The 2012 Toyota Camry made its global debut in California Tuesday, followed shortly after by an earthquake on the US east coast.
The 2012 model is the seventh generation of the sedan that has steadily built a reputation for quality and reliability since its introduction in 1983.From 1997, it became the best-selling car in the U.S.,a title it has held for 13 of the past 14 years.
Moreover, Camry accounts for about 21% of all Toyota-brand vehicles sold in the U.S. And – this sedan tops the combined sales of all cars and trucks from Toyota’s other two companies – Lexus and Scion.
But sales of the Camry and many other Toyota models have been blunted by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. If we look at the sales reports, in the US, most of the Japanese automakers have cut production by 468,962 units between March and August mostly because of parts shortages.
And, the midsize segment has become much more competitive, filled with new models from old rivals and new serious contenders the past few years, so the 2012 Camry redesign has its work cut out for it.
So yes – this is one of the most important sedans from Toyota’s portfolios. It is the symbol of success here in the US for Toyota.
Now – the 2012 model according to Akio Toyoda, CEO of Japan-based parent company Toyota Motor is “all new”. Well maybe…
The 2012 Camry remains insanely quiet, has a solid ride and looks a little better – or it’s a bit more premium outside. James Healey from USA Today said it right: the styling, while new, will cause no one to say either, 1) “Wow, what an exciting-looking car,” or, 2) “Hey, that’s the new Camry.”
For the seventh-generation Camry, Toyota has managed to add power and fuel economy and lower the price of most of its Camry models. And in these economic conditions customers ultimately will rank the midsize car of their choice with their dollars. The Camry LE four-cylinder, the variant most people buy, is $200 less compared to 2011 model, at $23,260 including shipping, erasing much of the $375 price hike Toyota imposed on Camry models in March. The high-end XLE four-cylinder is down $2,000, to $25,485. If we look inside Ford’s yard, Fusion hybrid is $29,395. The Sonata hybrid is $26,545.
The 2.4-liter four LE gets about 35 mpg on the highway and somewhere in the mid-20s around town – not great, we’ll admit – but not too shabby, either.
For 2012, the Camry’s Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) gets more powerful at both ends. The electric motor now outputs 105kW (up from 30kW) and the gasoline engine gets a bump to 2.5-liters of displacement, now outputting 156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque (up from 147 ponies and 138 pound-feet). Total system output for the HSD is 200 horsepower, 13 more ponies than the previous model year.
Inside the new model is quite similar to the interior of the old Camry: It’s like moving from one house to another with exactly the same floor plan. Indeed the clock position was moved to another location, we have a new steering wheel, which it may be very complicated for a time until the driver gets familiar, we have new gauges but at the end you will say – yes I know I’m in a Camry – because is too similar.
What’s new – the Entune – Toyota’s infotainment system that operates via voice recognition. Entune will cost $1,050 and come with the Tier III and Tier IV audio/entertainment option on Toyota-brand vehicles. This is much more expensive than the base Ford Sync, which costs $295 USD, and more even than MyFord Touch, which costs $1,000.
Featured apps on Toyota Entune include Bing, iheartradio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable.com and Pandora, as well as location-based services (personalized traffic, fuel prices, stocks, weather and sports). Toyota Entune also includes support for read-back and replay capabilities for text messages.
Toyota expects about 50,000 Camry hybrid sales the first full year it’s on the market, a huge jump from about 15,000 last year and 23,000 in 2009.
Question is: with the 2012 model will achieve this target? Is this enough?
The Camry reaches showrooms in November, with a hybrid version following early in 2012.