By on February 27, 2020

2020 Toyota Camry AWD 2 - Image: Toyota

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.

2020 Subaru Legacy Sport - Image: SubaruLet’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 Cars.com, 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.)2020 Toyota Camry AWD - Image: ToyotaBefore 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 Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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12 Comments on “Toyota Evidently Expects the All-wheel-drive Toyota Camry to Be Far More Popular Than the Subaru Legacy...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Or I could put that $1400 toward a V6 Camry or a turbo Subaru.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The AWD’s are going need TourZ-like cash on the hood to offset depreciation today. Edmund’s longterm Camry lost about half it’s value in 2.5 years and 42,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Any sedan, awd or not, is going to be a hard sell. But Toyota may be able to pull it off by using existing Subaru AWD architecture through another agreement.

        Best bet in AWD current vehicle trend is the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo E. Still fashionable after all these years and Quadra-Drive 1 works most excellently both on and off road.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Wow…That’s Buick level depreciation. At least the Camry owner knows they’ll be able to drive their money out of it…unlike the Buick driver.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    Or for $1400 I might find a 1991 Corolla AWD wagon and spend $20000 restoring it, and have a car with better fuel mileage, more easily serviced, and lacking the plastic bug-eye grimace of the current model. No electronic aids but still with a passenger cell/door bars/seat belts/airbags. Good enough for McCluggage, good enough for me.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    Or I could buy a Mustang GT with snow tires and because I am Best Driver everyone who buy an AWD Camry is hte stupid.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    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.

  • avatar
    bryanska

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      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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