By on December 28, 2016

Question Mark Car

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that — all things considered — might just be a great choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

It’s the end of the year, which means the internet is awash with anodyne Best Of pieces, designed to distract readers from the fact that journalists are deep into their third consecutive forty-ouncer of Mohawk vodka and too blitzed to write original material in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This piece may qualify in that vein.

Let’s coast over to Mr. Cain’s handy sales charts, shall we? Hmm. Which nameplates are expected to occupy the podium once all the deals are tallied for 2016? Can we do an Ace of Base on one of those? *swigs vodka straight from the bottle* Hmm. F-Series? Nope. Already done that. Silverado and Ram are similar propositions; no help there. Ah! The first actual car on the list. It’s the … oh, crap. Alright, let’s get this over with.

(Read More…)

By on December 12, 2016

1988 Toyota Camry in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Car writers are expected to love wagons with manual transmissions, but most of my love is reserved for the likes of three-on-the-tree-equipped Ford Country Squires and maybe the occasional 4-speed Datsun F-10 Sportwagon. Still, when I run across a Junkyard Find as rare as a second-generation Camry wagon with five-speed, I photograph it.

Here’s one that I spotted last week in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on December 2, 2016

1992 Nissan Altima (public domain)

I had somewhat of a unique high school experience, in the sense that it was the most after-school special, stereotypical experience possible. I went to a suburban school with just the right amount of ethnic diversity — which is to say that even the black and Hispanic and Asian kids listened to Pearl Jam and wore Ralph Lauren.

When it came to our first cars, we didn’t just go down to the local dirt lot and buy something with our savings from fast food jobs. No, we were spoiled brats who were given sensible compact to mid-sized sedans by our parents. We didn’t lust after MK II GTIs or Geo Storms — no, we sat around the lunch table in 1994 and debated the merits of the fifth-gen Honda Accord, the basic but steady Ford Taurus, and the GOAT XV10 Toyota Camry, especially the blingy “American Edition.”

As for me, I had my heart set on the recently introduced Nissan Stanza Altima.

(Read More…)

By on December 2, 2016

2018 Toyota Camry (Image: Toyota)

Midsize cars just don’t excite like they used to. North American buyers have happily made the switch to voluminous crossovers and SUVs, turning the once top-ranked segment into a raisin on the vine.

Toyota hopes to change that, announcing that next month’s North American International Auto Show will reveal the next generation of the first midsizer off anyone’s lips — Camry. Perhaps realizing that name recognition and safe styling is no longer a surefire plan for sales dominance, the automaker has scheduled its uber-sensible sedan for an image makeover. (Read More…)

By on November 21, 2016

2004 toyota camry le v6 pei farm - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Having endured 12 hard Canadian winters on an island covered in red dirt, this 2004 Toyota Camry is about to enter its thirteenth; its tenth since my father-in-law took ownership.

That red dirt is truly key to the story, because its color comes from Prince Edward Island’s high iron oxide content. Yes, that iron oxide. Rust.

But the Camry, undercoated three times since 2007, is an almost rust-free wonder with nearly 340,000 miles under its belt. (Read More…)

By on November 8, 2016

2017 Subaru Legacy SportThis is the fifth overall edition of TTAC’s Midsize Sedan Deathwatch. The midsize sedan as we know it — “midsizedus sedanicus” in the original latin — isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but the ongoing sales contraction will result in a reduction of mainstream intermediate sedans in the U.S. market.

How do we know? It already has.


U.S. sales of midsize cars plunged by 20 percent in October 2016, a year-over-year loss of nearly 39,000 sales for a segment that was already down by nearly 195,000 through the first three-quarters of 2016.

American consumers, businesses, government agencies, and daily rental fleets are still on pace to purchase and lease more than two million midsize cars in calendar year 2016. Of course, Americans had already purchased and leased more than two million midsize cars at this point in 2015, when the midsize sedan decline was already underway.

Regardless of what came before, October’s results were a punch in the midsize sector’s gut, as total sales fell by a fifth because of declines reported by every player in the category.

Save for the Subaru Legacy. (Read More…)

By on October 5, 2016

2015-2017 Toyota Camry SE silver

This is the fourth overall edition of TTAC’s Midsize Sedan Deathwatch. The midsize sedan as we know it  — “midsizedus sedanicus” in the original latin — isn’t going anywhere any time soon, but the ongoing sales contraction will result in a reduction of mainstream intermediate sedans in the U.S. market. How do we know? It already has.


As more proof of a struggling midsize sedan sector, September 2016 sales tumbled 11 percent year-over-year, a loss of more than 21,400 U.S. sales for a segment that was already losing an average of 21,600 sales per month during the first two-thirds of 2016.

The Toyota Camry, America’s top-selling midsize car and the most popular car in America over the last 14 consecutive years, was outsold by its own compact sibling in September. Yet the Camry’s sales decline, in line with the segment average, was by no means unusual in September. Aside from a modest Nissan Altima increase and a jump in sales of the new Chevrolet Malibu, every midsize nameplate generated fewer sales this September than last. (Read More…)

By on September 7, 2016

2016 Subaru Legacy 3.6R LimitedThere will always be a place in the American market for the conventional midsize sedan.

Despite harsh declines in recent months, consumers are still on track to register more than 2 million midsize cars in calendar year 2016. In fact, a handful of nameplates — Accord, Legacy, Malibu — are attracting more buyers this year than they did in the first two-thirds of 2015.

But U.S. sales of midsize cars are now falling with a special kind of speed, plunging 26 percent in August, a loss of nearly 58,000 sales over the span of just one month. (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2016

2016 RAV4 and CamryWill the Toyota RAV4 outsell Toyota’s long-running best-selling car, the Toyota Camry, within the next five years? Nine months ago, Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. boss, Bob Carter, said, “I’ll bet you lunch that will happen.”

It didn’t take five years.

To be fair, Carter wasn’t referring to a single month’s results. Indeed, through the first two-thirds of 2016,  the Camry produced nearly 36,000 more U.S. sales — about one month’s worth — than the RAV4.

But in August 2016, for the first time in Toyota’s U.S. history, the Toyota RAV4 was more popular than the Toyota Camry. And the RAV4 was by no means the only vehicle to outsell the most popular car in America. (Read More…)

By on September 2, 2016

twofiddy

I’ve long since learned not to give advice about car purchases to individuals who are not already rabid car enthusiasts. It wasn’t a lesson that arrived immediately, or without difficulty, but it’s one that I have finally and regretfully internalized. My brother Bark has not yet learned this lesson, so feel free to continue sending him Ask Bark submissions, but my days as a would-be car-shopping guru are over.

Yet there are times that I cannot dodge a particular request, whether for reasons of politeness, expediency, or my own self-interest. When those times arise, I usually recommend a Toyota, unless the questioner has stated that she absolutely does not want a Toyota, in which case I will recommend a Honda. If a Honda is not acceptable, I explain that anything else amounts to a roll of the dice and as long as we’re rollin’ the dice we might as well get a Viper ACR and screech our barbaric yawp down the back straight of Virginia International Raceway the way Harambe would have wanted us to had he not been assassinated by the Illuminati.

So when a co-worker at one of my contracts asked me about her next new car, I quickly evaluated her demographics (50-ish, upper-middle class), current vehicle (previous-gen Sonata) and desires (“As much luxury as I can get”) before responding, however reluctantly, with an endorsement of the Lexus ES. This, of course, led to an examination of the pricing and equipment for the Lexus ES. Despite numerous conversations on the subject, I cannot decide if the front-wheel-drive luxo-Toyota represents a blatant cash grab or singular value for money. There’s only one way to decide issues like these, but since Tina Turner let Thunderdome burn to the ground we’ll have to settle for deciding based on the considered input of the Best & Brightest.

(Read More…)

By on August 17, 2016

2016 Toyota Camry XLE

The Toyota Camry began a streak of 14 consecutive years as America’s best-selling car in 2002. Holding that number one position isn’t easy.

Toyota does not merely need the Camry to continue to live up to its reputation for reliability, and subsequently incite demand. Toyota also requires massive production capacity and a pricing scheme that matches production capacity to demand.

Demand in the United States for conventional midsize cars, however, is falling quickly. Year-to-date, overall midsize car volume is down 8 percent. In July 2016, midsize car sales fell 15 percent.

With a 2016 Camry now attempting to leave dealer lots as a five-year-old car, more than two years since its last refresh, Toyota’s desire for the Camry to maintain its high-volume nature and best-selling posture is now matched by a significant uptick in Camry incentives.

Toyota is now discounting Camrys 27-percent more than just one year ago, with an average incentive spend per Camry of $3,760 in July. (Read More…)

By on March 18, 2016

2015 Toyota Camry XSE red

If your neighbor tells you they’re thinking of buying or leasing a new midsize sedan, you wouldn’t be crazy to assume that they’ve likely visited the local Toyota, Honda, and Nissan dealers.

Yet the majority of U.S. midsize car buyers do not, in fact, choose the Camry, Accord, or Altima.

Diversity wins. The dominator isn’t all-conquering.

(Read More…)

By on January 21, 2016

2015 Toyota Camry

The streak began in 2002 and remains unbroken. Yes, 2002, which began with the Patriots winning the Super Bowl and ended after George W. Bush’s GOP was strengthened during the first mid-term elections of his presidency.

The Toyota Camry was America’s best-selling car. And the Camry has topped the best-selling cars leaderboard every year since.

In 2015, the Camry’s lead over the second-ranked car grew to 66,000 units from 40,000 in 2014. As U.S. passenger car volume declined in a record-setting year for the auto industry, the Toyota Camry’s sales did not. As midsize car sales slid 2 percent, U.S. Camry volume increased to the highest level seen of America’s most popular car in seven years.

Threats to the Camry’s supremacy in 2016? They stand shoulder to shoulder with the Camry inside Toyota’s own showrooms. (Read More…)

By on December 23, 2015

2015 Honda Civic Concept

Now it can be told: Perhaps the most cringe-worthy moment of my life was my own “Affluenza” episode, otherwise known as “The Time I Wrote A Poem About Not Getting A BMW 2002 For Christmas.”

I was eighteen years old and busy failing to fulfill my potential at university. I was already on my second car, the infamous Red Marquis, having unceremoniously crashed my 200SX on my first unsupervised day as a temporary-license holder. During one of our brief telephone conversations that fall, my father asked me some questions about “old BMWs,” with particular focus on the 2002. My fevered imagination had grasped that straw and run with it until I was honestly surprised to get two sweaters and a couple of shirts on the blessed morning of the 25th.

I went back to school early so I could mope in private and write a poem about it, the worst couplets of which I’ve retrieved from memory for your amusement:

(Read More…)

By on October 16, 2015

1994 M3 E36 GT. Picture courtesy BMW

I recently started to think about automotive over styling. This is because many of today’s cars are styled to the point where you wonder if they had some contractual obligation with the supplier to put in as many unnecessary curves and creases as humanly possible.

This all got started when I walked by an E36 BMW 3 Series a few weeks ago. That is a handsome car. It has clean lines, and clean panels, and virtually no unnecessary curves or surfaces or trim. The thing is all purpose, all business, and somehow it still manages to be beautiful. I love it.

(Read More…)

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