is almost offensive. I understand there are people who like an A-to-B appliance like the Camry. For us, the living, there are better options.

    If even the Impala is a more exciting ride, Toyota has a problem.

    Things to like about the Camry:
    - doesn’t break down?

    Things to dislike:
    - bland and featureless exterior, like Joan Rivers’ face
    - dash is a clashing, cheap, plastic mish-mash of styles
    - vague steering
    - unsupportive seats
    - stupid cruise control stalkette
    - unintuitive media player/screen
    -

    I long for my favorite rental ride, the Charger. Even an Impala. Or a Mazda 6?

    Ugh.

  • avatar
    wsn

    One of the lower quality articles. The author claims that “Despite massive inflows of manufacturer cash, sales volume stagnates and declines as competitors grab more and more market share.”

    1) He will need to prove that the incentive amount is higher than its competitors. That’s clearly not the case. Higher than the Accord, maybe (but then the demise of Honda has been discussed way too many times). Higher than Malibu or 200? No. Nowadays, 0% isn’t that big of a deal, when your 15 year fix rate mortgage may start with a 3.

    2) He will also need to prove that the Camry sales did decline. Look no further than TTAC’s own article:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/cain-segments-july-2013/
    The Camry is still comfortably leading, as any other year.

    Conclusion? The Camry may be as vanilla as ever. But its demise is only wishful thinking by some.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Agreed.

      It’s delusional and/or disingenuous to construct a story portraying it as a failure of some type with respect to any vehicle that sells in the volume that the Camry does, especially in such a fiercely competitive segment.

      And for the record, I’m not exactly a fan of Toyota be it a Camry or another model.

      • 0 avatar
        J.Emerson

        I absolutely disagree. If the Camry does not succeed in being an adequately profitable product for Toyota, it is a failure. Volume means nothing without meaningful return on investment. GM and the other domestics were rightfully slammed for that kind of thinking for many years. And unlike GM, Ford, or Chrysler, Toyota absolutely must have a profitable mid-size car to survive. There will be no trucks to save them.

        • 0 avatar
          DeadWeight

          So are you claiming that the Camry, even with increased incentives, is not profitable, barely profitable…less profitable than many/some/all of its competitors?

          How much net cash does Toyota bank on Camry sales, on a per unit basis & in the aggregate?

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          Toyota must have a profitable midsize to survive??? Wasn’t there an article just a few days ago saying Toyota made 3x as much profit last quarter than GM did, nevermind Ford and Fiat? And hasn’t Toyota historically been one of the most profitable automakers of all time? With all those trucks GM sells, you’d think they’d be out in front and wouldn’t have gone bankrupt.

          And please tell me where it’s said the Camry no longer makes Toyota money. And since we’re going into trucks, Toyota sold over 250,000 trucks ( and that’s just Taco, Tundra, I could throw in 4Runner, Land Cruiser, FJ, Sequoia, GX, LX sales if needed) last year in the US alone, is on course to sell even more this year, and unlike the D2, sell a crap ton over seas as well.

          • 0 avatar
            marc

            The OP keeps changing his mind on what Camry’s supposed problem is. Is it just low sales? 0.6% lower seems little cause for alarm. Is it because it is not as profitable? As 84Cressida points out, Toyota is raking in profits right now. Is it because it has highest fleet? Where’s the numbers? I see a ton of Fusion taxis in my town. Is it incentives? I’ve posted a link disputing that, showing Camry incentives in line with everyone except Honda.

            Which is it? Where’s the failure? I’m just not seeing it.

    • 0 avatar
      J.Emerson

      If you re-read the article, you will see me acknowledge that Camry incentive spending is not out of line with what several other competitors are offering. But what I do state is that the Camry’s transaction prices are at or near the absolute low for the segment, which is more of the point. Toyota left themselves less room for price cuts than some other competitors, and now they are feeling the pinch. But my wider point is that this level of incentive spending, on this car, at this moment in the model cycle, is unprecedented. And it is symbolic of much wider developments in the way that the Camry is designed, marketed, and sold. The mere fact that we are seriously comparing Toyota’s incentives to what GM and Chrysler are offering on their midsizers is a rather incredible development.

      If you will take a close look at Tim’s nice chart again, you will see that Camry volume is off by -.6% year over year, in a strongly up market where several key competitors are seeing double digit gains. There’s very clearly a loss of market share there, even if the decline in absolute volume is relatively small.

      • 0 avatar
        EquipmentJunkie

        The lower transaction prices mean that Toyota dealers are taking the haircut on Camry profits, correct? Not a nice position to be in when SAAR is knocking on the door of 16 million, an 11-year high.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Lets add.

        You can’t blame CR giving the Camry a “below average” and stripping the recommend as in 2008

        You can’t blame recession, no credit, recession as in 2009 and 2010.

        You can’t blame government witch hunt, sticky pedals, reshaped pedals, floor mats, and negative press as in 2009.

        You can’t blame a stop sell order from the government.

        You can’t blame the tsunami and limited inventories,

        You can’t blame a Japanese key component supplier going bankrupt hurting production.

        You can’t say well the 2008 Camry went backwards from the previous generation.

        Basement transaction price, Detroit grade incentives, fleet sales almost 2X the meltdown, give away leases, swollen inventory, and declining sales despite all the effort in the strongest NA car sale year since 2007.

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          “Edmunds.com reports Camry incentives through June averaged the same as the Fusion’s: $2,064.
          …the Camry’s average spend was 41.0% less than that of the Chevrolet Malibu, 11.8% lower than the Hyundai Sonata and 4.1% below the industry’s average of $2,153 for midsize sedans, Edmunds reports.”

          If those are Detroit grade incentives, then what are the incentives for the Sonata and Malibu called? And that hot selling, super sexy, inventory strained Fusion has the same exact amount of cash on the hood as the big, bad, bland, beige, boring Camry. That’s gotta hurt for Ford, and Toyota still sells more retail! But please post how many selling days of inventory, excuse me, “swollen inventory” Toyota has, along with the fleet sales numbers for the year,not one or two random months where they sold your beloved 20% number. And I’d really like to know where these giveaway leases are, because I’ve been missing out.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “And that hot selling, super sexy, inventory strained Fusion has the same exact amount of cash on the hood as the big, bad, bland, beige, boring Camry.”

            Ford pays workers maybe $4/hr in Mexico to assemble Fusion/Zephyr, then charges a premium, and actually gets it. Toyota may have avoided UAW madness but their mfg costs will still be much higher.

            The other part of it is people seem at least somewhat excited about their MY13 Fusion or Altima, whens the last time you saw someone excited over a Camry? Grounded to the ground indeed.

          • 0 avatar
            84Cressida

            Oh okay, so you’ve talked to every person who bought a new Camry and know their thoughts . Tell me what my neighbor down the street who just bought one thinks.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ve never met a single person ever who was excited about their Camry (or Corolla) purchase. Camry was always the conservative and sensible choice for the money and there is nothing wrong with that, but it was never an exciting car. Ford (and Nissan to a lesser extent) took the boring midsize and made it exciting, at least for a time.

            Ask your neighbor why she bought it, I’m guessing reasons along the line of (1) good deal on lease/buy, (2) reliable, (3) repeat Toyota buyer or a combination.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @28 Cars Later: With apologies to “S*&% My Dad Says” (the blog not the TV show): “I didn’t say it was a bad car. It’s a Camry, nobody get’s their panties wet over a Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            84Cressida

            That’s just a blanket statement. Do you truly believe that someone who buys a new car isn’t the least bit excited over it? That’s completely idiotic. My best friend, with his own hard earned money, bought a brand new 2013 Corolla S earlier this year and loves the car. Most so called “enthusiasts” would jump on his case, but thankfully he doesn’t visit idiotic sites like Autoblog full of 14 year olds, and if he did, he could care less what they think of HIS car.

            And I can find several pictures/posts on Toyotas own Facebook page sharing pics of their new car saying they love it.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            My best friend bought a 1989 Made-in-Japan Camry V6 in 1989 that he still has today but he won’t buy ANY Camry made today because he believes that they aren’t as good as when they made his 1989.

            And even though he is also 67, he isn’t interested in Avalon since he views it as a porked up Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            You’d have to better define what you consider excitement, my definition of excitement in a car purchase is you get a boner when you first see it and you literally go through a period of being in love with it. If people feel this way about a Camry or a Corolla more power to them, but they are also probably the sort who were always very content to take the fat girls home after striking out with the Grade A tail. These cars are a means to an end and I imagine deliver on their promises (unlike the Grade A tail) but people don’t turn their heads when you drive a Camry down the street. In the 80s these cars may have been special and sought after, but not now… just another beige blob.

            @Principal Dan

            You pretty much made my point, thanks for just the right words.

          • 0 avatar
            84Cressida

            If someone is popping erections for a Fusion or Altima, or really any car short of an exotic, they need to see a doctor.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Fair enough, but I suppose if you’ve been a longtime Toyota buyer you’ve haven’t had any driving excitement in so long you’ve forgotten what its like :D

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Um, have to take into account ATP.

            Since the Camry has a significantly lower ATP than all but the Malibu, the Camry’s incentive spending relative to ATP is higher.

          • 0 avatar
            Power6

            28-cars you strike me as out of touch with…people. Not everyone is an enthusiast, and those people get excited over any new car. You have to remember that these people are self selecting, they chose to buy whatever new car, and getting a new car is exciting for everyone.

            Maybe you are the Debbie Downer to ruin the party when your coworker gets a new Accord, I guess if that makes you feel better? As an enthusiast I want to say what I think of a CamcordFusibu but as a decent person I share in their excitement, because, you know, its not all about me.

            This is how enthusiasts of anything can ruin it for the normal people, pissing on everything “mainstream”

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Did you even read all of that article. If you did you’d see that YTD the Camry is down, admittedly only .6% but still down. Meanwhile YTD the Accord is up 18.8%, the Altima up 7.4%, and the Fusion up 13.4%. So the next closest competitors are up an average of 13% so their lead is slipping away.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        And the Sonata and Malibu are down by double dgits. So maybe some of the mid sizers increases are due to those cars’ declines.
        Accord is also up from a dismal year, btw. (tsunami, floods). And with a brand new car. In fact the 3 that are up are all newer than the Camry. Yet the older Camry still beats them.

        Point is, you’re claiming the sky is falling, when the numbers just don’t hold up.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The numbers do hold up the next closest competitors are up while Toyota is flat which means the gap is narrowing and if Toyota doesn’t reverse the trend the Camry will soon lose it’s #1 crown.

          • 0 avatar
            marc

            The next 3 closest competitors all have a newer product. That’s the only issue. And it is affecting the numbers in a small amount. Camry has lost its sales crown once before in the 2000s when Accord fielded a newer product. It COULD happen again.

            But here’s why it won’t….

            If you look at each month, you’ll see a different number 2. Is Accord nipping at Camry’s heels? Altima? Fusion? Sonata? Not one of them seems to maintain any real surge month after month. And so despite a very slight dip from last year, Toyota is actually increasing its stake to the top spot. It’s very possible that the number 2 car won’t even be another midsizer, but could be a compact (Civic, Corolla or even Cruze).

            As an aside, even looking at year over year is not alwys the best snapshot. A surging Accord is being compared to last year’s Thai flood impacted numbers, which seemed to have affected last year’s Accord more than any other vehicle. Sales aren’t anything exceptional for the new Accord, which like Camry is well off its historical highs despite being all new.

            I think Camry’s biggest competition right now is the Avalon.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            I agree that the Camry will almost certainly take the #1 spot again this year but for a different reason and that is the fact that Toyota will discount the Camry as much as it needs to, so that it retains the title.

            If you look at each month there isn’t a different #2 every month. Accord has been #2 5 out of the 7 months and the Camry has been #2 2 out of the 7 months. One month the Altima was #1 pushing Camry to #2 and Accord to #3 and one month the Accord was #1 and Camry #2.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            When it comes to RETAIL sales, the Accord is no. 1.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I’m blatantly ignoring any and all statistics, and too lazy to look them up. I have one word: GEEZERS!!! The Greatest Generation drove Buicks, no they weren’t AAPR mandated; Town Cars and DTS’. Thier grandchildren borrowed them on occasion when they had to Arrive Somewhere in Style. Sometimes their grandchildren and their dates did a little “pregaming”; that’s OK in a large car. The Viet Nam era veterans are newest generation of active geezers. I swear each and everyone one of them has a Toyota or three to mosey down the road with. Do the grand kids wanna borrow the Camry? Nope, it’s not that much than their own car. Apologies to Lexus, gussied up Toyotas, owners who have arrived at Their Proper Station in Life.

  • avatar
    marc

    Pesky facts.

    “Edmunds.com reports Camry incentives through June averaged the same as the Fusion’s: $2,064.
    …the Camry’s average spend was 41.0% less than that of the Chevrolet Malibu, 11.8% lower than the Hyundai Sonata and 4.1% below the industry’s average of $2,153 for midsize sedans, Edmunds reports.”

    http://wardsauto.com/sales-amp-marketing/toyota-not-worried-about-camry-sales-drop-despite-increased-incentives

    Facts…Can’t let them get in the way of a good internet meme.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      I saw those figures too. Don`t know how they are calculated. I do know you can get 20% off a Camry easily (link below) but other than the Avenger/200 I don`t know of another mid-size with discounts that large.
      Also some people have refered to the SE as the base model. It is actually the middle spec, with L and LE below and XLE above.

      http://www.leithtoyota.com/ – with L models available for $18K

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        Local dealers can sell Camrys for $20 if they wanted to, they’re independent businesses. Toyota has factory to dealer incentives that they set for dealerships to use, but if the dealer wants to lose money, they can sell it for whatever they want. That doesn’t mean it’s Toyota backing it. The same thing works in reverse when dealers jack the up the price on a hot selling model.

        And I live in Nor Cal, where Toyota sells more Camrys than Tanning Salons sell orange lotion. I can’t get anywhere near 20% off a Camry and I sure as hell would love to.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      >>“Edmunds.com reports Camry incentives through June averaged the same as the Fusion’s: $2,064.<<

      I guess that indicates if there is some "shortage" of Fusions, it's because Ford is too heavy on the incentives. Not to mention fleet sales. Ford has historically relied on fleet sales more than other companies – something approaching 1/3 of sales.

  • avatar
    Ion

    The Camry (and Corrolla) have been in a quality decline for about two generations now. They have as Bob Lutz puts it a teachers pet relationship with the media so its been largely ignored but the fact is that an 01 camry will hold up to time better than an 06.

    I think the worse offense is that cheep silver paint in the interior of the 06 that flakes off leaving the car a sickly green glowing mess.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      Green glowing mess? None of the “silver paint” in the interior of my father’s ’07 has come off in 90,000 miles, nor have I ever seen a Camry with that.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I will take one in stainless steel with French doors.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    There’s only one reason why Toyota Camry is failing: GM and Ford.

    The new Fusion is stunning and to me, so is the refreshed Malibu.

    I believe more buyers WANT the domestics to succeed and they’re doing it.

    Case in point: speaking from personal experience, my old 2004 Impala was as reliable as Wifey’s Honda CR-V. Never a problem in over 8 years of ownership besides a couple of rear brake rotors. Consistently over 30 mpg with the 3.4L on my long commute.

    My year-old 2012 Impala LTZ is superfine as well. Regardless of what many say about the W-body platforms, they served me very well, and my current ride is worlds better in ride and handling than my old one.

    For me, why buy anything else, as I’ve waited a l-o-n-g time to like GM again?

    I’m not disappointed, but that’s just my opinion.

    Go GM and Ford, if I’m right!

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      It is not the Malibu cutting into Camry sales in 2013 as it is down 19.6% YTD. The Fusion, Accord, Altima, Avenger, Optima and 200 are all up significantly YTD.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    The question I would really ask is; how much of the new Camry’s underpinnings are largely carry-over? Given the volume Toyota has done between the prior generation and now the ’12 model, it is safe to say the have amortized a significant portion of the platform costs.

    Therefore, even with the lowest transaction prices in the segment, they are likely retaining their internally projected profitability per unit sold.

    Now consider the Fusion; how much platform cost must be amortized per unit? Same for the Malibu.

    I think Toyota played this brilliantly. They came ready to wage an incentive war and they will/are winning it!!!!!

    Very well written article by they way. Good flow and a nice style. But, I disagree with the points made.

  • avatar
    VenomV12

    The current Camry is butt ugly on the outside and plain and outdated on the inside. Compared to the Sonata, the Accord, the Mazda 6 and others it just is not very good.

  • avatar
    Power6

    There is too much analysis of this Camry. There just isn’t as much there as some would like to think.

    The mythical undiscounted ’92 Camry of voluntary import restriction days is more a sign of the times than anything else. Everyone used squishy vinyl interiors then, and brittle plastic now.

  • avatar
    TAP

    The author has succeeded in generating a huge, interesting discussion. Well done!

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      What is the best-selling sedan in America these days?

      At one time it was the Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “The author has succeeded in generating a huge, interesting discussion”

      And right after a little meltdown the other day. Resilient.

      Of course, Bertel used to do those things, too. But much more elaborately. Aber natuerlich.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I just got through reading the article on cars.com/kickingtires that showed that the Camry was, again, the best-selling sedan in America last month.

      So the Camry must be so stealthy that the majority of sedan buyers in America, once again, chose this failure to hide in.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Camry represents supreme reliability and an inoffensive nature. I think this demographic is picking SUVs. SUVs hold more and are easier to drive in mall like conditions. They also provide more reassurance that you won’t get ‘stuck’.

    Men OTOH still like cars – no doubt for their added speed, handling and looks. The problem is the Camry doesn’t really win on any of those factors in the market. So men pick something else besides the Camry.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    A truly excellent piece. This is elephant in the room, IMO:

    “What happens when the previously unshakeable resale values start to go down the tubes as well?”

    Resale is what sells Toyota post MY96 and Lexus post MY00, both brands have very high resale an reputation in the aftermarket.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Fit and finish and overall reliability is what I like to focus on

  • avatar
    GoCougs

    LOL – what an awful awful op/ed piece and many of these comments are little better. The Camry is a runaway success for 2013, same as it’s been for years and years.

    First: the Camry is easily the best selling car in the US through July 2013 (242k), easily besting the Accord (218k) and destroying other goofy mentions such as the Fusion (182k), Focus (151k) and Prius (97k).

    Second: Camry rental company take rate is ~9%, where it’s also been +/- 2% points for years and years.

    Third: using retail sales “incentives” as some sort of barometer is lol – we mortals have zero insight into corporate pricing and sales. Obviously, given that the “all-new” 2012 Camry was simply an updated car, margins are huge for Toyota on the Camry.

    You “enthusiasts” may not care for the Camry but that it remains as big a commercial success as it’s ever been.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Fair points, but it is true that Toyota have lowered their sales expectations. I recall when GM got lambasted on here for doing the same with the Volt. So lets be consistent. Also it is true that incentives are at historic high’s for Toyota with dealers offering 20% (Hendrick Toyota in Raleigh as an example) and 0% finance for 5 years. That never happened in the past. So all is not rosy for Toyota either.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    This is the first Camry, ever, that I would drive. Drive, in the sense if you gave me a free one, I might actually keep it around and use it. I don’t mind it much, it would make a decent commuter that I could live with.

    But to buy? I want the most for my money, which covers a lot of areas, but the Camry doesn’t excel in any of those besides reliability. And it’s reliable, because Toyota plays it safe on the engineering and doesn’t innovate or update their power trains much.

  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    I drove and liked the new Cam but the dealer and Toys attitude towards the customer was terrible. They clearly told me in an email that they did not build cars to satisfy the customer but rather the dealer. I walked away and I am glad. My Kia is fine. Toy, feel the burn.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    In the 80s and 90s Toyota made very durable, bulletproof cars and trucks in a time where other manufacturers were peddling disposable garbage. They charged a premium for their products, but that was well worth it when a Toyota lasted 150-200k and your competition would be scrap by 60k.

    As time wore on, other manufacturers caught up quality wise while Toyota decided it was going to be the No. 1 car manufacturer in the world, everything else be damned. They stopped giving a frack about quality, reliability, and instead focused on profitability–rushing boring, decontented, crappy cars to market that were no better (and often worse than their copmpetition).

    Their one saving grace was that they had built a reputation of longevity, which let them ride that wave well into the 2000s until only the dumbest customers weren’t aware of the fact that the overpriced Camry in the showroom was no better, no more durable, no more fun to drive than anything at or below its price range. Then sales tanked.

    It’s really stupid to s*** all over your reputation of bulletproof reliability when you have nothing else to go on. Toyotas were never the best, cheapest, fastest, prettiest cars and trucks. They were just solid and kept running. Now they don’t even have that, they’re just selling decontented garbage….

    Sad, really.

    Doesn’t help that Toyota dealers still rely on that tired 1980s car sales playbook of insulting, berating, and trying to strong-arm a customer into a purchase when most buyers aren’t easy marks (it’s as if they didn’t realize there’s an internet) and more and more people walk when they see crap cars being sold at crap prices. Toyota’s service prices are also skyrocketing, despite the first two years of maintenance being free follwing their UA FUBAR.

    Toyota did all of this to themselves.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    For me, this line from the article sums up my feelings about Toyota exactly:

    “It’s as if there was no contingency plan should the competition ever become decent.”

    The blatant institutional arrogance that Toyota grew to display reached its peak circa ’07ish. I live very close to Toyota’s corporate HQ in Socal, and this arrogance started at the top and trickled down to the dealers. Even their ads had a tone of arrogance about them. This was no humble circa ’95 “everyday people” Toyota.

    My work sometimes forces me to interact with auto dealers at the store level, and the arrogance displayed by the salesman at Toyota dealerships around this time was disgusting. So smug they didn’t have to sell — rather, they were there to grant permission to consumers lucky enough to be worthy to get their hands on a Toyota.

    I’m only 29, and I often read about people hating on GM for their extreme arrogance. I never really fully understood it, as I first became a car enthusiast when GM was at its worst in the mid – late ’90s and had nothing to be arrogant about. Their products were a joke. The vibe I got from GM while I was growing up was one of hapless desperation, looking longingly back at the past yet still refusing to acknowledge the current reality.

    After seeing how Toyota has behaved over the past decade, I now understand what people are talking about when they talk about GM arrogance.

    The tide has been slowly turning in the auto industry over the past five years, but I think it’s shifting into overdrive. The next few years should be interesting to watch.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    i googled XV40 camry and read the austalasian markets got a much nicer looking car- the aureon. same car, different front and rear clip. they should have just saved the money and used the whole design worldwide.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The Accord has gone to one platform worldwide, and in other markets where there’s no Acura, stuff like full pre-collision braking is available (as well as a glovebox light and trunk pass-through I mentioned up the thread). Honda stated that the pass-through omission was for NVH, but it was really for co$t-cutting.

      (Our NA Accord has also been sold in other markets as the Insight or Accord, while our TSX is the Accord Euro in Austrailia. As I stated, I believe all that goes away.)


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