Toyota Evidently Expects the All-wheel-drive Toyota Camry to Be Far More Popular Than the Subaru Legacy

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
toyota evidently expects the all wheel drive toyota camry to be far more popular than

In a shrinking U.S. midsize sedan market, Toyota’s slice of the pie is the biggest. In fact, despite its own year-over-year decline in 2019, the Toyota Camry’s slice of the U.S. midsize market actually increased to 25 percent last year because its decline was comparatively modest.

Now Toyota has its sights set on a corner of the midsize car market the brand has left uncontested for nearly three decades. Not since the Gulf War (no, not that one; this one) has Toyota fielded an all-wheel-drive Camry in the United States. And just as Toyota exerts its control in the overarching midsize car segment with a heavy hand, the automaker expects to do the same in the all-wheel-drive sub-segment of the same category.

Toyota has designs on 50,000 annual Camry AWD sales in the United States.

Oh, Subaru Legacy, where doth Toyota’s success leave thee? In the shadows.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. In Wards Autos’ report describing Toyota’s plans to generate 15-17 percent of its U.S. Camry volume from AWD variants, there’s no suggestion that those sales are going to come exclusively at the expense of the Subaru Legacy, or the Nissan Altima for that matter. More likely than not, the typical sale of an AWD Camry is going to occur for one of two primary reasons: at the expense of the FWD Camry, or as an effective means of stopping a member of the Camry family from migrating out of the segment.

But when a powerhouse brand expands it portfolio in a segment where its status as a powerhouse player is already so deeply entrenched, it only makes sense for existing niche candidates to be concerned. According to Toyota’s general manager for vehicle marketing and communications, Heather Updegraff, Wards says half of Toyota’s 12 regions are anticipating a mix of 30-60 percent all-wheel-drive Camrys. You wouldn’t be placing a risky bet if you gambled on those six regions being in traditionally strong Subaru zones: New England, Pacific Northwest, Mountain, for example.

(According to, 19 percent of Nissan Altima inventory is made up by the AWD variant. Early reports suggested 25 percent of Altima buyers were choosing AWD, with up to 50 percent of northerly buyers opting for four-wheel traction. After tumbling 37 percent between 2015 and 2018, Altima sales in 2019 were flat.)

Before Toyota’s AWD Camry even hits the ground, marketplace success is already tough for the Legacy to locate. Legacy sales in the United States slid 13 percent to 35,063 units in 2019. That decline was markedly worse than the 9-percent drop in the segment, which led to the Legacy’s market share falling to just 2.6 percent in 2019. Legacy sales have fallen 46 percent since 2016, when Legacy market share was a tick above 3 percent. (Camry sales slid only 13 percent during that three-year span.)

Adding strength to the Legacy’s headwinds, the 2020 Toyota Camry will offer a $1,500 all-wheel-drive option on four versions of its four-cylinder lineup: LE, XLE, SE, and XSE. (In addition to the $1,500 premium, there is a fuel economy penalty. At best, the AWD Camry is rated at 29 mpg combined; FWD non-hybrid Camrys are rated as high as 34 mpg.)

It’s therefore quite clearly not a vehicle with which Toyota is just experimenting in a half-hearted attempt to “gauge interest.” Toyota wants to sell over 4,000 AWD Camrys per month. And what Toyota wants in the U.S. marketplace, Toyota very often gets.

[Images: Toyota]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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3 of 12 comments
  • Cprescott Cprescott on Feb 27, 2020

    Even women who love women with dogs will not give a Toyoduh AWD Camry a second look. Subaru all the way. Along with flannel and diesel cologne.

  • Bryanska Bryanska on Feb 27, 2020

    The Camry is too fast, too much power for the Subaru driver. Reduce it to adequate and maybe then you'll get basic white people to put their Yeti mug in a Toyota cupholder.

    • Highdesertcat Highdesertcat on Feb 28, 2020

      I’ve had a number of late-model 4-cyl Camry LE as rentals and they didn’t have giddy-up and go that the ‘89 Camry V6 I used had. Today’s Camry is much more sedate, and boring to drive than the ‘87-‘91 versions. Almost like a Legacy with a CVT.

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  • FreedMike Can these plates be reprogrammed on demand to flash messages at other drivers? If so, I'd like to flash "Is your insurance paid up?" to tailgaters.