Pricing Analysis: 2012 Toyota Camry

Michael Karesh
by Michael Karesh

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
Michael Karesh

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.

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  • Motor2 Motor2 on Sep 25, 2011

    Hi first time post here, nice site and article Michael. Might down size from a 07 highlander hybrid and 10 prius to the new 2012 camry...just hate giving up the 75 cubic foot of packing space the highlander has though guess to a small degree the folding back seats in the SE would be helpful in that regard. Just wish the SE would come in that sky blue color like the non SE models and new 2012 hybrid do. Well also wish they keep the auto up/down on all windows and dual tail pipes. Anyway two quick questions if you get a chance to see and reply. Understand the tables in the article a bit more will be helpful as I compare actual feature adjust pricing for the 2012 models. 1. Guess I'm bad at math so a little help please. You said 'The XLE and especially the XLE V6 follow a value-pricing scheme...providing a $600 discount...' Uncertain how to follow that statement looking at the table I think it is referencing. The xle shows -610 but the xle v6 shows +685 (was guessing the number was also going to be a minus 600 figure of some sort). Might the reason be due to features added to the XLE V6? 2. Uncertain how the msrp figure of 30260 is obtained on the SE v6 in the last table. If the blue color does not do it for me, once I see one, then maybe an SE though would like to drive the new hybrid if I can hold out until it hits the dealer lots

    • Michael Karesh Michael Karesh on Sep 26, 2011

      1. I don't adjust for engines, because there's no clear way to put a dollar amount on differences between them. The -610 for the four and +685 for the V6 means they're charging $1,295 for the V6. Seems a very fair price for 89 horsepower. 2. $30260 is the sticker price of the SE V6 with leather, nav, and sunroof.

  • Motor2 Motor2 on Sep 25, 2011

    Lost in the numbers... me again. I headed over to the truedelta site but for the life of me I cannot follow how some of the nubmers in those tables for the camry 11/12 models plug into the tables in this article. Well I can for the L model and it does match for the Feature Adjust figure but it appears the Total Feature Adjustment row on the truedelta site (expect for that first $175 figure) do not match any of the numbers in this article's Feature Adjust table column. Again, probably just me not doing the math correctly I would guess.

    • Michael Karesh Michael Karesh on Sep 26, 2011

      For the first table I performed base price comparisons separately for each of the trim levels--so about seven separate comparisons. If other trim levels were included in the results that had lower prices they would cause the numbers to be different on the TrueDelta site. I had to do some extra math for these to only compare LE to LE and so forth.

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