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Toyota to Unveil Refreshed Camry at NY Auto Show

April 1, 2014

Toyota Motor Corp. is the automaker behind the best-selling car in the United States for the past 12 years—the Camry. The Japanese carmaker seeks to remain the sales leader in the market and plans to keep the top spot with an updated model of its popular mid-size sedan, which it will debut at the New York International Auto Show on April 16.

In an email to Detroit News, Toyota spokesman Curt McAllister described the refreshed Camry as that which “will challenge conventional expectations of a mid-cycle model change.” Toyota usually revamps the model every half decade, but does not make major modifications.

Toyota has been selling the latest generation Camry since the latter part of 2011 and it has been compelled by competition to up the ante in order to maintain the ‘best-selling car’ title. With rivals like the Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Honda Accord hot on the Camry’s tail, the world’s largest car manufacturer realized something needed to change.

The Camry was only second to Altima in U.S. sales through January and February of this year. According to the data of Autodata Corp., Camry sales dropped 17 percent in the first two months of 2014. The vehicle also lost market share to the Fusion and Accord last year. While Camry sales in 2013 increased by 0.9 percent, its rivals’ sales were much better: Fusion sales rose 22 percent, Accord sales grew 10 percent while Altima sales jumped 5.9 percent.

Earlier this year, the Japanese automaker suggested that an updated version of its beloved sedan was being developed. Kevin Hunter, who heads Toyota’s U.S. design studio, mentioned at the North American International Auto Show in January that the company needed a better Camry design.

Critics echoed Hunter’s sentiment and they openly expressed their disapproval, if not their disappointment, with the car overall. In a December 2011 review, Consumer Reports was not too critical of the Camry, but found the current generation sedan as “not that exciting to drive.” Car and Driver Magazine was more discriminating, including the five trim levels of the Camry in its list of most ‘normcore’ vehicles.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda particularly wanted an improvement in the Camry’s styling to allow the car to get ahead of the competition. He wanted an overhaul that will provide the Camry with a ‘waku-doki’ design. The Japanese phrase means ‘heart-racing qualities.’

While Toyoda wants a less conservative look for the Camry, it is less likely that the automaker will radically change the look of the car. In January, Toyota’s U.S. sales unit head Kazuo Ohara implied that the car’s extensive customer base will be taken into consideration when making the design decision, suggesting that a drastic alteration will not be done. Approximately 5 million people own a Camry.

“I would not go so far as saying we could be adventurous, but at least more aggressive,” Ohara claimed at the Detroit Auto Show.

By refreshing its latest model prior to a major redesign, Toyota is taking a page out of the book of rival Honda. The other Japanese automaker has updated the Civic compact car in each of the last two model years.

Toyota expects the Camry to be the country’s best-selling car for the 13th consecutive year, with total deliveries surpassing 400,000 units.

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