Will the Toyota RAV4 outsell Toyota’s long-running best-selling car, the Toyota Camry, within the next five years? Nine months ago, Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. boss, Bob Carter, said, “I’ll bet you lunch that will happen.”
It didn’t take five years.
To be fair, Carter wasn’t referring to a single month’s results. Indeed, through the first two-thirds of 2016, the Camry produced nearly 36,000 more U.S. sales — about one month’s worth — than the RAV4.
But in August 2016, for the first time in Toyota’s U.S. history, the Toyota RAV4 was more popular than the Toyota Camry. And the RAV4 was by no means the only vehicle to outsell the most popular car in America.
I’ve long since learned not to give advice about car purchases to individuals who are not already rabid car enthusiasts. It wasn’t a lesson that arrived immediately, or without difficulty, but it’s one that I have finally and regretfully internalized. My brother Bark has not yet learned this lesson, so feel free to continue sending him Ask Bark submissions, but my days as a would-be car-shopping guru are over.
Yet there are times that I cannot dodge a particular request, whether for reasons of politeness, expediency, or my own self-interest. When those times arise, I usually recommend a Toyota, unless the questioner has stated that she absolutely does not want a Toyota, in which case I will recommend a Honda. If a Honda is not acceptable, I explain that anything else amounts to a roll of the dice and as long as we’re rollin’ the dice we might as well get a Viper ACR and screech our barbaric yawp down the back straight of Virginia International Raceway the way Harambe would have wanted us to had he not been assassinated by the Illuminati.
So when a co-worker at one of my contracts asked me about her next new car, I quickly evaluated her demographics (50-ish, upper-middle class), current vehicle (previous-gen Sonata) and desires (“As much luxury as I can get”) before responding, however reluctantly, with an endorsement of the Lexus ES. This, of course, led to an examination of the pricing and equipment for the Lexus ES. Despite numerous conversations on the subject, I cannot decide if the front-wheel-drive luxo-Toyota represents a blatant cash grab or singular value for money. There’s only one way to decide issues like these, but since Tina Turner let Thunderdome burn to the ground we’ll have to settle for deciding based on the considered input of the Best & Brightest.
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.
If your neighbor tells you they’re thinking of buying or leasing a new midsize sedan, you wouldn’t be crazy to assume that they’ve likely visited the local Toyota, Honda, and Nissan dealers.
Yet the majority of U.S. midsize car buyers do not, in fact, choose the Camry, Accord, or Altima.
Diversity wins. The dominator isn’t all-conquering.
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.
Now it can be told: Perhaps the most cringe-worthy moment of my life was my own “Affluenza” episode, otherwise known as “The Time I Wrote A Poem About Not Getting A BMW 2002 For Christmas.”
I was eighteen years old and busy failing to fulfill my potential at university. I was already on my second car, the infamous Red Marquis, having unceremoniously crashed my 200SX on my first unsupervised day as a temporary-license holder. During one of our brief telephone conversations that fall, my father asked me some questions about “old BMWs,” with particular focus on the 2002. My fevered imagination had grasped that straw and run with it until I was honestly surprised to get two sweaters and a couple of shirts on the blessed morning of the 25th.
I went back to school early so I could mope in private and write a poem about it, the worst couplets of which I’ve retrieved from memory for your amusement:
I recently started to think about automotive over styling. This is because many of today’s cars are styled to the point where you wonder if they had some contractual obligation with the supplier to put in as many unnecessary curves and creases as humanly possible.
This all got started when I walked by an E36 BMW 3 Series a few weeks ago. That is a handsome car. It has clean lines, and clean panels, and virtually no unnecessary curves or surfaces or trim. The thing is all purpose, all business, and somehow it still manages to be beautiful. I love it.
Through the first five months of 2015, the Toyota Camry opened up a lead of nearly 36,000 units over the Nissan Altima in the race to end the year as America’s best-selling midsize car.
Aside from popularity, the Camry and Altima – as well as nearly every intermediate car on the market – share another factor in common: their sales are declining.
U.S. sales of midsize cars tumbled 7% during the month of April and are down 4% through the first four months of 2015.
On the whole, America’s appetite for passenger cars is in decline. Overall demand for cars is slightly south of flat in the early part of this year even as the auto industry posted 5% year-over-year expansion between January and April.
As more American car buyers become buyers of small and midsize utility vehicles, the vehicle groups most obviously paying the price are family sedans. The Toyota Corolla-led compact car category, for instance, is up 7% this year. But Chevrolet Impala-class cars have fallen 13% and the segment up for discussion has lost nearly 30,000 sales in the first third of the year.
The U.S. auto industry was projected to make 6% gains in April 2015, an increase that would have produced at least 80,000 more April sales this year than in April 2014.
Instead, April 2015 auto sales grew by less than 5%, and the industry’s volume improved by around 64,000 units. Auto sales are healthy, but why weren’t they quite as healthy last month as anticipated?
There are hundreds of factors to consider, from Bob realizing that new patio furniture was more important than a new Ram EcoDiesel, to the decreased demand for certain aging models. But if one vehicle category needed to accept blame, it would be passenger cars.
After an especially strong start to 2015, Ford F-Series volume failed to increase in the United States in the second month of the year. The F-Series was outsold by GM’s full-size twins in February 2015, just as it was in the final five months of 2014. Through the first two months of 2015, however, the F-Series isn’t just America’s best-selling vehicle line, it’s also ahead of the GM twins.
By 327 units.
It’ll be the race to watch in 2015, not because there’s any real possibility of the F-Series being unseated – the Silverado would need to outsell the F-Series by an average of 2811 units in each of 2015’s remaining ten months to take the top spot by year’s end – but because 2015 is a major year for Ford’s truck line.
America’s five top-selling midsize cars have held an iron-fisted grip on their category for years, making it very difficult for interlopers to succeed in any meaningful way.
• Sonata & Malibu knocked out of January’s top five
• Midsize cars up 5.5% in January
• Top five own 69% of midsize market
Yet after earning more than seven out of every ten midsize sales in 2009 and 2010 – when the top five included the Camry, Accord, Altima, Fusion, and Malibu – the top five’s market share slid to 67% in 2011 and 64% in 2012. In 2011, the Hyundai Sonata supplanted the Chevrolet Malibu in the top five and didn’t let go in 2012, 2013, or 2014.
But then a return to the norm began, as the top quintuplet’s share grew to 66% in 2013 and 69% in 2014.
2015 started off similarly.
I love your column! Anyway long story short I’m an idiot. When I met my wife she had a 2003 Ford Explorer Sport Trac that was in ROUGH shape inside and out, cosmetically and mechanically. She liked her truck though and it worked for us for a few years. Recently we (I) was tired of it. So I traded it in on a 2006 Ford Fusion SEL V6. It’s a beautiful car, black on black, lots of power and nice ride. I paid $7,200 for it with 108,000 miles.
The problem is, only about 5 months into ownership and 4,000 miles later several issues have revealed themselves.
The Camry connoisseur, if there is such a thing, would spot the difference.
Unlike some well-known TTAC authors who don’t hide their Camry admiration, I wasn’t on board the Camry love boat. The last SE I drove disappointed me with unimpressive efficiency figures, an interior in need of polish, and an overall sensation of obsolescence. And it was in fact obsolete, as Toyota Canada delivered a Camry Hybrid SE to my driveway in October 2014 when the refreshed 2015 car was already a thing.
• USD Base Price: $27,725
• Horsepower: 268 @ 6200 rpm
• Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
• Observed Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg
Nevertheless, I’ll readily admit I appreciate that Toyota finally located the Camry’s sense of style. When this particular car pulled up in front of our house, I noticed right off the bat that it was an XSE, a trim level Toyota introduced for 2015 to combine XLE luxury with the SE’s sporting intentions. The Blue Crush Metallic also represents top-notch taste.
While it’s my job and I do my best and I take a measure of pride in these things, I didn’t notice key signifiers: twin tailpipes. Granted, Blue Crush arrived on Monday, January 5, the busiest work day of the year for a sales-oriented auto writer like myself. I backed the car into our driveway, refusing to take time out of my busy schedule for an unnecessary late night Volkswagen GTI-like drive to the grocery store. “It’s not like it has a V6,” I muttered.
Growth in America’s midsize car market was slow in 2014, the second consecutive year in which the overall auto industry moved forward at an impressive rate while midsize car growth was unimpressive.
• Altima and Fusion set nameplate records
• Camry tops second-ranked Accord by 40K
• The Big 5 grew their share of the segment
Yet in 2014, the most dominant midsize cars did in fact expand their sales at a healthy clip. The top-selling Toyota Camry was up 5%, year-over-year. Honda’s Accord, the second-ranked midsize car, posted a 6% improvement compared with 2013. Sales of the third-ranked Nissan Altima, America’s fourth-best-selling car overall, climbed 5% to a record-high 335,644 units.
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- SCE to AUX I didn't know they had 80 employees to lose.
- SCE to AUX Discounting for EPA estimates, full load, and working strictly between 20% and 80% charge, I estimate about 80 miles of real, actual range.Useful, I suppose, but definitely local service. If you can refill over lunch then maybe you can double that distance.Delivery work is notoriously fuel inefficient, so an electric van could make business sense depending on the MSRP.
- Syke Just got my Bolt's battery recall done yesterday. Happily, we've got a dealer that's supporting the Bolt competently, getting the battery kit was supposed to take five weeks since I signed the work order. It took two and a half. Pulled the car in 0730 Monday, got a call at 1600 that afternoon saying I could pick it up. Didn't get down there until this morning, 255 miles range with frost on the windows. I'm happy.
- Syke Nice. Competent. Definitely a useful tool.
- Dukeisduke VinFast? More like SinkingFast.