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.

According to Autodata figures in this Automotive News article, Toyota has ramped up Camry incentives in nine of the last twelve months, from $2,969 per Camry in July 2015 to $3,459 in December 2015, to the peak of $3,760 per Camry last month.

Year-over-year, Toyota’s average incentive spend per Camry is also up 27 percent through the first seven months of 2016.

Toyota USA sales chart: Camry, Corolla, RAV4

As Camry competitors similarly experience disappearing demand, incentives are the name of the game. The Camry is by no means an exception on that front.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ clear out of the nearly discontinued Chrysler 200 (despite the 200 deemed uncompetitive by the collective consumer) puts a measure of pressure on cars such as the new Chevrolet Malibu. Select 2016 Malibu LTs are now advertised with a $4,143 cash back offer, for instance.

On August 10, Ford added $1,000 Smart Bonus Cash to the older half of Fusion stock, and even on some newly refreshed 2017 Ford Fusions.

Until a 26-percent July sales slide dropped it one place, the Nissan Altima was America’s second-best-selling midsize car in 2016. To spur demand, Nissan offers interest-free financing for six years with at least $500 in bonus cash.

The list goes on.

Despite the incentivization, Americans nevertheless purchased and leased 116,000 fewer midsize cars in the first seven months of 2016 than during the same period one year ago.

Toyota appears entirely unwilling to see the ageing Camry lose sales faster than the segment as a whole.

Year-to-date, Camry volume is down 8 percent, a loss of 20,369 sales in a category that is likewise down 8 percent inside a passenger car sector that’s down — you guessed it — 8 percent. The Camry’s 4,313-unit decline played a significant role in the month of July, specifically, as midsize volume plunged by 31,000 sales.

2016 Toyota RAV4

The upside is easy to locate in Toyota showrooms. With similar MSRPs, U.S. sales of the Toyota RAV4 are up 16 percent this year, a year-over-year gain of 27,487 sales, which more than counteracts the lost Camry volume.

The RAV4 isn’t simply keeping pace with growth in the SUV/crossover sector, either. Presently America’s top-selling utility vehicle, the RAV4’s 16-percent volume expansion comes as U.S. SUV/crossover sales grew 8 percent in the first seven months of 2016.

While TrueCar says buyers of the 2016 Toyota Camry XLE are paying 10-percent below MSRP, the 2016 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD buyer nets only a 3-percent discount.

Through the end of July, the Toyota Camry holds an 11,090-unit lead over America’s second-best-selling car, the Honda Civic. At this stage of 2015, the Camry was 33,871 sales ahead of the next-best-selling car, Toyota’s own Corolla.

The Toyota Camry is by no means dying, but some of its competitors might. TTAC recently forecasted the demise of a number of midsize sedans; that the continued rise of two-row family crossovers will kill off more midsize cars until the segment stabilizes with an appropriate number of competitors.

The significant discounts applied to America’s perennial best-selling car, a midsize Toyota that wears its blue chip credentials on its sleeve, is more evidence of that eventuality.

[Images: Toyota. Chart: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

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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85 Comments on “It’s Not Easy Being #1: Camry Incentives Rise High as Toyota Chases 15th Consecutive Year on Top...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I wonder if Toyota makes any profit on the Camry at that level of discount. RAV4, Highlander, and Tacoma sales have got to help, but it’s not like they have 700,000 annual high-margin full size pickup sales to fall back on.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      I would be shocked if Toyota didn’t make a profit even with these discounts. They have already sold about 2 million Camrys in the US since 2011, and many aspects of the design date back to 2001. Toyota has sold about 6 million Camrys since then. A lot of the design/tooling has long since been payed off.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yeah I bet the net profit per Camry is one of, if not the lowest per segment, 200 excluded. Not only do they spend heavily on incentives and low lease deals their advertising budget is huge. There are far more ads on TV and radio than for any other Toyota product.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Considering that the Camry’s chassis is the same one that debuted on the 2002 Camry, it has long since been paid for. I am sure they are doing just fine

      • 0 avatar
        kit4

        This is incorrect. It is not the same chassis as the 2002 model. The 2007 was a new platform and it shares the platform with that. The 2018 model will be an entirely new platform.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          kit, just look at the roofline (c pillar especially), it’s been riding on the same ‘bones’ since 2001.

          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_K_platform

          Not saying that is a bad thing, they are excellent bones indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      30-mile fetch, Toyota sells slightly different versions of the Camry all around the world and they reuse lots of the same parts across 2 or more Camry generations. They clearly get their money’s worth out of their product development and tooling budgets. Given Toyota’s ability to spread fixed costs across millions of Camrys sold, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re profitable even with almost $4000 on the hood.

    • 0 avatar
      SpinnyD

      Yes

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Thanks, all.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Toyota and Nissan have been aggressive with incentives on their sedans, in part, subsidized by the greater margins on their light trucks as they are the 2 Asian automakers with the largest light truck lineups.

      There were those denying that Toyota was putting that much $$ on the hood to move the Camry (in addition to fleet sales).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Toyota is more interested in profit than keeping the Camry at the top. If the RAV4 becomes more profitable – which already seems to be the case – the Camry won’t be propped up forever at all costs in a shrinking segment.

    Besides, 82% of mid-size car buyers *don’t* choose a Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      If they are more interested in profit, why the incentives and fleet sales? I think it’s clear they are interested in market share and volume at the expense of profit. The lack of development of the engine/chassis speaks to them controlling costs to achieve that goal, but the goal is still the same.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        Toyota is projecting an operating profit of $15 billion+ this year so they’re going to be fine even if they sell a few cars to rental companies and have to ratchet up the incentives even further. They’re a long way from becoming the New GM.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          A few? Don’t kid yourself.

          Toyota makes such profit because they are selling a 14 year old car with a revised body. That, and its SUVs/trucks.

          But, only stupid American car makers sell cars to fleets and use trucks/SUVs to keep the lights on, right?

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I agree, sporty, the facts seem to suggest that Toyota is indeed more focused on keeping the title than they are on profit-per-unit.

        Didn’t end well for the Taurus in the 90s when Ford did nearly the same thing, but Toyota is coasting on reputation which is propping up residual values. That won’t last forever.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No their level of incentives, low lease pricing and heavy advertising show that Toyota is willing to do pretty much what ever it takes to maintain that sales crown. Combine that with the fact that they are now to the point where they are selling badge jobs and joint development cars shows why I call them the new GM.

  • avatar
    Hemi

    Surprising. I recently had the unfortunate pleasure of driving a 2015 SE for a week. I liked nothing about it, neither did my wife. It did everything, but nothing well.

    Having driven the 2016 Accord, hands down better interior, fit finish and ride.

    I feel like the Camry has gotten worse, my family members having owned variants since 2000. It just feels cheap and plasticky, ok ride and loud on the Highway

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      The Camry (and Corolla) desperately needs a complete from the ground up overhaul, with no carryover from past generations. They are perfectly acceptable cars, and unlike most other car enthusiasts I don’t even find them ugly, but at this point Toyota is just coasting on the Camry/Corolla’s favorable reputations, and is too afraid of radical changes lest they alienate their customer base.

    • 0 avatar
      johnhowington

      contrasting a 2000 camry to a 2015 camry is laughable.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        Okay, how about a 2002 and a 2015? Remove the “all-new bold” styling and its the same car, only with cheaper materials.

      • 0 avatar
        Hemi

        Maybe I wasn’t clear, I meant my family has owned Camrys since 2000 MY (to include 2003 solara. My parecurrently own a 09 Camry Hybrid which currently has almost 300k miles. Yup almost 300k miles.

        I’ve tried to like the current Camry find a lot of faults. It’s clear the interior bits get cheaper and cheaper and to me it shows. My wife who doesn’t care as much for cars also detests the Camry. I think Honda doesn’t cheapen out on the interior and it shows.

        I’m currently driving a 16 Charger Scatpack and have owned different LX platform variants (05 300c, 08 Charger). I’d take those old interiors over the new Camry interior haha.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Honda absolutely cheapens interiors and it does show. The materials in the Accord are no nicer than the Camry and nowhere near segment leadership. I spent time in each within 15 minutes of each other and it’s the same type of midgrade stuff in both. There’s no real difference. Sit in a Fusion or Passat afterward if you want to see a quality difference.

          The 2009 Camry your parents have may be mechanically reliable but represents the absolute low point of interior quality for the Camry. My Mom had a 2010. The 2015 is far better, even if that only means “average”.

          Ask one of the commenters here (Aija?) about the interior integrity of his Charger.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      This is the first I’ve heard of someone complaining about a Camry being loud on the highway. Did it have really worn out tires or something?

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        I found the last Camry I drove in 2014 or so to be very loud as well. The interior had a cheap plastic feeling to it but the body felt extremely solid and rigid and it seemed like the road noise bounced off the nasty interior plastics.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      “Unfortunate pleasure” is a great turn of phrase.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Camry wasn’t on my radar until I saw the incentives, and this was 2 years ago.

    I am really not a Camry person, but….

    Almost $5K off sticker and 0% financing for 60 months. Camry SE V6 for $25K.

    The interior is not great, but it has the best powertrain you can get in a $25K family car.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Since then CAFE has killed the SE V6, the V6 is now a $4,500 option only available on the XSE/XLE which puts you upwards of $30,000 out the door in the real world.

      For which you could still have any number of nicer cars starting with the Avalon in the same showroom.

  • avatar

    Competition is part of the auto business model. Upholding a #1 position burnishes the corporate image in the market. As well as keeping competitors at a distance.
    Even in a decreasing mid size sedan segment, being #1 is important to Toyota, and if takes additional incentives, and more dynamic pricing to uphold the position so be it.

    Perhaps they are diverting marketing funds towards incentives. Marketing moves iron, and incentives move iron.

    Similar to the Civic in Canada, Honda will do anything to keep it #1, although this year its easier with the new model.

    Same with the F 150, Ford will protect its #1 position.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Hmmm…well, then – maybe Toyota could try spending an absolute ton of money in order to make its segment entry into a class-leading vehicle, like Ford did with the F150…?

      We just had a choice of a lower-trim Sonata and a lower-trim Camry at the local Enterprise lot, for my wife to take a trip from Western New York to Maryland and back. Sixty seconds spent in the cabin of each model, with the rental agent, was enough to solidify our choice of the Sonata…

      • 0 avatar

        In your case you or your wife preferred the Sonata, another individual would have preferred the Camry. In the US there are more folks that prefer a Camry to a Sonata.

        YTD July there were 125,044 Sonatas and 233,882 Camry sold. BTW the Accord is at 201,300 with an increase in sales this year. While the new Malibu is disrupting the segment.

        As for throwing money on a Tundra, the F150 is so far ahead it would be futile.

        • 0 avatar
          thornmark

          Honda is fonda pointing out that in something like 19 of the last 20 years the Accord has outsold the Camry, retail.

          That means in 95% of the last 20 years more people in the US have preferred the Accord over the Camry.

          And in accord w/ Hemi above, I aslo rented a Camry SE and was shocked at what a poor vehicle it was. Not in any way is it a class leader unless it’s KMart class.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Not a lot to crow about. The number of retail customers is close enough between the two that Tim Cain speculated recently that removing Accord coupe sales would probably put the Camry back in a slight retail lead. Big whoop.

            In the iteration most people buy them–4cyl, auto–the Accord is every bit a boring cost-conscious appliance. It’s only when you start looking at the manual and V6 that things start to get interesting.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Toyota’s capacity to build the Camry in NA is about the same as Hyundai’s entire NA production capacity.

          Together, the Sonata and Optima get close to the Camry’s nos.

          As for the Accord, most reviewers have found it to be devoid of the cost-cutting found in the interior of the Camry – and whereas the Accord has been able to keep itself among the leaders in the segment when it comes to average transaction price, the Camry has dropped to towards the bottom.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “Sixty seconds spent in the cabin of each model, with the rental agent, was enough to solidify our choice of the Sonata…”

        Not sure why, I’d say the ’15+ Camry interior is far and away better put together and nicer feeling than the 14+ Sonata’s. I will give the Sonata the edge in front seat comfort, however.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Having recently rented a new Sonata and driven a new Camry, I’d take the Camry in a heart-beat, even if I didn’t have to sit in the back seat. The Sonata’s has limo-style legroom combined with Ford Pinto hatchback headroom. I guess there’s no CAFE MPG break for useful space, just for taking up space. The Sonata didn’t have any other glaring faults besides its inadequate drivetrain(are their HP as real as their MPG?), but the Camry was a convincing refutation of the marketing myths about its mediocrity. You’d need to be a pretty big hand puppet to compare one side by side with most of its competition and not think it deserves to tower over the others in sales. The only exception is the Accord, which has better moves and comparable quality.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            “but the Camry was a convincing refutation of the marketing myths about its mediocrity. You’d need to be a pretty big hand puppet to compare one side by side with most of its competition and not think it deserves to tower over the others in sales”

            OK, you do write better than Car and Driver :)

  • avatar
    ajla

    I could see $3700 off on the hybrid or XSE V6 being appealing.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I just don’t get the point. There has to be some kind of break even point that yields more profit at the expense of volume. Does the Camry being America’s #1 selling car really factor into anyone’s buying decisions?

    • 0 avatar
      LS1Fan

      For some it’s the “ONLY” factor in the buying decision.

      For all the hyped up new school methods of advertising, good ol fashioned word of mouth still matters. Knowing Aunt Shirlie and Uncle Ed and half your coworkers own Camrys and haven’t had any problems between them is an exponentially more potent endorsement then a pile of JD Power awards.

      It’s an odd mindset for us enthusiasts, but to the Average Joe anything associated with changing cars is a royal pain in the rear. Sure we weirdos LIKE driving, but to the rest of the first world driving is that boring thing you do between the fun stuff in life. “Vehicle, 4 door with Engine” suits the masses just fine. And even enthusiasts may see the value in owning a boring appliance for daily commuting , versus using an enthusiast vehicle totally unsuited for it .

      Like a manual transmission S2000, or a V8 F-car that shakes when the driver so much as thinks about expansion joints.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      There’s also the economies of scale associated with producing more widgets than the other guy, helping profitability and/or competitiveness.

      Profit margins matter, of course, but as long as you’re selling more cars, you’re also bringing in more revenue that’ll keep the lights on, pay for marketing, tooling, development, and any other fixed costs.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        The Camry is in the same order of magnitude in volume as its competition… the couple dozen thousand more units it’s selling a year don’t unlock it to economies of scale that justify the incentives and fleet losses. Camry may be the top seller but I’m doubting it’s the most profitable in its segment.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        In order to maximize profits, need to keep the factories running at capacity, if not over capacity.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    If you pile enough cash in front of it, you can’t see that hideous mug.

    I just had a week in a brand new one. An “upgrade” from the Jetta I reserved – thanks Hertz… A steaming pile of meh. They should all be white on black with a barcode badge that decodes as “car”.

    • 0 avatar
      IAhawkeye

      I feel like the Jetta is a just as big pile of meh.. just one with what’ll probably be a way worse ownership experience.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        German=Superior.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Opinions are like anuses, everyone has one and they usually stink. To each his own. I prefer a car that drives properly and doesn’t feel like it was built by Fisher-Price. Even the cheapest German cars have that Autobahn DNA in them, feeling like they are intended to be driven 110mph all day every day. Japanese cars feel like they are intended to sit in Tokyo traffic all day every day.

        @ToddAtlasF1

        German does = superior in the things I care enough to spend my money on when it comes to cars. In the past, I found Swedish to be an adequate substitute for a lot less money, but I can afford the real thing now. Though I prefer my trucks to be British.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Everyone who “had one as a rental” for a week had a 4 cylinder.

    It’s a different car with the V6. 90 extra horsepower and the refinement of a V6 used in Lexus vehicles fundamentally changes the Camry.

  • avatar
    hifi

    This is why automakers should also report average transaction prices along with sales numbers. It’s pretty meaningless for the Camry to be #1 and the Fusion to be #2 if people are paying thousands more for the Ford. Anyone will buy anything as long as it’s cheap enough. Seems as if most Camrys and Corollas that I see on the road today are either low-spec models or fleet vehicles. While I see tons of high-spec “Titanium” Fusions and Focus on the road. Obviously that’s just my personal perception, but that’s why I’d like to see the sales numbers presented this way.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The automakers are never going to release the ATP for their vehicles. For one they don’t want the consumer to have that as a negotiating point. I think it would have been nice if the incentive levels for at least the rest of the segment, or at least the relevant players would have been included in the article.

      You are not the only one that sees a lot of the Fusions in that Titanium trim though I can’t say I’ve noticed many Focus in that trim level.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I don’t see many current Fusions at all, nor do I see where they feature in the best selling sedan race. Camry>AccordAltima are the top three.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    As a sedan Camry’s one of the healthiest lepers.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    (hissssssssssssssssssssss)

    What is that sound? Is the new car bubble about to burst, or did it just spring a leak?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      It’s about to burst.

      Just imagine how Mazda feels, seeing that Toyota needs to increase their incentives on Camrys. The incentives game is going to hurt the small players the worst.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        Ask Nash, Hudson, Studebaker and Kaiser what happened when Ford and Chevrolet went after each other in 1954.

        The biggest problem Mazda has had for years is its inability to match cash incentives and subsidized leases of Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and the rest of the bigger players.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Exactly. Mazda is not and cannot give $5K off their vehicles. In part because a lot of them are made in Japan.
        From publications like Forbes their ATP’s are increasing though, so as others have mentioned volume alone doesn`t tell you the whole story.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    For me it will take big discounts and zero apr. These cars look and feel cheap. Maybe the 2018 will be better…

  • avatar
    CapVandal

    The incentives are up by $500? or $700? That’s $20/month on a 36 month lease. Not a game changer for most people. I don’t see how that is going to change a lot of minds.

    This is the last year before a redesign, so they deserve a discount.

  • avatar
    Paragon

    So, does anybody have the nerve to come out and verbalize Toyota’s popular old tagline “I love what you do for me…Toyota!” Anybody? Bueller? OK, got nothing as I’ve never driven a Toyota.

    But, apparently if given enough of a discount on a rather bland, average sedan with a decent and long-standing reputation for quality and reliability, people will bite. In comparison, my experience in driving a late-model Accord sedan is that the Earth Dreams 4-cylinder coupled to the most refined CVT on the market make for a pleasant and enjoyable driving experience. In some respects, I get what it is that has kept the Accord on Car & Driver’s 10 Best list for so many years; yet, at the same time C & D have seemingly ignored some of Accord’s minor flaws and/or failings as it fails to be the perfect car. Hint: the seats are less than ideal. As has been said many times, YMMV.

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