2002-2015: For 14 Years The Toyota Camry Has Reigned As America's Best-Selling Car

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
2002 2015 for 14 years the toyota camry has reigned as americas best selling car

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.


Not since 2009, before the Corolla forged ahead exclusively as a sedan, had Toyota’s compact slotted in behind the Camry on America’s best-selling cars list. But as compact cars gained a modest measure of strength in 2015, the Corolla generated 363,332, tops in its class for a second consecutive year.

Low fuel prices don’t help compacts if prospective buyers are also considering a slight payment increase to buy or lease an intermediate car instead, but compact car popularity is potentially enhanced by a declining subcompact car category.


Toyota’s prediction, however, doesn’t necessarily see the Corolla being the Camry’s primary challenger. Rather, the surging RAV4 is the vehicle likely to overtake the Camry in Toyota popularity in the next few years. This won’t necessarily impact the Camry’s standing among passenger cars, though RAV4 sales expansion will likely come partly at the Camry’s expense. U.S. RAV4 volume has more than doubled over the last four years. As recently as 2012, the Camry outsold the RAV4 by 233,000 units. That margin was cut in half by 2015.

Just look at Canada, where small SUV popularity has crushed the midsize sector. The Escape outsells the Fusion, Focus, Fiesta, Taurus, and C-Max combined, and the RAV4 has outsold the Camry in seven consecutive years. The year before the RAV4 took over from the Camry, Toyota’s midsize sedan volume was 20 percent stronger. Change happens fast.


In the meantime, the Camry hasn’t held on to its best-selling crown by pulling a rabbit out of the hat on New Year’s Eve.

Only in six of the last 24 months has the Camry failed to top the passenger car sales leaderboard, and only twice during that period has the Camry failed to hold the title in consecutive months. The Camry doesn’t squeak ahead with a blow-out sale over the holidays every year. Instead, it’s a surprise when a month ends and some other car has generated more showroom activity than the Camry.


Over the course of the 14-year streak, Toyota averaged a 49,720-unit annual sales gap between the top-selling Camry and whatever the second-ranked car happened to be. In 2006 and 2009, that car was the Corolla, sales of which included its Matrix hatchback offshoot. (Camry sales used to include the Solara, as well, to be fair.) In 2011, the second-ranked car was the Nissan Altima, and the gap narrowed to less than 40,000 units.

Typically, however, the second-best-selling car in America is the Honda Accord, which ranked first in 2001 prior to the Camry’s streak began. In 2007, when Camry sales shot to a record-high 473,108 units, the margin of victory was at its largest: 80,877 sales. Never has the margin been smaller than in 2003, when the Accord trailed the Camry by only 15,546 units. 2015’s margin, 66,023 units between the Camry and Corolla, marks a three-year high.


According to passenger car sales tallies from Automotive News, 5.7 percent of the new cars sold in America in 2015 were Camrys.

That’s the highest level since 2009, when the Camry accounted for 6.3 percent of the new cars sold in the United States.


The Camry’s streak is impressive, but it isn’t mirrored in the passenger car arena north of the border. Honda Canada has made the Civic Canada’s best-selling car in each of the last 18 years.

Moreover, the Civic’s dominance in the car sector is greater in Canada than the Camry’s dominance in America. 9.1 percent of Canada’s car sales in 2015 belonged to the Civic. Indeed, the Civic was even able to unseat the all-conquering Ford F-Series as recently as 2008 to become Canada’s best-selling vehicle overall. The F-Series outsold the Civic by a 1.8 to 1 count in Canada in 2015; the Camry by 1.8 to 1 in the U.S.


Speaking of Honda, the Retail vs. Overall Sales argument has often landed in their favour. There are factors worth noting, of course. The Camry’s greater emphasis on fleet volume isn’t paired with a poor reliability reputation, nor has the Camry’s greater fleet volume brought about severe reductions in resale value. Thus, Toyota could claim that a good fleet sale isn’t the same as, for example, a Malibu fleet-sale bonanza in 2007.

Keep in mind, also, that Honda markets two bodystyles under the Accord nameplate. Honda doesn’t provide a breakdown of Accord sales by sedan and coupe, but current inventory suggests Honda may have sold approximately 43,000 Accord coupes in 2015 plus 313,000 Accord sedans. Even if Toyota is dependent on fleet – good or bad – for a quarter of all Camry sales and not a single Accord ever ended up in an airport rental lot, the Camry sedan would still have outsold the Accord sedan.

Does it matter? Not likely to two automakers which sell hundreds of thousands of profitable midsize cars every year in America. And the Camry’s numbers — no matter how impressive the totals, the duration of the streak, or its ability to fend off all manner of challengers — won’t change the fact that the Accord is still my favourite midsize car.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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2 of 72 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jan 25, 2016

    Long lasting could also mean an extended stay from your mother-in-law.

  • C P C P on Mar 18, 2016

    I have a 2001 Camry that was among the last imported from Japan, J VIN. It just won't quit. Every time I think it will, I hear from others w/ the same generation that have twice as many miles. It is the last new car I bought. Currently looking for another Toyota from that era & not a new car full of nanny stuff.

  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI coupe....it's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark V.....it was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"