Pricing Analysis: 2012 Toyota Camry
At the launch event for the 2012 Toyota Camry, the presenting executive noted price reductions of up to $2,000. Quite often such reductions are accomplished by deleting previously standard features. Case in point: the 2012 Volkswagen Passat, where we found that once you adjust for feature differences a $7,180 price drop shrunk to a much smaller, if still substantial, $2,400. So with the redesigned Camry I withheld commenting on the price reduction until I could run the car through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool.
The results are much more interesting than I expected (cars with automatic transmission):MSRPFeatureAdjustAdj. MSRPDiff.2011 Camry Base22005220052012 Camry L22715-17522540+5352011 Camry LE23460234602012 Camry LE23260-22523035-4252011 Camry SE24725247252012 Camry SE23760-82522935-17902011 Camry SE V627400274002012 Camry SE V627400-297524425-29752011 Camry XLE26725267252012 Camry XLE24725+61525340-13852011 Camry XLE V630605306052012 Camry XLE V630605-206028545-20602011 Camry Hybrid27810278102012 Camry Hybrid26660-16026500-1360
In every case but the XLE, the feature adjustment is actually in the 2012s favor, widening rather than narrowing its price advantage. So the price decrease is real…with one notable exception: the price of the cheapest Camry actually went up. In fact, the size of the decrease varies considerably by trim level and powertrain.
To highlight the pattern, let’s compare trim levels:MSRPFeature AdjustAdj. MSRPDiff.2012 Camry L22715227152012 Camry LE23260-72522535-1802012 Camry SE23760-217521585-11302012 Camry SE V627400-432523075+3602012 Camry XLE25485-338022105-6102012 Camry XLE V630605-720523400+6852012 Camry Hybrid26660-130025360+2645
So the LE is a slightly better value than the L, but the difference between the two “garden variety” Camrys isn’t large enough to matter. At the other end of the spectrum, the Hybrid has come down $1,360 compared to last year, leaving it (only?) about $2,600 more than the equivalent conventionally-powered car. The XLE and especially the XLE V6 follow a value-pricing scheme, essentially providing a $600 discount for checking off all of the boxes. Ford commonly does this. The Germans, on the other hand, typically go in the other direction, making the base car the best value then charging big bucks for options.
The big surprise is the SE, where Toyota appears to have lifted a page from the Mercedes-Benz playbook. For the past few years Mercedes has been providing a free sport package on the C-Class. More recently they’ve done the same with the E-Class. On other models the “AMG” body kit, wheels, and suspension can cost thousands of dollars. On these models it’s free. Why? Because Mercedes want to change their image from stodgy to sporty.
Similarly, Toyota charges $500 more for the SE than the LE, but fits it with about $1,500 in additional features. Opt for the V6, and they go even further, piling on standard features far more than they bump the price. The 2012 has the same base price as the 2011, but includes nearly $3,000 in additional standard features, most notably the new Entune system which includes nav. So while the 2012 SE V6 lists for $4,685 more than the 2012 L, all but $360 of this price difference is accounted for by its additional features. Not included in this calculation: the SE V6’s more powerful engine, larger whees, stickier tires, and sport suspension. Would you pay $360 to go from a 179-horsepower four-cylinder engine and 16-inch wheels shod with grip-free tires to a 268-horsepower V6 and 18-inch wheels shod with performance rubber? A stupid question, isn’t it?
Given the effective $3,000 price cut, it’s no surprise that the SE V6 also compares very favorably with competitors (all with leather, nav, and sunroof):MSRPFeature AdjustAdj. MSRPDiff.Camry SE V63026030260Mazda6 s Grand Touring32365+211034475+4215VW Passat V6 SEL Premium33720+41034130+3870Honda Accord EX-L32600+112533725+3465Nissan Altima 3.5 SR32470+42532895+2635Ford Fusion Sport33135-77532360+2325Hyudai Sonata Limited 2.0T31055+37531430+1170Dodge Avenger R/T28035+117529210-1050
Only the Ford includes more stuff than the feature-laden Camry—notice the often sizable feature adjustments. So the Camry has both a lower sticker price and more features. Wonder why the Mazda6 doesn’t sell better? Now you know at least part of the reason. The “reduced price” Passat might now be in the hunt, but it’s also near the top of the range. Toyota has even managed to significantly outdo the aggressive Koreans. Only the lame duck Dodge manages to undercut the new Camry. And if you compare invoices rather than sticker prices, even it ends up about $200 more. (Toyota dealers enjoy wider margins than most, so all of the above comparisons would shift even further in the Camry’s favor if we compared invoice prices.)
Apparently Toyota is sick of hearing about how boring Camrys are to look at and drive. To counteract this, they want fewer LEs and more SEs on the road, and they’re subsidizing the price of the latter to make this happen. If the styling and suspension of the SE simply aren’t your thing, they’d prefer that you opt for the Hybrid. Dead set on the L or LE? Toyota will still sell you a driving appliance, but they’re easily the worst values in the bunch.
Michael Karesh lives in West Bloomfield, Michigan, with his wife and three children. In 2003 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. While in Chicago he worked at the National Opinion Research Center, a leader in the field of survey research. For his doctoral thesis, he spent a year-and-a-half inside an automaker studying how and how well it understood consumers when developing new products. While pursuing the degree he taught consumer behavior and product development at Oakland University. Since 1999, he has contributed auto reviews to Epinions, where he is currently one of two people in charge of the autos section. Since earning the degree he has continued to care for his children (school, gymnastics, tae-kwan-do...) and write reviews for Epinions and, more recently, The Truth About Cars while developing TrueDelta, a vehicle reliability and price comparison site.
More by Michael Karesh
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
- Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
- Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
- Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
- CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .