The Truth About Cars » toyota camry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 23 Feb 2015 02:17:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » toyota camry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com America’s Top 5 Midsize Cars Earn 7 Out Of Every 10 Midsize Car Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/americas-top-5-midsize-cars-earn-7-every-10-midsize-car-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/americas-top-5-midsize-cars-earn-7-every-10-midsize-car-sales/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 12:20:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004602 America’s five top-selling midsize cars have held an iron-fisted grip on their category for years, making it very difficult for interlopers to succeed in any meaningful way. • Sonata & Malibu knocked out of January’s top five • Midsize cars up 5.5% in January • Top five own 69% of midsize market Yet after earning […]

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U.S. midsize car sales chart January 2015America’s five top-selling midsize cars have held an iron-fisted grip on their category for years, making it very difficult for interlopers to succeed in any meaningful way.


• Sonata & Malibu knocked out of January’s top five

• Midsize cars up 5.5% in January

• Top five own 69% of midsize market


Yet after earning more than seven out of every ten midsize sales in 2009 and 2010 – when the top five included the Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, and Malibu – the top five’s market share slid to 67% in 2011 and 64% in 2012. In 2011, the Hyundai Sonata supplanted the Chevrolet Malibu in the top five and didn’t let go in 2012, 2013, or 2014.

But then a return to the norm began, as the top quintuplet’s share grew to 66% in 2013 and 69% in 2014.

2015 started off similarly.

With the Toyota Camry-led midsize segment thoroughly controlled by a few nameplates, the core midsize car category’s volume grew 5.5%. That’s not terribly far off the pace of the overall car market, which jumped nearly 8%, but well below the 19% growth rate of SUVs and crossovers. 69% of the midsize category in January was owned by the Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and the fifth-ranked car.

That car was not the Hyundai Sonata, nor was it the Chevrolet Malibu, the last two cars to join the CamAcoTimUsion in the top five on an annual basis.

2015 Toyota Camry XLEInstead, the Chrysler 200, up 30% to 14,157 units in January, was America’s fifth-ranked midsize car, 1794 units ahead of the Hyundai Sonata (up 26% to 12,363), 2279 ahead of the Chevrolet Malibu (up 0.5% to 11,878), 4763 ahead of the Kia Optima (down 6% to 9394), and 7852 sales ahead of the Volkswagen Passat (up 1% to 6305).

And while total FCA/Chrysler Group midsize car volume slid 8% to 14,399 in January (as the 200 was not able to completely counteract the disappearance of 95% of the defunct Dodge Avenger’s January sales) and as Fusion volume slid 5%, the real story is the increased clout of the top five finishers. Their market share grew three percentage points from 66% in January 2013 and January 2014 and 67% in December 2014 to 69% in January 2015.

There are only a handful of sales leftover for many intermediate sedans which are marketed with mainstream pricing but sell in the kinds of numbers put up by premium cars. The Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat combined for slightly less than 9% of the midsize car market in America last month. The aging Kia Optima, which slid 6% in a category which grew 5.5%, posted four consecutive years of improvement leading up to 2015. But the Optima earned only 6.5% of the market in its best year, a year in which GM’s declining Chevrolet Malibu claimed 7.8% of the midsize category.

Does that mean all hope is lost for the Optima, Passat, Legacy, 6, or any potential Mitsubishi sedan? Of course not all hope. But a number of factors – e.g. production capacity, reputation, loyalty, incentives – contribute to an even more precise alignment of stars that favours the major players maintaining their standing.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Piston Slap: A Fusion of Malcontent? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-malcontent/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/piston-slap-fusion-malcontent/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:08:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988370   Casey writes: Dear Sajeev, I love your column! Anyway long story short I’m an idiot. When I met my wife she had a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was in ROUGH shape inside and out, cosmetically and mechanically. She liked her truck though and it worked for us for a few years. Recently […]

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2006 FORD FUSION

(photo courtesy: autoopinion.blogspot.com/)

Casey writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I love your column! Anyway long story short I’m an idiot. When I met my wife she had a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was in ROUGH shape inside and out, cosmetically and mechanically. She liked her truck though and it worked for us for a few years. Recently we (I) was tired of it. So I traded it in on a 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6. It’s a beautiful car, black on black, lots of power and nice ride. I paid $7,200 for it with 108,000 miles.

The problem is, only about 5 months into ownership and 4,000 miles later several issues have revealed themselves.

The power steering pump is going out, something is going on with the ABS where whenever they engage (only 2 times since we bought it) the brakes take hours to recover, the oil pressure light comes on at idle, and the heater is to be described as tepid, at best.

I only owe about $2,000 on the car and could easily trade it in. My wife refuses to drive it so she took over my 2013 Camry and now wants a Camry of her own (likely a 2007 or 2008 on our budget). So what should I do? Stick with the Fusion for a while and then trade it in? Trade it in now? Or spend the I don’t know $2,500 to fix all the issues and keep it for the long haul?

I Feel Like an Idiot,

Casey

Sajeev answers:

Wow, where to start?

Let’s say all those problems have minor fixes: flush out the crap from the heater core (or repair/replace the blend door system), fix the leak in the power steering (i.e. the pump is still fine), flush out the ABS pump/accumulator, and replace the failing oil pressure sender/switch?

What are the odds of those problems being that easy? Is it more likely that a new heater core (pull the dash to do that), a new ABS accumulator, and a new engine are in your future?

Probably not, I covered two extremes without mentioning the likely middle ground. But who cares when it’s gonna cost a ton in diagnosis/repair relative to the value of a 8-9 year old car? You’re aching for another (used) Camry, so make it happen. And get a PPI to make sure it isn’t a lemon like this Fusion.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Toyota Camry XSE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-toyota-camry-xse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-toyota-camry-xse/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:47:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984793 The Camry connoisseur, if there is such a thing, would spot the difference. Unlike some well-known TTAC authors who don’t hide their Camry admiration, I wasn’t on board the Camry love boat. The last SE I drove disappointed me with unimpressive efficiency figures, an interior in need of polish, and an overall sensation of obsolescence. […]

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2015 Toyota Camry XSE blue crush metallicThe Camry connoisseur, if there is such a thing, would spot the difference.

Unlike some well-known TTAC authors who don’t hide their Camry admiration, I wasn’t on board the Camry love boat. The last SE I drove disappointed me with unimpressive efficiency figures, an interior in need of polish, and an overall sensation of obsolescence. And it was in fact obsolete, as Toyota Canada delivered a Camry Hybrid SE to my driveway in October 2014 when the refreshed 2015 car was already a thing.


• USD Base Price: $27,725

• Horsepower: 268 @ 6200 rpm

• Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg


Nevertheless, I’ll readily admit I appreciate that Toyota finally located the Camry’s sense of style. When this particular car pulled up in front of our house, I noticed right off the bat that it was an XSE, a trim level Toyota introduced for 2015 to combine XLE luxury with the SE’s sporting intentions. The Blue Crush Metallic also represents top-notch taste.

While it’s my job and I do my best and I take a measure of pride in these things, I didn’t notice key signifiers: twin tailpipes. Granted, Blue Crush arrived on Monday, January 5, the busiest work day of the year for a sales-oriented auto writer like myself. I backed the car into our driveway, refusing to take time out of my busy schedule for an unnecessary late night Volkswagen GTI-like drive to the grocery store. “It’s not like it has a V6,” I muttered.

Yet there may be no V6 more captivating than a surprise V6 in an increasingly competent midsize sedan. You see, 24 hours after my muttering, I was heading into town to collect dog food. After a few miles of routine driving behind slow-moving traffic, I hit the highway under heavy throttle to see if Toyota further isolated the 178-horsepower, 2.5L four-cylinder’s inherent vibration. Except I couldn’t answer that question, because I was approaching my exit with more than enough pace to mutter, “This feels like an engine Lotus would squeeze into an Evora.”

Yes, Camry fanbois (if there are such a thing) would have understood the meaning behind Blue Crush’s dual exhaust outlets. But even in XSE trim, Toyota completely bypasses the V6 badging process. It’s debadged. Or at least unbadged.

Toyota is therefore cool, like the guy who ordered his Porsche 911 without all the extra taxonomical addenda. Or at least sort of like that guy.

2015 Toyota Camry XSEToyota says the 3.5L generates 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. It’s such a rev-hungry, buttery engine, however, that it feels like there are 300-plus of each. 0-60 mph times below six seconds bring believability to such feelings. The 6-speed automatic lacks all manner of aggression and rewards paddle shift inputs not at all, but it’s a sufficiently cooperative partner for the V6, never flubbing a shift or causing the driver to worry over fragility.

Blue Crush was much more than just an engine. Indeed, the XSE can be had for thousands less without the V6 powerplant. As a whole, the Camry is a stronger package now than it was last year. With “unique shock absorbers, firmer bushings, higher-rate coil springs, specially-tuned steering,” the XSE bears that out more clearly. The structure is stiffer, enabling Toyota to more finely tune the suspension for a very pleasing real-world balance. The ride is only just on the firm side of average, yet the Camry XSE handles ham-fisted, mid-corner adjustments easily and without fuss. The steering is still too slow and light for the XSE to be a genuine sports sedan; brake feel (said to be improved) and brake performance are not confidence-inspiring. But if this suspension configuration represented the conventional Camry’s layout, I believe enthusiasts would grow very fond of the midsize Toyota, and they would wonder just how good TRD’s engineering team could make it if given free rein.

The Mazda 6 is a sharper corner carver, but it rides more stiffly and is noisier inside. Dynamically, the Ford Fusion is very nicely balanced, but not every buyer will put up with Ford’s current infotainment unit when the Camry’s system is so straightforward and intuitive. Hyundai and Kia, with the Sonata and Optima, aren’t yet able to mate serene ride quality to their more aggressive suspension tunes. For a moment, it seemed as though Nissan built the better Camry with their fifth-gen Altima, but the 2015 Camry refresh is a significant one.

Not surprisingly then, the Blue Crush’s prime competition comes in the form of America’s second-best-selling car, the Honda Accord. It’s a game of personal preference at that point.

2015 Toyota Camry XSE interiorPersonally, I’m pleased to discover a Camry that appeals on a large number of different levels. It’s still not the most handsome sedan, its interior is completely devoid of expression, it will quickly become terribly commonplace, it drank at a sub-20-mpg rate during its stay with me. But the Camry XSE is the place where solidity, reliability, and space marry moderate degrees of fun, modestly increased levels of vehicular passion, and mature amounts of back road frolicking.

And it’s relatively affordable. In the United States, Camry XSEs start at $27,725. That’s $2310 more than the SE and the same price as the XLE.

Adding the V6 to a 2015 Toyota Camry XSE costs another $5220, but the V6 XSE includes a raft of equipment that’s optional on the four-cylinder model. It’s worth it. If you’re going to buy America’s best-selling car in large part because the sampling size which helped establish its image of dependability is so large, you owe it to yourself to get the best version of America’s best-selling car.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Cain’s Segment: U.S. Midsize Car Sales In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/cains-segment-u-s-midsize-car-sales-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/cains-segment-u-s-midsize-car-sales-2014/#comments Wed, 14 Jan 2015 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=980089 Growth in America’s midsize car market was slow in 2014, the second consecutive year in which the overall auto industry moved forward at an impressive rate while midsize car growth was unimpressive. • Altima and Fusion set nameplate records • Camry tops second-ranked Accord by 40K • The Big 5 grew their share of the […]

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2015 Toyota Camry XLE blueGrowth in America’s midsize car market was slow in 2014, the second consecutive year in which the overall auto industry moved forward at an impressive rate while midsize car growth was unimpressive.


• Altima and Fusion set nameplate records

• Camry tops second-ranked Accord by 40K

• The Big 5 grew their share of the segment


Yet in 2014, the most dominant midsize cars did in fact expand their sales at a healthy clip. The top-selling Toyota Camry was up 5%, year-over-year. Honda’s Accord, the second-ranked midsize car, posted a 6% improvement compared with 2013. Sales of the third-ranked Nissan Altima, America’s fourth-best-selling car overall, climbed 5% to a record-high 335,644 units.

The fourth-best-selling midsize car, Ford’s Fusion, also ascended to record highs with a 4% year-over-year increase. The fifth-ranked Hyundai Sonata, after starting slowly with the seventh-generation car in the latter portion of the year, ended 2014 up 7% compared with the 2013 calendar year.

The impressive improvements from those five top sellers resulted in a collective 5% YOY increase, equal to nearly 82,000 extra sales. Yet the midsize segment as shown here improved by fewer than 30,000 units as the five big players stole market share from many of the group’s smaller members.

Car
2014
2013
%
Change
Chevrolet Malibu 188,519 200,594 -6.0%
Chrysler 200 117,363 122,480 -4.2%
Dodge Avenger 51,705 93,842 -44.9%
Ford Fusion 306,860 295,280 3.9%
Honda Accord 388,374 366,678 5.9%
Hyundai Sonata 216,936 203,648 6.5%
Kia Optima 159,020 155,893 2.0%
Mazda 6 53,224 43,637 22.0%
Mitsubishi Galant 122 1441 -91.5%
Nissan Altima 335,644 320,723 4.7%
Subaru Legacy 52,270 42,291 23.6%
Suzuki Kizashi 1602 -100%
Toyota Camry 428,606 408,484 4.9%
Volkswagen Passat 96,649 109,652 -11.9%
Total 2,395,292 2,366,245 1.2%

In 2013, the five top sellers – the same five cars ranked in the exact same order – owned 67% of the category. In 2014, that figure grew by three percentage points to 70%.

How did it happen? Take it from the top, or rather, near the top. The Chevrolet Malibu slid 6%, ending the year with a 12% loss in the fourth-quarter. Chrysler’s launch of the new 200 brought about higher sales totals at the end of the year, but the 2014 calendar year saw total sales of the 200 (old and new) and Avenger (now defunct) fall 22%, a loss of some 47,000 sales.

U.S. midsize car sales chart 2014After following up 2012’s record-setting performance with a 6% loss in 2013, U.S. sales of the Volkswagen Passat fell 12% in 2014. The Mazda 6 and Subaru Legacy both posted large percentage increases, but their respective 22% and 24% gains, combined, generated fewer than 20,000 extra sales. (Camry volume increased by slightly more than 20,000 extra units in 2014.) The disappearance of the Suzuki Kizashi and Mitsubishi Galant resulted in 2921 lost sales in 2014, as well.

Thus, while it’s true that midsize car sales were flat in the United States in 2014, don’t confuse that overarching statement with an across-the-board assumption that all midsize nameplates were similarly affected. The rich got richer.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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America’s 10 Best-Selling Cars In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/americas-10-best-selling-cars-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/americas-10-best-selling-cars-2014/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 13:32:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972162 The Toyota Camry was America’s most popular car in 2014, the 13th consecutive year in which the Camry has led all passenger cars. The Camry ranked fourth among vehicles overall, trailing only three pickup trucks. • Camry volume represents a six-year high • Accord volume shoots up to seven-year high • Corolla leads all small […]

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2015 Toyota Camry XSEThe Toyota Camry was America’s most popular car in 2014, the 13th consecutive year in which the Camry has led all passenger cars. The Camry ranked fourth among vehicles overall, trailing only three pickup trucks.


• Camry volume represents a six-year high

• Accord volume shoots up to seven-year high

• Corolla leads all small cars


Camry volume rose to a six-year high in 2014. With a 5% increase in the lead-up to a MY2015 refresh, the Camry outsold its nearest rival, the Honda Accord, by 40,232 units. (The Accord trailed the Camry by 41,806 units in 2013.) Accord volume, at 388,374 units, improved to a seven-year high.

Despite reporting record-high U.S. sales, the Nissan Altima fell from third place in 2013 to the fourth spot this year. Altima volume increased in each of the last five years.

Toyota Corolla volume grew at a much faster rate in 2014, however, and with a 12% gain – 37,318 extra sales, year-over-year – the Corolla climbed into the third spot, up from fifth a year ago.

The Honda Civic, America’s second-best-selling car, was the highest-volume car to report fewer sales this year than last. Civic volume dropped by 10,199 in the 2014 calendar year, increasing 5% in the first half and falling 10% in the second half.

Ford reported more than 300,000 sales of the Fusion in 2014, the first Ford car to top the 300K mark since the Taurus in 2005. Sales of Chevrolet compact cars improved for the fifth consecutive year. The Cruze accounts for 25% of GM’s U.S. car volume.

Now one of the older members of the compact fleet, Elantra volume decreased 10% in 2014. Likewise, the Focus declined 6% in 2014 after falling 5% in 2013. Hyundai’s Sonata started slowly in seventh-gen form – only 30,481 were sold in September and October combined – but the Sonata ended the year strongly with an 12% YOY improvement in November and a 24% jump in December.

Rank
Car
2014
2013
%
Change
#1
 Toyota Camry 428,606 408,484 4.9%
#2
 Honda Accord 388,374 366,678 5.9%
#3
 Toyota Corolla * 339,498 302,180 12.4%
#4
 Nissan Altima 335,644 320,723 4.7%
#5
 Honda Civic 325,981 336,180 -3.0%
#6
 Ford Fusion 306,860 295,280 3.9%
#7
 Chevrolet Cruze 273,060 248,224 10.0%
#8
 Hyundai Elantra 222,023 247,912 -10.4%
#9
 Ford Focus 219,634 234,570 -6.4%
#10
 Hyundai Sonata 216,936 203,648 6.5%

* Included by the Corolla in Toyota USA’s sales reports are sales of the now defunct Matrix.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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We Can’t Rent This Camry, But Maybe We Can Track It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cant-rent-camry-maybe-can-track/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cant-rent-camry-maybe-can-track/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 20:48:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=940617 TTAC’s authorial corps have been the lone contrarian element in their praise for the Toyota Camry – but not even Jack Baruth could have imagined a Camry XSE like the one that debuted at the SEMA show. The “Camry” seen here is little more than a tube-framed dragster with the V8 engine and driveline out […]

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Toyota-Sleeper-Camry-18

TTAC’s authorial corps have been the lone contrarian element in their praise for the Toyota Camry – but not even Jack Baruth could have imagined a Camry XSE like the one that debuted at the SEMA show.

The “Camry” seen here is little more than a tube-framed dragster with the V8 engine and driveline out of a Toyota Tundra, along with a nitrous oxide system. The 850 hp dragster is said to be good for a sub-10 second quarter-mile. If it weren’t a one-off concept that is in no way street legal, it could almost be Toyota’s Hellcat.

 

Toyota-Sleeper-Camry-17 Toyota-Sleeper-Camry-18 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-01 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-03 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-04 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-05 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-06 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-07 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-08 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-09 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-10 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-11 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-12 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-14 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-15 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-16 toyota-sleeper-camry-2014-sema-show-17

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Capsule Review: 2015 Toyota Camry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-toyota-camry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-toyota-camry/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 13:30:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=940041 In 1992, the Toyota Camry was perhaps the most respected sedan in the midsize segment. Not all consumers could afford one, but most would have preferred one. The 1997 model represented Toyota’s changed focus. Rather than adding features and content, they started adding profitability “affordability”. Steve Lang and Ed Niedermeyer discussed this in detail, but […]

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1_front (1)

In 1992, the Toyota Camry was perhaps the most respected sedan in the midsize segment. Not all consumers could afford one, but most would have preferred one. The 1997 model represented Toyota’s changed focus. Rather than adding features and content, they started adding profitability “affordability”. Steve Lang and Ed Niedermeyer discussed this in detail, but here’s the short version: With every successive redesign, Toyota promised that its cost-controls would be transparent to consumers. With every successive redesign, consumers noticed a few more cut corners but kept buying.  Sales first grew organically but then became increasingly dependent on incentives.

This takes us to 2015. The Camry is America’s best-selling passenger car 12 years running and sold 408,000 units in 2013. The lead is tenuous though as competitors are gaining marketshare through fashionable sheetmetal, tech-laden interiors and superior dynamics.

Sounds like it’s time for a midcycle refresh then.

Notice that I said “refresh”, not “clean-sheet redesign”. All powertrain options are carryover from the previous year, but Toyota’s updates were still substantial enough to generate 2,000 new parts. Torsional rigidity is up via 22 additional spot welds, enabling a suspension retune. Every exterior surface aside from the roof is new, and the interior is significantly revised.

2._side

The Camry is considerably improved by this refresh, yet pricing for the volume trims (LE and SE) is roughly flat with 2014. Yesteryear’s L trim was dropped, but the LE ($22,970 before destination) features keyless entry, an 8-way power driver seat, backup camera and all the power options buyers now expect as standard. Steel wheels might be the only reason for pause among consumers. Those looking for more will consider the XLE ($26,150) and its standard heated leather seating, 4-way power passenger seat, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, stitched dash and other niceties.

3_xse

Drivers interested in a feistier dynamic proposition will recall the SE trim ($23,840) that Jack loves so dearly. TTAC’s resident lovable rogue wasn’t alone in his preference for this configuration either – SE sales represent about 40% of Camry volume. The formula remains similar in 2015 with a sharper suspension, weightier steering and several interior improvements. It’s all easily identified via a unique grill and 17-inch alloys. The performance ladder goes one rung higher this year however thanks to the new XSE trim ($26,150). In addition to similar luxury trappings as the XLE, XSE springs receive another round of stiffening over the SE units, wheels are upsized to 18 inches, steering receives a unique tune and the conventional shocks and struts are swapped for digressive units that feature internal rebound springs.

4_DriverIP

Entune, Toyota’s infotainment system, is standard on all trims and continues to improve. Those who approach technology with – ahem – suspicion may now find it more intuitive than MyFord Touch. The base and optional JBL stereos are unchanged, but both sound clearer thanks to 30% more sound insulation than before.  XLE and XSE buyers can also opt for tech offerings you formerly needed to purchase a Lexus to get – LED high and low headlights, a wireless charging tray for Qi-equipped cell phones, adaptive cruise control and a crash-prevention suite including an automatic braking feature. The crash-prevention suite enables an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ score.

As already mentioned, engines and transmissions are unchanged. Toyota’s ubiquitous 2.5 liter inline four (178 hp, 170 lb-ft) is available with all trims, while the 3.5 liter V6 (268 hp, 248 lb-ft) is available on the XLE and XSE. A 6-speed automatic pairs with either engine. Meanwhile, the 2.5 liter Atkinson-cycle hybrid is offered on the LE, XLE and now SE trims.  Toyota reported that 10% of buyers chose the hybrid last year and 6% elected for the big bore V6.

Fuel efficiency improves versus 2014 but is just average in the segment. Direct injection fueling and a few other tricks commonly used by competitors are conspicuously absent in the conventional engines. A coefficient of drag of just 0.28 and slight curb weights ranging from 3,240 lbs (4-cylinder LE) to 3,480 lbs (V6 XSE) certainly help though. The EPA is calling for 25/35/28 city/highway/combined MPG for the 2.5, 21/31/25 for the V6 and 43/39/41 for the hybrid. My test loops were generally short, but the numbers seem realistic.

5_profile

Toyota is quick to call this the boldest Camry ever. The looks are certainly more pronounced than before, but don’t expect anything as controversial as Lexus’ spindle grill. I’ll make my comments brief as Sajeev has already ground this grain – he’s right to criticize the DLO-woe Toyota has unleashed, but I also think Toyota deserves some credit for making mirrors, lower trim, door guards, etc. body color on all trim levels. It’s a good move for a brand increasingly accused of pinching the wrong pennies.

The interior upgrades are less divisive. Material selection and textures are generally improved, and more surfaces are soft-touch than before. The faux stitching of 2014 is largely removed, and actual stitching is available (dashboard, gearshift, steering wheel, and door inserts) depending on trim. The upper buttons on the center stack are still remind me of a large-print keyboard, but the 2015 design is much more modern. With one obvious exception, panel gaps are improved too… once I saw the maw around the glovebox lock, I couldn’t unsee it:

6_glovebox

On the road, all trim levels represent a dynamic improvement over their predecessors. Body roll is particularly reduced in the LE and XLE. They still aren’t sporting propositions though – steering effort is lighter than average and tire grip is modest.  In previous years, there was a large gap in dynamic traits between the LE and SE. I still prefer the SE tune overall, but the difference isn’t as pronounced anymore. (That’s a reflection of greater improvement in the LE, not a regression of the SE).

New two-stage brake boosters are offered on all trims and improve feel considerably. Pedal modulation is more precise than before but also generally softer than most competing midsizers. Brakes aside, the SE alleviates the above complaints about LE’s steering weight and body roll without inducing harshness. The suspension loads up nicely when pushed, and you can easily develop enough rapport with the car to independently feel what the front and rear tires are doing without resorting to extralegal speeds.

Mild driving won’t indicate much of a difference between the SE and XSE, but pressing the car hard reveals a genuinely greater performance envelope. Transition behavior is much crisper, and the steering stays truer when applying throttle to exit a corner. Toyota staffers indicated that CEO Akio himself had a say in the suspension tune. If you enjoy the SE, you’ll likely prefer the XSE.

7_hybrid

No version of the Camry is dangerously slow (the hybrid is actually a bit quicker to 60 than the inline four), but the gas-only powertrain options, particularly the 2.5, are starting to show their age. Low-end performance of the 2.5 is softer than several competitors’ entry-level engines but is still less thrashy than the 2.5 Ford offers. Subjectively, I found the V6 much more competitive versus other upper-shelf segment offerings and continue to prefer it to most competing 2.0 turbos.

When considered as a whole, the 2015 Camry does not dominate in objective and subjective measures the way its 1992 forebear did. There is no “1992 Camry” in the marketplace today though – no competitor represents that kind of runaway engineering effort. In a segment noted for parity, the 2015 Toyota Camry represents an improved, still-safe choice that doesn’t quite reach for greatness.

8_tail

2._side 3_xse 4_DriverIP 5_profile 6_glovebox 7_hybrid 8_tail center IMG_0534 IMG_0544 IMG_0546 IMG_0547 IMG_0549 IMG_0549 IMG_0554 IMG_0557 IMG_0575 IMG_0578

Toyota provided airfare, accommodations and the tested vehicles for this review.

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Toyota Putting The Brakes On Further Capacity In America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-putting-brakes-capacity-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-putting-brakes-capacity-america/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 15:57:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=884729 Toyota is not going to be expanding any plants in the United States, even as they are forced to absorb further production of the Toyota Camry as their assembly deal with Subaru winds down. According to Just-Auto, Subaru’s Indiana facility built just under 100,000 Camrys in 2013, and the Georgetown, Kentucky plant that current builds the […]

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Toyota is not going to be expanding any plants in the United States, even as they are forced to absorb further production of the Toyota Camry as their assembly deal with Subaru winds down.

According to Just-Auto, Subaru’s Indiana facility built just under 100,000 Camrys in 2013, and the Georgetown, Kentucky plant that current builds the bulk of North American Camrys, is the busiest in the United States, turning out over 504,000 vehicles last year, with the Camry accounting for nearly 350,000 units.

With Avalon sales declining and the Venza reportedly being axed, there should be an additional 50-60,000 units of capacity. Even so, that leaves a shortfall, and Toyota is unlikely to increase imports of the Camry – which is built in Japan as well – increase beyond the handful it currently brings in.

The solution for Toyota will be to make better use of their current manufacturing footprint, through increased efficiencies. If Toyota wants to hang on to their “best-selling car” bragging rights, they’ll need to find some solution to the production deficit that appears to be looming.

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Toyota May Kill V6 Camry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/toyota-may-kill-v6-camry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/toyota-may-kill-v6-camry/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:19:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866426 Fans of the Toyota Camry have insisted that unlike lesser American and Korean rivals, their beloved mid-size sedan would never forsake the legendary V6 engine for a puny, profligate two-point-oh-tee. They may need to be ready for a plate full of crow. Automotive News is reporting that the next generation Camry, which will be built […]

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Fans of the Toyota Camry have insisted that unlike lesser American and Korean rivals, their beloved mid-size sedan would never forsake the legendary V6 engine for a puny, profligate two-point-oh-tee. They may need to be ready for a plate full of crow.

Automotive News is reporting that the next generation Camry, which will be built off of Toyota’s all-new flexible architecture, may get a downsized engine as part of the massive overhaul. Quoting Toyota powertrain boss Koei Saga, AN writes

“It might be able to replace a six-cylinder with a four-cylinder plus turbo plus direct injection,” he said. “Compared to a V-6, we think this solution will be less costly.”

But marketers are evaluating whether Americans will accept the idea.

“Eventually we think this is where the technology is going, but right now we don’t know what the reaction of U.S. customers will be,” he said. “So probably right up until the last moment, we will have to be ready with both and watch customer feedback.”

Toyota has a perfectly good 2.0L turbo four-cylinder in the form of their new powertrain in the Lexus NX. But at 237 horsepower, it has a long way to go before it can put down the same kind of power as the 3.5L V6 currently powering the Camry, to say nothing of potential fuel economy losses that some of these engines are known for.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Camry LE Liftback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-camry-limited-edition-liftback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-camry-limited-edition-liftback/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856145 We don’t normally put the words “Camry” and “rare” together in the same sentence, but this series is all about finding rare-but-not-valuable oddities (e.g., one of the very last GM J-body. When it comes to rare Camrys, there’s the seldom-seen-in-the-wild Camry All-Trac and the nearly-as-rare Camry Liftback, and I’d found exactly one example of each […]

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09 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe don’t normally put the words “Camry” and “rare” together in the same sentence, but this series is all about finding rare-but-not-valuable oddities (e.g., one of the very last GM J-body. When it comes to rare Camrys, there’s the seldom-seen-in-the-wild Camry All-Trac and the nearly-as-rare Camry Liftback, and I’d found exactly one example of each in wrecking yards prior to today’s find. Yes, here’s another first-gen Camry liftback, this time dressed in whatever Toyota called this strange metallic purplish-brown hue.
01 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBefore car companies got into the whole brevity thing and started slapping plain old LE badges on slightly-upscale trim levels, Toyota added these attractive Limited Edition gold badges on Camry trunklids.
05 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin228,126 miles was very good for a car built 30 years ago.
07 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior isn’t bad and— this being a California car— there’s no rust. Why is this Camry in the junkyard? Perhaps the engine or transmission crapped out, or maybe the car got towed away for too many parking tickets.
10 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 91-horsepower 1S-L engine was enough for 1984, and for 1984 buyers of Toyota sedans.
06 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAir conditioning!

The lack of the macho-ness we expect in 1980s JDM car ads is disappointing here, but this is a Camry.

I’m sure the automobile industry longs for the days of fuel-economy testing that gave the early Camry a 44 mpg highway rating. At 47 mph with a tailwind, maybe.

Room for a rock group… or a group of rocks!

01 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1984 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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QOTD: Would You Ever Pay For A Stripper? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-would-you-ever-pay-for-a-stripper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/qotd-would-you-ever-pay-for-a-stripper/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 17:10:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848106 No nav. No leather. No premium or power nuttin’. All yours for $12,800 before fees, tax, tag, title. You don’t want it? Don’t think you’re alone. Strippers have represented America’s premiere unsellable car for quite a while now. Everyone says that they just need a car to get from A to B. But easy credit […]

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versa

No nav.

No leather.

No premium or power nuttin’.

All yours for $12,800 before fees, tax, tag, title.

You don’t want it? Don’t think you’re alone. Strippers have represented America’s premiere unsellable car for quite a while now.

Everyone says that they just need a car to get from A to B. But easy credit and low monthly payments have made basic low-end models as popular as a 2014 Toyota Camry L and as hard to find as, well. I’ll put it to you this way: there are now three L models available in Atlanta for a population of six million.

Don’t think that Toyota is alone on this. There is only one Nissan Versa S with a five-speed that you can buy here for less than $13,000. Not one trim level. One car. When Honda was busy liquidating the last of their 2012 Accords for the new generation, my nearby Honda dealer still had two base five-speed Accords on their lot. One had been there for 10 months and the other had remained unloved, and unsold, for nearly a year and a half. They were each bought for only $17,300 which sounds like a fantastic buy, except that a few months later I would see an identically equipped 2012 Accord go through the auction, with fewer than 8,000 miles, sell for all of $10,000.

It didn’t have dents, dings, damage or even dowdiness. It was just a base car, and these days, base cars don’t sell.

There are a lot of reasons for this lack of attention to what I now call, the disappearing stripper. An article I recently wrote for Yahoo! pretty much highlights the financial mindset of today’s customer versus those of just a decade ago. It’s a different car market out there. The economy may still be in the slow growth to recession mode here in the USA. But we still like our creature comforts, and the good price really comes second these days to the “affordable” monthly payment. So long as loan terms remain long, and interest rates remain low, that better equipped car will usually only cost an extra $20 to $50. Even cash strapped buyers can afford that wiggle room.

I always get emails from folks who want a deal, and I always try to tell these folks  to hit em’ where they ain’t. But few folks are ever willing to take that plunge. So far in 2014, I have known only one guy who was willing to buy a stripper car, brand new, for cheap money. $14,000 out the door for a Mazda 2. If he had been in one of the five states with no tax, he could have sliced another $1000 off that price.

He bought it right. So let me ask you. Would you have taken that deal? How about a base MX-5 or a Mazda 3 with nothing but a stickshift and that olfactory new car smell? Before you instinctively say yes, take the time to go online and look at the vehicle as it is so equipped.

Would you ever pay for a stripper?  If not, then just feel free to share your story of a stripper you once owned and rode on a daily basis. It’s a Friday and we can all use the laughs.

 

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There’s A New Queen Of California http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/theres-a-new-queen-of-california/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/theres-a-new-queen-of-california/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 14:17:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=821058 Oh, California, the trend-setting coastal paradise that once sparked a revolution in the American car market. Fully half of cars sold in the Golden State are from Japanese brands, and for a couple of years, the top dog was the Toyota Prius – about as opposite as could be from the rest of the country, […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Oh, California, the trend-setting coastal paradise that once sparked a revolution in the American car market. Fully half of cars sold in the Golden State are from Japanese brands, and for a couple of years, the top dog was the Toyota Prius – about as opposite as could be from the rest of the country, where the Ford F-Series reigns supreme. But there’s a new leader in the sales charts, and it’s a bit more mainstream (or “normcore” as the kids are saying these days).

In the first few months of 2014, the Honda Accord has managed to displace the Toyota Prius as California’s best-selling car. The Los Angeles Times reports that 15,611 Accords have been sold, giving it a lead of roughly 300 units over the Prius. The Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla rounded out the top five.

That’s not to say that the race is wrapped up already: the Prius, or any of the other cars mentioned, could snatch the crown – no other nameplates have sold more than 10,000 units so far.

At 1.8 million units, California’s car market is bigger than Canada’s, and import brands make up nearly three quarters of all sales. But Chrysler saw a big gain in 2014, with Jeep sales up 57 percent, Ram trucks up 49 percent and Fiat up 78 percent. The big losers in California included Tesla, which saw a 36 percent drop in sales. Perhaps the novelty of being an “early adopter” is wearing off, at least until the Model X arrives next year.

 

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Fuji Heavy To End Toyota Camry Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fuji-heavy-to-end-toyota-camry-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/fuji-heavy-to-end-toyota-camry-production/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 15:05:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=818570 No, that title is not a misprint. Fuji Heavy Industries, which current builds the Toyota Camry at an Indiana assembly plant, will stop producing the mid-size sedan for Toyota starting in 2016. Fuji Heavy – parent company of Subaru- makes the Camry under contract for Toyota. Production will be absorbed by Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant […]

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No, that title is not a misprint. Fuji Heavy Industries, which current builds the Toyota Camry at an Indiana assembly plant, will stop producing the mid-size sedan for Toyota starting in 2016.

Fuji Heavy – parent company of Subaru- makes the Camry under contract for Toyota. Production will be absorbed by Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant that already builds the Camry. Automotive News reports that the move will free up an additional 100,000 units of capacity for Fuji Heavy, which builds Subaru cars at the plant. Fuji Heavy had sought to expand capacity sufficiently that it could build 300,000 Subaru vehicles per year at the plant – doing so will allow them to utilize the 100,000 units occupied by the Camry, as well as the 170,000 units allocated to Subaru, in order to reach their overall goal.

Georgetown is currently running flat out at 500,000 units annually, with plans to expand to 550,000 units already in the works. But there was no clarification on how Toyota would absorb a further 100,000 units, and retain the Camry’s position as America’s best-selling passenger car.

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QOTD: In Defense Of The Toyota Camry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-in-defense-of-the-toyota-camry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/qotd-in-defense-of-the-toyota-camry/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=809426 We treat the physical results of capitalism as though they were an inevitability. In 1955, no captain of industry, prince, or potentate could buy a car as good as a Toyota Camry, to say nothing of a 2014 Mustang, the quintessential American Everyman’s car. But who notices the marvel that is a Toyota Camry?  -Kevin […]

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Toyota_Camry_--_Cockspur_Island_(GA)_July_2012

We treat the physical results of capitalism as though they were an inevitability. In 1955, no captain of industry, prince, or potentate could buy a car as good as a Toyota Camry, to say nothing of a 2014 Mustang, the quintessential American Everyman’s car. But who notices the marvel that is a Toyota Camry? 

-Kevin Williamson, The National Review

TTAC is not like most car blogs – and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Last week, the introduction of the newly refreshed Toyota Camry was the most popular article on the site. I couldn’t be happier.

Before we delve in to the Camry, it’s worth discussing one of Williamson’s major points – which will undoubtedly be too politically charged for some – that the average consumer has never had it better in terms of the kinds of goods they can afford, even with a relatively modest salary. These goods, in turn, increase their quality of life, and are not just frivolous expenditures.

The enthusiast press loves to discuss how the new Mustang is the equal of the 370Z or the M3, but for most Americans, the delta between a Camry and a Lexus ES350 – or some European luxury cars – has never been narrower.  The Camry is definitely not the car I’d buy if I was looking for a mid-size sedan (it would be a Honda Accord or a Mazda6 with a manual, if you care). But I can appreciate it in the same way as Kevin Williamson, in that building and selling such an outstanding car for $25,000 is a Herculian task.

WARNING: Tangential missive below

Even if the National Review might strike you as too far from your political leanings, I feel privileged to be able to write for a site that is open to these sorts of discussions, even when politics – and the Camry itself – are “hot button” issues. The internet offers a lot of places to discuss the typical car guy things: statistical urination contests (also known as bench racing), race-to-the-bottom displays of status signalling (whereby contestants aim to profess their undying love for increasingly obscure variants of automobiles) and corporate strategy as dictated by the holder of an Associates Degree with 7 years experiences as a consumer electronics Sales Consultant (inevitably, lots of rear-drive sports cars, body-on-frame SUVs etc).

As far as I know, this is the only place where we can discuss things like incentives, inventory,fuel economy and safety regulations and other topics that would put most Forza-addicted controller-clutchers to sleep, even though they literally dictate the way automobiles are engineered, designed, marketed and sold.

In most corners of the enthusiast world, the Camry is symbolic for what “car enthusiasts” despise; a basic appliance, uninteresting to look at or drive, using relatively simple, proven technology, available with only two pedals, often being sold in some shade of taupe. Only at TTAC could this car attract a following precisely because of those attributes. Then again, it’s really not that bad to drive.

 

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Editorial: Toyota Announces The Most Important New York Auto Show Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/editorial-toyota-announces-the-most-important-new-york-auto-show-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/editorial-toyota-announces-the-most-important-new-york-auto-show-debut/#comments Thu, 27 Mar 2014 14:19:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=782201 This edition of the 2014 New York Auto Show just got a little more interesting, as Toyota announced it will show off a mid-cycle refresh for the current version of the Camry. Although the 2015 Hyundai Sonata was expected to be one of the stars of the show, the Camry’s facelift will steal some of […]

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This edition of the 2014 New York Auto Show just got a little more interesting, as Toyota announced it will show off a mid-cycle refresh for the current version of the Camry.

Although the 2015 Hyundai Sonata was expected to be one of the stars of the show, the Camry’s facelift will steal some of the thunder from the Sonata. Even if Toyota comes out with a few minor tweaks, the Camry’s standing as America’s best selling car will ensure that there’s plenty of media coverage for Toyota, and a convenient distraction from their recent billion dollar fine that was just paid to the U.S. government.

Toyota has both the will and the production capacity to go to serious lengths to defend the Camry’s title as America’s best-selling car. But a newly updated crop of challengers, from Ford, GM, Honda and Nissan (not to mention the new Chrysler 200) are all looking to chip away at the Camry’s top slot.

Even though the Camry was the only mid-size sedan to sell over 400,000 units last year, the segment itself was up by just 1 percent, and sales this year have been down by 11 percent in a relatively flat market. According to Automotive News, the Nissan Altima has been leading the segment this year, and though it’s unlikely to wrestle the crown from the Camry by year end, it’s a sign that Toyota’s dominance is not what it used to be.

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Cain’s Segments: Midsize Sedans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/cains-segments-midsize-sedans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/cains-segments-midsize-sedans/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 04:01:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770353 By stealing the Toyota Camry’s best-selling midsize car crown, albeit likely on a temporary basis, the Nissan Altima ended February 2014 as America’s best-selling car overall. The Altima’s lead was also substantial enough last month to make the midsize Nissan America’s leading car year-to-date. It’s early. But the Altima’s trend is a good one. Year-over-year […]

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TTAC_midsize-car-sales-chart-February-2014

By stealing the Toyota Camry’s best-selling midsize car crown, albeit likely on a temporary basis, the Nissan Altima ended February 2014 as America’s best-selling car overall. The Altima’s lead was also substantial enough last month to make the midsize Nissan America’s leading car year-to-date.

It’s early. But the Altima’s trend is a good one. Year-over-year volume has increased in each of the last four months while rising nine times in the last eleven months. As Versa sales have fallen harshly – it’s still America’s leading subcompact – and the Sentra continues to play in the second tier of popular compacts, the Altima’s responsibility to produce big volume for the Nissan car lineup becomes more essential. Three out of every ten Nissans sold in the United States in February 2014 were Altimas.

By one standard of measurement, this means the Altima was far more important to Nissan than the Camry was to Toyota, where only 21% of the brand’s sales were midsize-car-derived. Camry volume decreased in February, the eighth such decline in the last year. To suggest there was some great gap between the Altima and camry in February would be to ignore the actual numbers. Per selling day, Toyota sold 1208 Camrys; Nissan sold 1285 Altimas.

Moreover, the Camry’s 7.3% drop was par for the midsize course in February. Segment-wide sales slid 6.3% – 6.6% if you discount the more premium-oriented Buick Regal and Volkswagen CC – as the auto industry as a whole levelled off and consumers flocked to entry-level crossovers. From the soon-to-disappear Dodge Avenger and the all-but-disappeared Mitsubishi Galant to high-volume players like the Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima, midsize cars were down.

Volkswagen Passat sales slid 7%. The Subaru Legacy, entering a replacement phase but anything but popular, was down 31%. Help from the Mazda 6 is of little consequence. Mazda’s 46% increase translated into just 1243 extra sales. Mazda sold one 6 for every two Dodge Avengers sold in America last month. Fleet or retail, those figures prove the lauded 6’s rarity.

According to Automotive News, car sales overall were down just under 6% in February. This isn’t a midsize anomaly. But these midsize cars certainly play a large role in the passenger car market, as they were collectively responsible for 32% of the cars sold in the U.S. last month.

At Nissan, even fretting minds must be put at ease by the Altima’s improvement, not just in terms of the nameplate’s U.S. volume but the increased market share. Through the first two months of 2014, Nissan owns 16% of the midsize market as we’ve configured it here, up from 13% during the equivalent period one year ago.

Auto
Feb.
2014
Feb.
2013
%
Change
2 mos.
2014
2 mos.
2013
%
Change
Buick Regal
2200 1474 + 49.3% 3634 2479 + 46.6%
Chevrolet Malibu
17,448 14,817 + 17.8% 29,270 30,640 - 4.5%
Chrysler 200
12,046 11,446 + 5.2% 22,958 20,292 + 13.1%
Dodge Avenger
8189 9980 - 17.9% 12,984 19,608 - 33.8%
Ford Fusion
23,898 27,875 - 14.3% 44,615 50,274 - 11.3%
Honda Accord
24,622 27,999 - 12.1% 45,226 51,923 - 12.9%
Hyundai Sonata
11,190 16,007 - 30.1% 21,005 29,254 - 28.2%
Kia Optima
11,226 13,195 - 14.9% 21,205 24,447 - 13.3%
Mazda 6
3945 2702 + 46.0% 7117 4849 + 46.8%
Mitsubishi Galant
25 209 - 88.0% 42 433 - 90.3%
Nissan Altima
30,849 27,725 + 11.3% 53,364 49,189 + 8.5%
Subaru Legacy
2575 3745 - 31.2% 5310 6929 - 23.4%
Suzuki Kizashi
446 - 100% 732 - 100%
Toyota Camry
28,998 31,270 - 7.3% 52,330 63,167 - 17.2%
Volkswagen Passat
6997 7532 - 7.1% 13,233 16,388 - 19.3%
Volkswagen CC
964 1123 - 14.2% 1845 2315 - 20.3%
Total
185,172
197,545 - 6.3% 334,138 372,919 - 10.4%

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You Put Your Hybrid In My Camry SE! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/you-put-your-hybrid-in-my-camry-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/you-put-your-hybrid-in-my-camry-se/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 06:21:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=733689 The last time we talked about a Camry SE on these less-than distinguished pages, the resulting article upset one of our contributors (a certain “Nurburgring race instructor”) so much that he quit the site in protest. That certainly wasn’t my intention. But I know that our hearts will go on. Of all the comments that […]

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The last time we talked about a Camry SE on these less-than distinguished pages, the resulting article upset one of our contributors (a certain “Nurburgring race instructor”) so much that he quit the site in protest. That certainly wasn’t my intention. But I know that our hearts will go on.

Of all the comments that particular test attracted, both on and off this website, I don’t recall any of them having anything to do with a desire for hybrid power. Presumably, however, there is someone out there who wants the sportier appearance of the Camry SE and the now-legendary economy and durability of the Hybrid Synergy Drive, because now it’s possible to combine the two.

The resulting “2014.5 Camry Hybrid SE Limited Edition” will be limited to five thousand units at a price of $27,845. This represents something under two percent of Camry production for the year, so they should be an easy sell. If you have money to blow like Birdman, an additional $2215 will get you a moonroof and Display Audio.

Overall it seems like a pretty sound idea, although the virtues we discovered when running the plain-Jane SE around Shenandoah Road Course probably aren’t quite as apparent here. If any TTACers step up and buy one, we’d sure like to hear about it.

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Subaru to End Camry Production for Toyota at Indiana Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/subaru-to-end-camry-production-for-toyota-at-indiana-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/subaru-to-end-camry-production-for-toyota-at-indiana-plant/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 12:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=651834 Media reports citing Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. executive vice president, Tom Easterday say that Toyota will stop having Subaru build Camrys for sale in North America at SIA’s Lafayette, Indiana assembly plant when the current five year contract expires in 2017. “Based on changes in Toyota’s production plans, they have decided that the award-winning Camry […]

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2007 Photo, Toyota Camry being assembled at Lafayette, Indiana Subaru factory.

2007 Photo, Toyota Camry being assembled at Lafayette, Indiana Subaru factory.

Media reports citing Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. executive vice president, Tom Easterday say that Toyota will stop having Subaru build Camrys for sale in North America at SIA’s Lafayette, Indiana assembly plant when the current five year contract expires in 2017. “Based on changes in Toyota’s production plans, they have decided that the award-winning Camry production contract will not be renewed,” the  Louisville Journal & Courier quoted Easterday as saying. Toyota declined comment. Subaru’s parent company Fuji said no decisions have been made and that it had nothing official to announce. Subaru has been building Camrys for Toyota in Indiana since 2005.

Subaru had previously said that it would increase the factory’s capacity from 170,000 to 300,000 units annually by the end of 2016. The plant has the capacity to build 100,000 Camrys a year in addition to Subaru models. Subaru had already said that it would be adding Impreza production to the Lafayette facility, it’s only assembly plant in North America. Easterday said that because of the addition of Impreza production, the loss of the Camry contract won’t affect employment levels at SIA. Other models may be added to the flexible facility.

“We also know there are future projects that Subaru has in mind for our plant that should add several hundred jobs in the future, possibly by 2018.”

The loss of the Camry contract may be a blessing in disguise since Subaru needs more capacity if it will meet its goal of half a million U.S. sales by 2016, up from about 420,000 this year.

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Toyota Recalls 870,000 Units Due To Arachnophobia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/toyota-recalls-870000-units-due-to-arachnophobia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/toyota-recalls-870000-units-due-to-arachnophobia/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:07:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=627250 One blah Monday morning, you’re commuting to the anonymous office park some 90 minutes away from the bedroom community you call a home in your equally anonymous Toyota Camry Hybrid, listening to yet another story about Congress kicking cans down roads and/or some wacky antics your favorite DJs had the past weekend while you take […]

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2012 Toyota Camry

One blah Monday morning, you’re commuting to the anonymous office park some 90 minutes away from the bedroom community you call a home in your equally anonymous Toyota Camry Hybrid, listening to yet another story about Congress kicking cans down roads and/or some wacky antics your favorite DJs had the past weekend while you take another swig of that mermaid-branded caffeinated goodness.

 

You’re not ready to deal with the myriad of reports you have to work on when you arrive at the office, and you’re certainly not ready for your colleague to rant about how his fantasy football team lost because one of his players sustained a career-ending injury on the first snap, but at least the piling traffic ahead of you seems to be delaying the inevitable, much to your mix of relief and chagrin.

Tired of being stuck behind the Dunkin’ Donuts truck (reminding you that you really need to hit the gym someday), you edge over to the (not really) faster moving lane on your left while wishing you could use the HOV lane at times like this when suddenly your airbag explodes, causing you to bash your alleged green machine into a Greyhound bus, kicking off a chain reaction that will take hours by the state police and first responders to sort out. You also make the news when the strangely chipper real-time traffic reporter chimes in about the wreck, which then leads to how Rockin’ Robin DeCradle “got totally wrecked” at the Waffle House of Blues this weekend.

Turns out the cause of your airbag going off was spiders, which you find out later that day when the local news reports that Toyota has issued a recall (again), affecting 870,000 vehicles including the one now residing in an insurance salvage yard that you, no doubt, are going to have a hard time collecting anything upon.

According to CNN Money, the 870,000 Toyotas are Camrys, Venzas and Avalons screwed together and sold for the 2012 and 2013 model years, hybrids included. The recall notice states that the webs spiders make within the confines of a drainage tube attached to the car’s AC unit could force water to drip onto the airbag’s control module, creating a short circuit followed by the airbag warning light (and the driver’s side airbag itself) going off. To make matters worse, the same issue can lead to loss of power steering, as well.

Toyota spokesperson Cindy Knight said that the company was aware of the spider issue, noting that 35 cases of the lights coming on and 3 airbag deployments have come to pass thus far, and the consistent cause of the problem were the eight-legged freaks who, for some reason, love making webs in AC drainage tubes.

The recall recommends owners take their cars in to their nearest dealer, who will then make the necessary repairs (and calls to the Orkin Man) to prevent water from causing unintended airbag deployments. The notice will be sent by mail, and the repairs will be on the house.

A similar issue affected Mazda back in 2011, when spiders set up shop in the vent lines of many a Mazda6’s gasoline tank, proving once again that nature is so fascinating.

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Ford Gearing Up For 400,000 Fusions In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-gearing-up-for-400000-fusions-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/ford-gearing-up-for-400000-fusions-in-2014/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=532233 With the Flat Rock assembly plant on the cusp of sending cars to dealerships, the Ford Fusion could potentially sell 300,000 units this year, becoming the first car nameplate from Ford to cross that mark in a decade. But to catch the best-selling Toyota Camry, Ford will have to have capacity for 400,000 units – […]

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IMG_3642-Medium-550x366

With the Flat Rock assembly plant on the cusp of sending cars to dealerships, the Ford Fusion could potentially sell 300,000 units this year, becoming the first car nameplate from Ford to cross that mark in a decade. But to catch the best-selling Toyota Camry, Ford will have to have capacity for 400,000 units – something that could happen as early as 2014.

With plants in Hermosillo, Mexico and Flat Rock running at full capacity, Ford will apparently have the capacity to take the sales crown from the Toyota Camry. This year, Ford will have to set its sights lower, with one Kelly Blue Book analyst telling The Detroit News is “definitely attainable”.

The mid-size segment is undoubtedly America’s most competitive, with the Camry and Fusion facing competition from the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Chevrolet Malibu as well. While the Camry has a comfortable lead on the second place Honda Accord (and will almost certainly cross the 300,000 unit once September’s sales figures are released), Toyota executives have taken drastic measures to ensure the Camry hangs on to its crown.

Ironically, some observers fear that by shooting for 400,000 units, Ford would see its profits on the model reduced as the average transaction price falls – something that has dogged the Camry this year. But if the Fusion did become America’s best-seller it would be a “game changer” of sorts, as the first car to claim the crown from the Camry in over a decade.

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Toyota To Keep Camry Prices Steady In Face Of Ford’s Increased Fusion Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/toyota-to-keep-camry-prices-steady-in-face-of-fords-increased-fusion-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/toyota-to-keep-camry-prices-steady-in-face-of-fords-increased-fusion-production/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 13:34:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501207 Toyota, which faces increased competition for its midsize Camry in the heart of the U.S. car market, says that it will try to hold the line on prices and incentives while still trying to keep bragging rights as the best selling car in America. At the same time, Ford is ramping up production of the […]

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toyota-incentives

Toyota, which faces increased competition for its midsize Camry in the heart of the U.S. car market, says that it will try to hold the line on prices and incentives while still trying to keep bragging rights as the best selling car in America. At the same time, Ford is ramping up production of the Fusion, which is in short supply, and will be trying to keep transaction prices high as it increases supply.

The Camry was outsold by the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima in March. Both of them are newer models than the Camry.Camry sales only rebounded when Toyota started offering incentives that were four time those offered by Honda on the Accord. Toyota insists that those incentives are not inordinate. “For incentives, we don’t think that our current level is necessarily high, but traditionally, we try not to be too dependent on them,” Nobuyori Kodaira, Toyota executive VP, told Bloomberg. “I can’t really comment on our future plans, but our plan for now is to stick to that as much as possible.” Besides incentives, to boost short term results Toyota can add content, like new technology features. Long term, Toyota has the option of speeding up the development cycle for the next generation Camry

In addition to competition from other Japanese brands, Toyota has watched all three U.S. based car companies gain market share in those companies’ home market. As other manufacturers offer truly competitive products and have significantly narrowed quality differences, Toyota can no longer rely on reflexive customer loyalty.

“It is true that rival carmakers have come out with very competitive models in the segment, and that competition in the U.S. midsize sedan segment is becoming fiercer,” said Kodaira. “What we need to do is to come out with even more competitive models.” In June, Camry inventories exceeded their usual levels by about half a month.

Kodaira declined to say whether Toyota will come out with a redesigned Camry to compete with refreshed products from Honda, Nissan and Ford.

Toyota expects to sell at least 400,000 Camrys in the U.S. this year. In July, incentives on the Camry averaged $2,581 per car compared to $627 for the Accord. Bill Fay, Toyota group VP for U.S. sales, echoed Kodaira’s remarks about incentives not being too high.

Ford+Makes+Announcement+Flat+Rock+Assembly+O2GNdmcItFAl

Meanwhile, Ford is adding a shift of 1,400 workers at their Flat Rock Michigan plant so that facility can join Hermosillo, Mexico in building the Fusion. Flat Rock currently builds the Ford Mustang. That shift at Flat Rock will add about 100,000 Fusions to Ford’s annual capacity for their well-received midsizer. Ford now has the capacity to build about 450,000 Fusions a year, about equal to Honda’s capacity for building Accords in the U.S. and about 25,000 units shy of to Toyota’s U.S. capacity for the Camry. Without the additional capacity, there was no way Ford could hope to challenge Toyota or Honda for the best selling sedan in the States but Ford seems more focused on selling more of the profitable Fusion than winning bragging rights.

Another challenge Ford faces is trying to keep its transaction prices high as it increases supply, something that normally creates downward pressure on prices. Currently Fusions are selling for about $2,400 more than Camrys.

Analysts say that popularity of the Fusion means that Ford will not have to lower prices by much. “Ford has managed to be a volume player competitive with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord while still maintaining a far more competitive price point,” Kelley Blue Book’s Alec Gutierrez told Bloomberg. “You might see prices come down a few hundred dollars, but I don’t think they face any significant risk of serious price degradation. They’re going to hold their premium spot in the segment.”

Fusion sales are up 13% this year and the midsize Ford has taken about 25% out of Camry’s sales lead.

The average price that the Fusion has sold for this year through July went up 5.8 percent to $26,343, led only by Volkswagen’s Passat in the mid-size car segment, according to Kelley Blue Book. Fusions are selling at $1,176 more than the segment average and $2,378 more than Camrys.

Analysts attribute the Fusion’s success to a variety of factors including distinctive styling, fuel economy and a wide selection of conventional, hybrid and plug in hybrid drivetrains. Ford is even seeing sales growth in California, a market that hasn’t been very receptive to domestic brands for years, with strong sales of the C-Max and Fusion hybrid. Ford car and light truck sales in the Golden State are up 18% for the first half of the year, compared to 2012, putting Ford in a virtual tie with Honda for market share there.

While Ford has a 40 day supply of Fusions nationally (a 60 day supply is considered normal), in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets the supply is down to 30 days.

It isn’t just the law of supply and demand that will mean lower prices on Fusions as production grows. When Ford launched the Fusion, many of the early production models were highly optioned, with corresponding sticker prices. Now that lower content cars are a greater percentage of the mix, transaction prices should drop a bit.

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Op-Ed: Was The 2012 Camry A Stealth Failure? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/was-the-2012-camry-a-stealth-failure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/was-the-2012-camry-a-stealth-failure/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 17:45:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498674   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 […]

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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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Review: 2013 Toyota Camry LE 2.5 At Nelson Ledges http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-toyota-camry-le-2-5-at-nelson-ledges/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-toyota-camry-le-2-5-at-nelson-ledges/#comments Fri, 05 Jul 2013 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494251 Seven hundred and twenty bucks. Not much money by today’s standards. Won’t buy you an American-made Fender Strat or a Hickey-Freeman suit. Won’t quite buy you a 32GB iPad with a cellular connection. Maybe ten days’ worth of rent in one of those new Manhattan micro-units. In the America of 2013, $720 is chump change. […]

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Picture courtesy Jerusha Pfannenschmidt

Seven hundred and twenty bucks. Not much money by today’s standards. Won’t buy you an American-made Fender Strat or a Hickey-Freeman suit. Won’t quite buy you a 32GB iPad with a cellular connection. Maybe ten days’ worth of rent in one of those new Manhattan micro-units. In the America of 2013, $720 is chump change.

But if you’re in the market for a new family sedan, and you can come up with $720, you’ll be glad you did. Because that’s the difference in the price between the Camry SE, which is one of my favorite cars at the moment, and the Camry LE, which isn’t, not quite.

Picture courtesy Jerusha Pfannenschmidt

When I drove the Camry SE at Summit Point Shenandoah, I was impressed by the sedan’s suspension composure, on-track behavior, and outright speed. It was only a few seconds behind a Scion FR-S that was running at the same time in some capable hands. When I realized that I had another trackday scheduled and no super-awesome press car for said trackday, I asked the nice people at the rental counter for another Camry just like the one they’d given me before. Unfortunately for me, in the rental world a Camry is a Camry is a Camry. The Camry SE I had for Shenandoah and the Camry LE they gave me to take to Nelson Ledges occupy the same category in their systems.

Let’s start with the plain numbers. Car and Driver‘s staff managed to get a 1:22 out of an E36 M3 at Ledges a few years ago, and a 1:22.7 out of the Mercedes C43AMG. The Camry LE weighs about The C43 does, and about a hundred pounds more than the M3, but brings considerably less power to the table: 178 horsepower against the Bimmer’s 240 and Benzo’s 302. It stands to reason, therefore, that the Camry won’t be able to run with the Germans around Nelson Ledges. The Camry’s 205/65-16 all-season tires (your brand may vary; there’s no guarantee of a particular tire when you get your Camry. If you want a car where the tire is guaranteed, buy a Veyron) aren’t super-grippy, even by comparison to the 215/55-17 skins on the SE.

Last but not least, we loaded the Camry down with some extra people. One of the B&B suggested that the Camry had been burdened with 550lbs of passengers. Alas, the true number was closer to 725 pounds. Maybe a little more. I had a pretty big breakfast. So here’s a (not very quick) lap in the Camry around Ledges. Other than the groundhog we had to swerve around, this is about all I think you’re going to get out of a car like this around that track.

You could get a little bit of that nine-second gap to the M3 by emptying the passenger compartment of everyone but your humble author, or even swapping said humble author for someone lighter and possibly better-looking. You could get a little more by keeping the groundhogs off the track, an extra second or two by concentrating on the task at hand, and a final squeeze by spending the aforementioned $720 to upgrade to the Camry SE’s running gear. Which leads us to a comment from another member of the B&B:

It’s still bad advice to tell people that it’s worth buying this thing over massively better cars like the Accord, Mazda6, or Fusion.

The question becomes: why is the Camry worse? Well, not everybody is going to like the way it looks, although the Toyota’s square-shouldered new look inside and out reminds me of the late-Seventies GM A-body sedans, and that’s a good thing in my opinion. The Mazda6 and Fusion certainly have more distinct and interesting styling.

What about the measurable aspects? The Camry isn’t any more expensive than the competition, it’s extremely roomy, and in four-cylinder form it returns outstanding mileage, even on a racetrack. There’s a marked lack of surprise-and-delight compared to the Fusion in particular, but the Toyota’s resale value is almost certain to be outstanding no matter how long you keep it. You can’t make the case for the competition being massively better if you stick to the numbers.

The Camry falls down, if it does fall down, on the intangibles. It falls down because there’s a pervasive sense of cost-cutting throughout the vehicle. The final $720 that Toyota cuts out of the car to create an LE from an SE — or, if you choose to look at it the other way, the $720 that is added to the LE to make the SE — is particularly obvious. The steering wheel on the SE is outstanding; the LE’s wheel is dismal. The alloy wheels on the SE look vaguely upscale, but the LE features steel wheels with generic-looking plastic covers. The LE’s interior fabric is nothing special; based on what I saw when I picked up the rental, it doesn’t even resist spills and stains terribly well.

This is “thin product” in the modern style, but even if it doesn’t match up to the standards of that old mini-Lexus ’92 Camry it still beats the pants off its immediate predecessors. The stereo’s good and unlike the competition you get a full-color screen in the center stack even at the LE price point. It’s quiet, it rides well, and with the exception of the turn-it-off-with-your-knee cruise control, every potential road-tripping annoyance has been carefully engineered out of the driving experience.

I didn’t mention the old A-body GM car by accident. This Camry is just what that ’79 Malibu or Cutlass used to be. It’s steady, unspectacular, well-equipped, affordably priced. It looks decent on the road and your neighbors won’t laugh at you. Toyota understands the customers in this segment in the same way that Ford and GM no longer do, and the sales numbers reflect that. It’s a nearly perfect middle-class conveyance. It’s built in Kentucky so the buy-American crowd can rest easy.

The real difference between a ’79 Malibu and this Camry is the same difference that exists, in a much smaller degree, between the rest of the competition and the Camry: people trust this car to last a very long time and cost very little to operate. The autoblogosphere knows all about recent Toyota quality shortfalls and bushing-less CTS pedals and that sort of thing, but the average consumer is always operating a decade or more in the past when it comes to product perception. He thinks the Malibu is garbage and the Ford will fall apart and the Accord doesn’t really offer anything more and the Mazda6 doesn’t really exist. He has eyes and he can see that decade-old Camrys are all over the road, rust-free and looking decent.

The man on the street knows the Camry, likes the Camry, trusts the Camry. His Generation Y son-in-law thinks the Camry is a soulless piece of junk that deliberately refutes everything the enthusiast believes — but as you can see, the blocky-looking Toyota gets around a racetrack just fine. You could buy one as a track rat, really, enjoying 30mpg commutes to and from the weekends, filling the trunk with extra tires, relying on the car to last 200k and sell for about a third of what you paid for it.

You could do that, and I wouldn’t disagree with your choice. But if you do, you should do yourself a favor. Look under the bed, in the couch cushions, in your old savings account from high school — anywhere you need to, as long as you can find that extra seven hundred and twenty bucks. Because the SE is worth the extra money, every penny of it. It’s that rarest of things in modern America: a true bargain.

Photo courtesy Jerusha Pfannenschmidt.

Images courtesy Pfanntastic Photography

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Mid-Size Sedan Sales War: Toyota Wants To Retain Camry Lead By Any Means Necessary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/mid-size-sedan-sales-war-toyota-wants-to-retain-camry-lead-by-any-means-necessary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/mid-size-sedan-sales-war-toyota-wants-to-retain-camry-lead-by-any-means-necessary/#comments Mon, 01 Jul 2013 17:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493893   This year’s sales race in the mid-size segment is one of the most competitive in recent memory. 5 of the top 10 best-selling cars in America are mid-sizers, and automakers are pulling out all the stops in an effort to unseat the Toyota Camry from its standing as America’s best-selling car. But Toyota isn’t […]

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This year’s sales race in the mid-size segment is one of the most competitive in recent memory. 5 of the top 10 best-selling cars in America are mid-sizers, and automakers are pulling out all the stops in an effort to unseat the Toyota Camry from its standing as America’s best-selling car. But Toyota isn’t going down without a fight.

Sales figures as of May show the Camry in a decent lead over the #2 Honda Accord, ahead by nearly 16,000 units. But the Camry, which is down by 5.5 percent year-to-date, and incentive spending is nearly double that of the Accord, according to figures from TrueCar compiled by Automotive News.

At $2,750 per unit, Camry incentives are up by 38 percent, while the Accord’s $1400 incentive is down by 40 percent. The new model changeover explains the big drop in Accord spending, but the Camry’s incentives (like  0 percent financing for 60 months) is part of a broader plan that includes a big fleet sales program (current making up 20 percent of sales, and expected to level off to 15 percent, versus the Accord’s 1 percent figure) to help move metal. Toyota is gunning for 400,000 units in 2013 if necessary, a figure that may be hard to match production wise for other auto makers. Then again, one has to wonder how profitable the Camry will end up being when there’s such a relentless drive for volume at all costs.

Other challengers, like the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Hyundai Sonata, seem to be relying on high fleet sales, heavy incentives or a combination of both, to keep their numbers up. The Fusion’s numbers are particularly interesting. Despite sales being up nearly 22 percent year-to-date and Ford making noise about capacity issues, fleet numbers and incentive spending remains relatively high. Ford is spending about $2,300 per car, while fleet mix runs at 34 percent.

Even the Chevrolet Malibu, regarded as the dog of the segment, has a 39 percent fleet mix, despite conventional wisdom holding that GM is merely dumping these cars on daily rental fleets as a means of moving them off the lot. Still, Malibu sales are down 18.9 percent so far, and it will be interesting to see how things progress as sales of the refreshed model loom ever closer.

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Toyota Looking For Government Cash To Help Sustain Australian Operations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/toyota-looking-for-government-cash-to-help-sustain-australian-operations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/toyota-looking-for-government-cash-to-help-sustain-australian-operations/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 10:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490876 Australian media is reporting that Toyota is next in line for some government cash, following Holden’s deal with the government to keep production of the Commodore and other models in Australia. Toyota currently builds the Camry and Aurion (a V6 powered sedan based on the Camry, pictured above) at a factory near Melbourne, and a […]

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Australian media is reporting that Toyota is next in line for some government cash, following Holden’s deal with the government to keep production of the Commodore and other models in Australia.

Toyota currently builds the Camry and Aurion (a V6 powered sedan based on the Camry, pictured above) at a factory near Melbourne, and a deal with the government is said to bring about a third model, likely the RAV4. Toyota’s Australian division head didn’t hesitate to re-affirm the company’s commitment to Australia, stating that they would remain in the country “indefinitely” and were taking a “long-term” view of things, even as rival firms panic about unfavorable exchange rates.

Local car production has been a money-loser for Toyota, with Australian outlet Go-Auto reporting a $160 million loss over the last three years. If Toyota’s deal is similar to Holden’s, Toyota will have to pony up a lot more cash on its own – with GM contributing $1 billion to keep production running until 2022.

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