SA Camry comeback? Could happen!
CAMRY MAKES A COMEBACK: The Camry SE model (pictured) has been largely credited for the renewed interest in Toyota's large sedan in the US.
The revamped Toyota Camry is selling briskly in the US and attracting a far younger buyer than the automaker expected; do these developments spell a possible return of the former family favourite to South Africa?
Bob Carter, Toyota's senior vice-president of automotive operations in the US, told analysts and investors at a JP Morgan auto conference in New York that the top-selling car in the US was reworked for 2012 to make it more stylish, luxurious and fun to drive. The result: sales are up almost 40% on the previous year at nearly 244 000 units.
That's 60 000 more than the Camry's two closest competitors - Honda's Accord and Nissan's Altima.
CHANGING TACK PAYS OFF
Rising Camry sales are another sign that Toyota has recovered from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunamis that hobbled its and its suppliers' factories and caused model shortages worldwide. Overall, sales of the Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands are up 28% so far in 2012 at more than 1.2-million vehicles.
Before its remake the Camry was reliable, but boring. Handling was average and its looks were bland. It attracted mainly baby-boomers in their mid-50s looking for reliable wheels.
Carter said the new version has pulled in younger buyers, knocking 10 years off the average age of buyers. "We didn't anticipate that much movement in the demographics," he said adding that buyers were going for the cars' sportier version with its firmer suspension, alloy rims and low-profile tyres. It accounts for about 40% of Camry sales.
The automaker had also changed its marketing to focus more on the car's style and handling and expects to sell two-million vehicles in the US through 2012.
Asked by Wheels24 could this mean a Camry Revival? A Toyota SA spokesman said: “The Camry was replaced by the Avensis in 2006 as we aligned our product range with Europe. This coincided with a general market shift towards other body styles - SUV's and double cabs. South African demand for D-segment sedans has dropped significantly and the Avensis never reached the same level of success as the Camry.
“The new Camry is under study… as part of our evaluation process of new models available globally. This does not signify that we will reintroduce the model but it has become available in right-hand drive again and we are studying the business case.”
Toyota sales plummeted after the Japaneses earthquake and even before that the company had struggled with a series of embarrassing safety recalls that called vehicle quality into question. Carter says customers' trust has been regained: "Toyota is getting back to the top if its game."
Worldwide, Toyota overcame the recalls and natural disasters to retake the crown of top-selling automaker from General Motors during the first half of 2012. Toyota sold 4.97-million vehicles globally, about 300 000 more than GM. It will be difficult for GM to catch up.
GM was No.1 world seller in 2011 with strong performances in the US and China, its two biggest markets. The Detroit automaker had held the global sales crown for more than seven decades before losing it to Toyota in 2008.
Any Camry fans (or otherwise) still out there? Let's have your view on a Camry Revival in SA in our Readers' Comments section below.