Blog: [updated 3.8.11] Toyota's next US market blockbuster
Glenn Brooks | 1 August 2011
If like me, you lived outside Europe in the early 1980s, you'll remember just what a revolution the first Camry was for Toyota. It might have taken the company five years to produce a product that was as good as the original Honda Accord - easily the best front-wheel drive sedan to be launched by a Japanese manufacturer - but it was well worth the wait. The leap over the old beam-axle Corona range was so great that it was scarcely believable that this front-wheel drive family car was made by Toyota.
How time flies. Over the last almost thirty years, the Camry has likely become the most profitable model for the company's North American operations. The car has had a tough time of it in recent memory, considering the negative publicity over a supposed throttle cable defect and then the dramatic slowing of production following the tragedy in Japan.
So for Toyota's US operations, 23rd August cannot come soon enough. That will be the day when the new 050A-series model, a rebodying of the current car, is unveiled to the press. Already, the web is littered with embargo-busting images of the model and plants in the US and Australia are preparing to start cranking out the new car as well as its hybrid derivative from the fourth quarter. Other facilities in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Russia will follow.
The launch timing for this car could well be perfect, even allowing for the presumption that the US market's limping recovery will remain just that. Crucially, the model will hit the market ahead of every one of the scheduled replacements for its current big-selling rivals, most of which won't be launched until 2012: the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
The 2012MY VW Passat won't be a threat to the Camry for a year or so, as buyers adjust to discovering that that car is no longer a high-priced model with a cosy interior, though that won't be the case with Hyundai's Sonata, which only seems to get stronger as the months go by. And the Sonata's twin, the Kia Optima, will be US-built from next month, giving the Koreans their strongest ever rivals for the Camry and its long-standing domination of this segment.
*The numbers out on 2nd August showed that the Camry regained its title of the US' number one best selling car, though last month's champion, the Chevrolet Cruze, was not too far behind. In a few short weeks, the first reviews of the 2012MY Camry will be out. If they indicate that the car is the new class leader, the battle to wrest leadership of this segment will suddenly be the hottest it's ever been. Roll on the fourth quarter.
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