The Truth About Cars » toyota camry The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:06:11 +0000 en-US hourly 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 (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 Toyota May Kill V6 Camry Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:19:48 +0000 450x271xToyota_Camry_-_Cockspur_Island_GA_July_2012-450x271.jpg.pagespeed.ic.sKa9fpP0wD

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.

]]> 239 Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Camry LE Liftback Tue, 01 Jul 2014 13:00:55 +0000 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 ]]> 58
QOTD: Would You Ever Pay For A Stripper? Fri, 20 Jun 2014 17:10:52 +0000 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 Thu, 15 May 2014 14:17:29 +0000 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 Fri, 09 May 2014 15:05:47 +0000 550x366x2015-Toyota-Camry-18-550x366.jpg.pagespeed.ic._-XUO5cN5l

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 Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:00:23 +0000


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 Thu, 27 Mar 2014 14:19:57 +0000 camryttac-450x241

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 Wed, 12 Mar 2014 04:01:05 +0000 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.

2 mos.
2 mos.
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%
197,545 - 6.3% 334,138 372,919 - 10.4%
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You Put Your Hybrid In My Camry SE! Wed, 05 Feb 2014 06:21:38 +0000 2014_5_Toyota_Camry_Hybrid_SE_LTD_001

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 Fri, 15 Nov 2013 12:00:54 +0000 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 Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:07:23 +0000 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 Tue, 01 Oct 2013 12:00:47 +0000 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 Tue, 27 Aug 2013 13:34:10 +0000 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.


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? Thu, 08 Aug 2013 17:45:39 +0000 camry2-450x280

  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. ( 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 Fri, 05 Jul 2013 13:00:21 +0000 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 Mon, 01 Jul 2013 17:13:37 +0000 Malcolm X by any means necessary


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 Wed, 05 Jun 2013 10:00:09 +0000 16opb-aurion-presara-hero-front-ink-2012-749x422

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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Junkyard Find: 1985 Toyota Camry LE Liftback Fri, 17 May 2013 13:00:35 +0000 16 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI thought I’d seen the rarest member of the Camry species in North America when I spotted this 1990 Camry All-Trac on the coldest day I’ve ever experienced in a junkyard. Perhaps I was wrong. Here’s one of the very few first-gen Camry liftbacks sold in this country, now Crusher-bound.
02 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin331,120 miles on the clock, or an average of 11,825 miles per year.
09 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe cavernous hatch makes this into something like a very large Corolla, and maybe that’s what made nearly all the Camry shoppers go for sedans.
11 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s got some rust and the interior is pretty grimy, but this car is in good shape for something that has racked up twice the miles of most 80s Japanese cars you see in wrecking yards.
05 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinToyota made the S engine until just a few years ago. While we’ve seen plenty of S engines fail dramatically in the 24 Hours of LeMons, they hold together very well on the street.
17 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill these cars ever have any collector value? It’s too early to tell.

02 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Toyota Camry Liftback Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 44
Subaru Adds Impreza To U.S Plant Wed, 08 May 2013 11:00:10 +0000 Impreza-side-450x337

Subaru is set to expand capacity at its Indiana plant by 100,000 units, adding the Impreza alongside the Legacy, Outback and Tribeca to help fill demand for its vehicles in the United States. Automotive News is reporting that Impreza’s built at the plant will be sold domestically.

The Japanese-built Impreza will be a welcome addition to the plant, which will serve to further isolate Subaru from things like currency fluctuations and parts shortages. The long rumored expansion will not affect production of TTAC’s favorite punching bag, the Toyota Camry.

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The Top 10 Best-Sellers World Wide In 2012 Tue, 16 Apr 2013 11:00:30 +0000

Polk released their list of 10 best-selling nameplates in 2012 - and while the list led to a bit of a spat between Toyota and Ford over who won had the race – the rest of the list gives us a picture of what’s popular around the world. While Bertel is claiming that Toyota came out on top, I am merely reporting the Polk data. Any disputes or accusations pro or anti (insert nationality here) bias can be meted out in the comments. I’ll go grab the popcorn.

1. Ford Focus:  1,020,410 units sold



2. Toyota Corolla: 872,774 units sold

3. Ford F-Series: 785,630 units sold

4. Wuling Zhiguang: 768,870 units sold

5. Toyota Camry: 729,793 units sold

6. Ford Fiesta: 723,130 units sold

7. VW Golf: 699,148 units sold

8. Chevrolet Cruze: 661,325 units sold

9. Honda Civic: 651,159 units sold

10. Honda CR-V: 624,982 units sold

autoblog_cn_img_8770 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Focus-SE-front-quarter-550x412. Photo courtesy TTAC Corolla-Axio-11-450x300 Photo courtesy TTAC 2011f1504-550x307 Photo courtesy TTAC Wuling Sunshine. Photo courtesy Camry-SE-4-side-550x412 Photo courtesy TTAC Ford_Fiesta_Mk7_seit_2008_front_MJ-450x269 Photo courtesy wikipedia 2015-vw-golf-opt-450x298 Photo courtesy wikipedia side-550x315 Photo courtesy Chevrolet 2013-honda-civic-450x275 Photo courtesy Honda IMG_51901-550x366 Photo courtesy Brendan McAleer ]]> 15
Mid-Size Sedan Sales Race: Camry, Accord, Altima And Fusion Dominate The Segment Mon, 08 Apr 2013 12:55:02 +0000

The mid-size sedan sales race has become a close one over the first quarter of this year – while the Toyota Camry has established a healthy lead, the race for second through fourth place comes down to an 8,000 unit spread between the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and the (game-changing) Ford Fusion.

Despite leading the segment with 100,830 units sold in 2013, sales of the Camry were down 4 percent compared to 2012. Automotive News quotes Toyota’s Jim Lentz as saying that “not sure we can do much more than 400 [thousand] Camrys”, suggesting that the car may lose some market share – and possibly the title of America’s best-selling car.

While Toyota has been willing to put cash on the hood of the Camry to move units, it is facing some stiff competition. The Camry was outsold slightly by the Nissan Altima in March, while the second place Accord, with 88,427 units sold, is apparently the best selling mid-size sedan on a retail basis – if you believe Honda’s claims.

The third place Altima is down by about 10 percent versus Q1 2012 sales, with 86,952 units. Last year saw Nissan dealers aggressively pushing stock of the soon-to-be-replaced 2012 model out the door to make way for the new car. Meanwhile, the Ford Fusion has cracked the 80,000 unit mark itself, reporting a 26 percent gain over the same period.

To illustrate the gulf in sales between those four and the rest of the segment, one need only look at the numbers; the Chevrolet Malibu, with 49,179 units sold so far, is outsold by the Camry on a 2:1 basis, despite the Camry being one of the oldest cars in the segment and the Malibu being all-new. Ditto the Sonata, which is also one of the segment’s older vehicles and, according to Hyundai, limited by capacity constraints.


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Junkyard Find: 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac LE Mon, 14 Jan 2013 14:00:56 +0000 Here in Colorado, the self-service wrecking yards tend to be museums of four-wheel-drive cars that disappeared into obscurity a couple of decades back. When it comes to Toyota, everyone knows about the Celica All-Trac, and of course you still see the occasional mid-80s Tercel 4WD wagon. Go to a Denver junkyard, though, and you’ll see lots of Corolla All-Tracs. But a Camry All-Trac? We’ve all heard of them, but this may be the first four-wheel-drive Camry I’ve ever seen in person. It was fitting that I found this one during my freezing-cold Half Price Sale adventure on Saturday.
This was the generation of Camry that really established the car’s reputation as a cockroach-immortal, if stunningly boring, family sedan.
Just another 1,397 miles— Denver to San Francisco via Cheyenne and I-80, more or less— and this car would have made it to the magical 300,000-mile mark.
Because I’ve never been in a Camry All-Trac, nor has anyone I know, I can’t tell you what it’s like driving one in snow or mud.
Fortunately, at least one All-Trac driver has documented the experience for us.
01 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1990 Toyota Camry All-Trac - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Auction To Crusher: 12 Weeks In the Lives of Two Cars At a Self-Service Wrecking Yard Thu, 20 Dec 2012 14:00:23 +0000 I’ve loved high-turnover self-service wrecking yards since I used to hang out at U-Pull Auto Wrecking in Oakland as a teenager in the early 1980s, and so it makes sense that junkyard-related stuff became so central to the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™. During the last year, as my Junkyard Find series has evolved into a near-daily thing, I became increasingly curious about the life-cycle of the vehicles in these yards. A new row of fresh cars appears one day, replacing one that was put out a few months before, and that’s all I knew. Then, earlier this year, I was able to convince the brass at U-Pull-&-Pay Self Serve Used Auto Parts to give me a behind-the-scenes look at their operation, and I chose to follow the trajectories of two cars I thought would be typical junkyard inmates: a 1991 Honda Civic Si and a 1994 Toyota Camry XLE. I visited the auction at which they were purchased, I documented the pre-yard preparations, and I visited both cars every week for their three-month stint as parts donors. After that, I watched them get fed into the cold steel jaws of The Crusher. Here’s how our Civic and Camry spent the final months of their lives.
It all started last winter, when I found this ’78 Chrysler Cordoba at a self-serve yard near Chez Murilee in Denver. This fine example of Malaise Era personal luxury had a genuine Corinthian Leather bench seat in excellent condition.
So, I went back, bought the seat, and made it into a very comfy garage couch. In that tale, I’d mentioned some unpleasant experiences I’d had with certain California self-serve yard employees, experiences that make me reluctant to ask for help— say, moving a junkyard welded-wheel jackstand that made Cordoba seat bolts difficult to access— from any junkyard employees. The folks at the yard that provided the Corinthian Leather seat have always treated me well, so I had no complaints there… but then I got an email from a TTAC-reading employee at the corporate HQ of the chain that owned another Denver yard that has provided many Junkyard Finds: “I think you frequent our Aurora and Denver stores (from what I can see in your pics anyway). If you ever do need assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask. For safety reasons, we’re reluctant to bring mobile equipment into the yard during store hours. But someone could’ve helped you get that last nut.” I assured him that I had no complaints about any employees at those yards (in fact, Colorado junkyard employees tend to be several orders of magnitude pleasanter and more competent than their California counterparts)… but, while we’re on the subject, perhaps he might be able to find a way to get me access to the inner workings of one of their yards, for a future TTAC piece?
Next thing I know, I’m wearing a hardhat backstage at the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay yard, talking to John Fernbach, chief vehicle buyer for the company’s Colorado yards (sharp-eyed readers might recognize in the background the ’71 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser that later got picked completely clean within days of being put out on the Denver U-Pull-&-Pay yard). John, who holds a degree in economics and specialized in commodity studies, doesn’t exactly conform to the the hardbitten, gas-axe-wielding junkyard dog stereotype some of us old-timers might hold. These days, running this sort of operation is a tightrope-walking science, where even slightly bad moves can move the balance sheet right into the red. His job is to obtain the feedstock for the three Colorado U-Pull-&-Pay yards, and that job gets tougher every week nowadays. High scrap-metal prices, well over $200/ton at the scrapper, just for cars dragged in off the street, and years of a grim economy have created legions of car-hungry scavengers who scour the land for any vehicle they can drag to the scrapper for a quick buck. Meanwhile, the same grim economy means that money-strapped working folks keep their old cars limping along longer than ever. The upshot is that finding fresh inventory for three major yards is like pulling teeth, and the job requires nonstop hustling.
John buys a lot of vehicles at local auctions, so he took me along to a nearby operation with plenty of inventory to move. A decade back, I used to buy Tercels and Civics at the San Francisco City Tow auctions of towed-away cars, a Wild West operation at which you could pick up runners for a C-note… but those days are long gone. In a few minutes at this auction, mostly watching beater 15-year-old dealership trade-ins go under the gavel, I became shocked at the prices being paid for these heaps.
For example, are you shopping for a rough-looking early-90s Ford Escort with bad oil rings? This car sold for 800 bucks, at an auction mostly attended by hard-eyed car-biz veterans. Whaaaaat? Blame high commodities prices, tough credit for new-car buyers, and general economic misery. Still, John manages to buy enough cars and trucks at sufficiently low prices to keep the yards in business; keep in mind that high prices for scrap metals mean that the picked-over hulks leaving the yard are worth much more than they were a few years back, even if the value of their parts to junkyard shoppers hasn’t increased much. Back to the Denver yard we went, so that I could pick out a couple of cars purchased during a previous auction visit.
We headed over to the holding area, where fresh arrivals are kept. I wanted two cars, one that I knew would inspire an instant feeding frenzy among car-enthusiast junkyard parts seekers and another that would be sought after by those patching together their daily drivers. For the latter car, I picked this ’94 Camry XLE, the kind of cockroach-grade survivor that’s usually worth fixing up when something breaks.
For the car that would really put some blood in the water for the junkyard sharks looking for bits for personal projects or maybe to resell on eBay, I selected this 1991 Honda Civic Si.
The 1988-91 Si hatch was once the factory-hot-rod Honda of choice for street-racer types, and the fourth-gen Civic still retains enough of a devoted following to ensure that one that appears at a low-priced self-serve yard will attract hordes of parts-pullers.
I was really tempted to go with this 1978 Mercury Marquis, just because it was so incredibly cool. Unfortunately, cars like this don’t get much action at a self-serve yard these days; probably a guy with an F-150 would yank the 400M engine and maybe the C4 transmission, and the rest of the car would go right into The Crusher’s jaws without giving me much of a story (plus this yard separates imports from domestics and I wanted the two cars parked side-by-side, meaning I’d need two Detroit cars or two imports). I tried my best to get a certain TTAC writer with an irrational love of Malaise Era Blue Oval products to buy this rust-free car— which ran and drove perfectly and which U-Pull-&-Pay was offering at a very reasonable price— but he didn’t feel up to the Denver-to-Houston, single-digit-MPG drive that would be required.
Once I chose the cars I’d be following, it was time for me to watch the U-Pull-&-Pay grunts prep them for placement among the rest of the inventory in the junkyard proper. At this point, my bullshit detectors kicked into DefCon One mode, as I geared up for any sign that the men running this yard were faking up a Potemkin village of just-this-one-day-only safe-and-clean fluid-disposal procedures and so on; such is the level of suspicion that interacting with car-company PR flacks engenders in a properly cynical automotive journalist. Having watched plenty of junkyard-chain employees in allegedly-enviro-conscious California dumping oil on the ground a few hundred yards from the endangered species of San Francisco Bay (and no doubt playing Crush The Alameda Whipsnake with old car batteries when customers weren’t watching), I was ready to pounce on signs of phony safety and/or waste-disposal hijinks.
As suspicious and pessimistic as I try to be, and as much as I want to write an Ida Tarbell-grade muckraking exposé, I’ve got to admit that the operations at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver (and, I hope, the rest of their yards) appear to be legitimately safe-n-sane, and that what I saw behind the scenes this summer looks like their typical workday.
Before a new arrival gets put up on the rack for fluid and refrigerant removal, the U-Pull-&-Pay employees harvest all the loose change they find under the seats. This goes into a bucket, and the contents of the bucket are used to buy pizza for the whole crew on Fridays.
Batteries are removed from vehicles and brought to this area for testing. Good batteries are sold to customers, bad batteries are sent to recycling plants.
The air-conditioner refrigerant is harvested and stored, and all fluids— including windshield-washer juice and brake fluid— are sucked out and sent off for recycling or disposal.
A vampire-like device punches into the fuel tank and drains all the gasoline without spilling a drop. Good gas is given to employees; bad gas gets recycled with the other petroleum-based liquids. The entire procedure is weirdly clean and not anything like the puddles-of-burning-gear-oil Superfund nightmare I’d imagined.
After that, the cars were put into the on-deck area, where they’d wait until it was time to pull out an old row of imports and replace it with fresh meat.
So that the forklift drivers would keep the Civic and the Camry together on the yard, my name was written on the windows in paint-pen ink. This made me feel like a junkyard VIP.
I was off at a distant 24 Hours of LeMons race when the cars were placed at the end of a row in the Imports section, so they’d already been exposed to parts shoppers for two days when I visited them.
The hood and a couple of wheels had sold off the Camry, but otherwise it was untouched.
The Civic Si, on the other hand, had already given up a bunch of high-value parts. The Si instrument cluster probably lasted about 20 minutes; these things fetch good money on eBay— not bad for a part that U-Pull-&-Pay gets $20.99 for. The factory aluminum wheels and many interior components were gone as well. I visited this Civic every week for each of its 11 weeks in the Import section, but we’ve only got room for a brief outline of what parts got pulled when; go here for the complete start-to-finish photo-essay of the 1991 Honda Civic Si’s life at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver.
The following week, the Camry’s dash had been hit, but the factory radio, once removed, was judged to be not worth buying. Go here for the complete start-to-finish photo-essay of the 1994 Toyota Camry XLE’s life at U-Pull-&-Pay Denver.
Under the Camry’s (nonexistent) hood, the usual scramble for pocket-sized relays and electronic devices had begun.
Next door, the Civic had donated a fender and most of its front body parts to Denver Honda fanciers.
The door panels and inside latches had been taken, along with about 50% of the remaining interior parts. Exterior trim pieces were also evaporating.
By Week Three, the Camry had started to lose some in-demand bits; the driver’s-side rear-view mirror, for example.
At the same time, someone had removed a valve cover and begun the process of pulling out a couple of the camshafts, before giving up and leaving the cams in place.
Not much had changed on the Camry the following week. Nice front door panels on sub-20-year-old import sedans mostly get snapped up from self-service yards, and that’s what happened to our Camry.
By Week Five, the Civic was looking even more naked. Taillights, most of the exterior trim, and a sprinkling of parts from all over the car had departed.
The Camry’s interior, which looked pretty clean for an 18-year-old car, was bearing the brunt of the scavenging by this time. Part of the center console and the parking-brake lever now live on in a still-on-the-street Camry.
< After the Civic Si spent six weeks on the yard, someone finally came and pulled the car’s 108-horse D16A6 engine. The transmission, oil pan, and most of the accessories were left behind.
By that time, the Camry had yielded some more interior parts, including the driver’s-side armrest and power-window controls.
While Civic-parts shoppers continued to pick the ’91 Si cleaner with each passing week, the Camry at seven weeks was still 90% there.
With 266,542 miles on the clock, this Toyota served its owners well.
A row of cars stays out for two or three months at this type of yard, so time was running out for these two after 11 weeks.
The next row over was replaced around this time, with this ’73 Super Beetle parked nose-to-nose with the Camry.
High-demand parts are often pulled from a car and stashed in an adjacent car, while the buyer runs home to get money and/or check to see if he really needs the thing. I’m not sure why anybody would care much about a Mexican Solex 34PICT knockoff, but I found the Super Beetle’s carb sitting in the Camry’s trunk.
Twelve weeks after our Camry and Civic were placed on the yard, it was time for some new inventory. In their place, a Mazda Protege and a Lexus SC400.
Meanwhile, the junkyard-browsing public having had three months to pick over the Civic and Camry, our cars waited in a holding area next to The Crusher.
The forklift man grabbed the Toyota first.
The aluminum-laden engines of modern cars are removed before crushing at U-Pull-&-Pay; the forklift operator just tears the engine and transmission right out of the car.
This guy then jumps in and begins clipping off valuable copper wiring from the engine.
After that, he’ll remove the alternator, starter, and other accessories that have value as rebuildable cores.
While that’s going on, the forklift goes back in and rips out the dash wiring harness and whatever remains of the engine harness.
Copper is money!
18 years and the equivalent of 11 trips around the world’s circumference, and the end of the line has been reached for this Camry. Into The Crusher it goes.

If you have a ghoulish fascination with watching cars die, here’s a video compilation of the sequence I just described.
With the Camry pressed flat, The Crusher has room for another course in its meal. The forklift fetches the Civic.
The engine and much of the wiring had already been pulled by customers, so there wasn’t as much to extract from this car.
Placed atop the Camry in The Crusher, the Civic gets mashed flat quickly.

Here’s the video version of the Civic’s demise.
The two-car pancake is then hauled over to the stacks of squished cars awaiting a trip to the scrapper.
The two cars together couldn’t have been more than 18″ thick.
I’ve owned a few fourth-gen Civics and liked them a lot, so this sight made me a bit sad. Still, the endless cycle of cars and steel must continue.
The crushed carcasses are loaded onto a truck, which then takes the load of steel about ten miles south to the scrapper.
The pressed remains of our Camry and Civic then get shredded and put into shipping containers. Maybe they’ll be hauled by train over the Rockies and Sierras and put into a China-bound container ship, or perhaps they’ll head to foundries in the United States or Europe. And that’s it— two more cars reenter the food chain.
For the complete story of the ’91 Civic Si’s 11 weeks as a parts donor, go here.
For the ’94 Camry XLE’s saga, go here.

13-71-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-01-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-02-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-03-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-04-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-08-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-09-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-11-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-13-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-15-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-17-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-20-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-21-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-23-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-30-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-32-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01-01-UPAP_Week1- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01-11-UPAP_Week1- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 01-21-UPAP_Week1- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-11-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-16-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-25-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-32-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 02-43-UPAP_Week2- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 03-32-UPAP_Week3- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 03-39-UPAP_Week3- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 04-03-UPAP_Week4- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-19-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-29-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-31-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 05-36-UPAP_Week5- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-04-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-05-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-27-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 06-28-UPAP_Week6- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 07-13-UPAP_Week7- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 07-22-UPAP_Week7- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-01-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-06-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-17-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 08-30-UPAP_Week8- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 10-33-UPAP_Week10- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-01-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-17-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-18-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 11-38-UPAP_Week11- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 12-UPAP-Week12- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-01-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-07-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-13-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-20-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-25-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-26-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-38-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-41-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-42-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-49-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-52-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-56-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-59-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-63-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-68-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 13-69-UPAP_Crushing- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden 00-00-UPAP_Story-Top 22 - 1978 Chrysler Cordoba Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Corinthian Leather' Greden 21 - Chrysler Cordoba Corinthian Leather Bench Seat - Picture courtesy of Phillip 'Personal Luxury' Greden 00-33-UPAP_Initial_Visit- Picture courtesy of Phil 'Murilee Martin' Greden ]]> 112
On The New Ford Fusion, Design And Homogeneity Fri, 21 Sep 2012 15:36:14 +0000

My first couple days at TTAC weren’t so much a baptismal by fire, but a surprise dunk in the ice bath by the Best & Brightest. My now-infamous post, where I dubbed the unseen-at-the-time  2013 Ford Fusion as a “gamechanger” based on my embargoed preview of the car in Dearborn, became a punchline for the first month of my tenure. But now I get to gloat. Sort of.

Good cars are notoriously competent at flopping in the marketplace. Need I say more than the Pontiac G8? But this time, I really feel that things are different. For the first time ever, I’ve had people who don’t give a lick about cars ask me about “the Ford that looks like an Aston“.

Love him or hate him, Peter DeLorenzo nailed it when he said

“… the Ultimate Initial Product Differentiator going forward in this business will be design, and the Fusion makes a definitive statement and offers a real design point of view, something lacking from Ford and other car companies (Honda and Toyota just to name two) in the past, especially when it comes to the mainstream market in this country.”

For the average consumer, cars have never been safer, more fuel-efficient or feature-packed. Design is the key differentiator in a marketplace where everything gets 40 MPG and comes with a standard backup camera, Bluetooth and heated seats. It would be naive to think that the Fusion will make the Camry, Accord and Altima irrelevant; the mid-size segment is one place where boring, vanilla cars are mandatory, to serve the large segment of the population that many car enthusiasts hold in contempt for wanting nothing more than a beige box to transport them in comfort and isolation.

But what Hyundai, Kia and now Ford have picked up on is that there’s a whole other segment, that can be perfectly embodied by the term “aspirational”. The Fusion is a car that younger buyers will want because it looks like an Aston Martin, and older buyers who want something more exciting than vanilla – but not too much more. The Fusion could be powered by a hamster in a wheel and drive like an oxcart, but its design is strong enough to attract the attention of car enthusiasts and more importantly, people in the market for new cars, who want to make some kind of statement about whatever image they want to project but can’t or won’t shell out for something with a foreign badge. Believe me, there are tons of those consumers out there. And now they have an option besides a used luxury sedan that they won’t have to justify to their peer group.

The Camry, Accord and Altima will likely maintain their grip on the upper echelons of the market. After all, boring sells and this car may be a bit too adventurous for a certain class of buyer. But the Fusion will doubtlessly build on the previous generation’s success, and more importantly, get people talking about the brand, thanks to a mid-size car. Who would have ever thought that would happen just two years ago?


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Toyota Camry Hybrid vs. Volkswagen Passat TDI: Which Would You Buy? Mon, 02 Jul 2012 13:00:23 +0000

Hybrid or diesel? For peak fuel economy in a $30,000 midsize sedan you need one or the other. The Toyota Camry is the most efficient of the five available hybrids (until the 2013 Ford Fusion arrives). If you live in Europe, the diesel world is your oyster. In North America, you have one option for an oil-burning mid-size sedan, the Volkswagen Passat. Which would you pick?

Neither sedan’s design would have blazed any trails even a decade ago. But the Passat’s styling, both inside and out, is cleaner and more harmonious. Toyota’s designers can’t seem to step back far enough from the trees to envision a forest. The Camry Hybrid XLE’s interior, with some materials a little better and others a little worse than those in the Passat TDI SEL Premium, has too much going on stylistically. The upper doors halfheartedly attempt to flow into the instrument panel, while lacking the latter’s stitching. The “stitching” molded into the center stack trim is similarly counterproductive, as it actually cheapens the interior. Of course, many people (including the one I’m married to) don’t notice such things. Though both cars have seats trimmed in faux suede, and the Passat additionally includes faux timber, they’ll likely find the ambiance warmer inside the Camry.

Both interiors have been designed to maximize perceived room with fairly flat door panels that meet the instrument panel at a right angle. The previous-generation Camry’s interior, with curvier panels, feels much tighter. Both cars have broad, supportive front seats that provide little in the way of lateral support, though the Passat’s cushions are firmer and the Camry’s headrests jut forward to an uncomfortable degree. There’s plenty of room for adults in the back of the Camry. The Passat, with another inch of combined legroom that somehow seems like three inches, invites limo comparisons…until you notice that, unlike in the Toyota, there are no rear air vents.

Then there’s cargo hauling. Both cars are offered only as sedans. By working in shifts to compact the Camry’s hybrid bits, Toyota engineers bumped trunk volume 2.5 cubic feet, to 13.1. A worthwhile increase, but still not close to the Passat’s 15.9. Both trunks can be expanded by folding the rear seat, but you only have a mail slot on the right side in the Camry.

Though the new Camry Hybrid is more firmly suspended than the previous one, and the Americanized Passat is softer than the typical German sedan, the two cars haven’t met in the middle. The Camry remains a considerably softer, cushier, quieter car, with some float and bobble through rough curves, while the Passat provides more nuanced feedback (through the seat of the pants much more than the electrically assisted steering) and has more tightly controlled body motions. Your ears will only report that the VW is a diesel at idle, and then only if you’re paying attention. The additional noise inside its cabin mostly comes from the wind and the road.

Unlike some smaller fuel sippers, both cars have more than enough power for scooting about the ‘burbs or popping onto the freeway. Both feel torquey at low-to-moderate engine speeds, the Camry because of the assist provided by its electric motor, the Passat because it’s a diesel. With far more peak horsepower, 200 vs. 140, the Camry Hybrid’s powertrain can get you to sixty sooner. But it’s not a joy to wind out, so this advantage isn’t large in the real world. If you have a lead foot, neither car is your best bet.

The EPA MPG numbers—43 city, 39 highway for the Camry and 30 city, 40 highway for the Passat—rightly suggest that the two cars excel in different types of driving. But the EPA shortchanges both cars. Judging from its trip computer (which I initially doubted, but owners report similar numbers), the Passat TDI can manage high 30s in suburban driving and low 50s on the highway without too much effort. In straight highway driving, the Camry cannot match it, checking in around 45. A hybrid’s additional fuel efficiency is derived from its ability to recoup energy while decelerating. If there’s no deceleration, the hybrid powertrain not only provides no benefit but, through its additional mass, actually becomes a disadvantage. Off the highway the tables are turned. The more stops per mile, the better the Camry becomes, especially if you factor in the higher cost per gallon of diesel.

It also helps if one does not drive the Camry “normally.” My wife managed 38 miles-per-gallon in the Camry Hybrid, about the same as I observed in the Passat TDI when driving with the flow of traffic. But when I was behind the wheel, the trip computer regularly reported averages in the low 50s and as high as 63 on my standard suburban route. The hybrid’s operation makes a very casual driving style feel “right,” and I personally enjoy the experience. But many people simply don’t want to drive with a light enough foot to achieve these numbers. For them, the TDI is the better way to go, as its efficiency varies much less with driving style.

Load both cars up, and the Camry stickers for a couple grand more, $35,330 vs. $33,090. But, based on the car price comparison tool, the Toyota includes about $900 in additional features, cutting the difference to $1,300. Also note that Toyota dealers enjoy wider margins. Compare invoices, and the VW has only a $554 advantage before adjusting for feature differences, and a $300 disadvantage afterwards. Since invoice prices often better reflect what people actually pay, price isn’t likely to be the deciding factor between these two cars.

Consumers are likely to decide between the two based on styling, ride, handling, amenities, driving conditions, driving style, and the reputation of each brand. After a rough start, the 2012 Passat has improved so that it’s not far from the average in TrueDelta’s car reliability survey, but it’s very early. If you had to choose between the two, which would you buy?

Camry Hybrid provided with fuel and insurance by Toyota.

Passat TDI provided by Dan Kelley, Suburban VW in Farmington Hills, MI, 248-741-7903

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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