Toyota Relying on Improved Fuel Economy to Drive Camry Sales

Toyota Motor Corporation is hoping that the improved fuel economy and a new hybrid powertrain will all its 2012 Camry to maintain its dominance of the mid-sized sedan segment. Aside from these changes, the world’s largest automaker is playing it safe with the newest version of its flagship model.

Despite the economic recession, the March 11 earthquake and a series of devastating safety recalls, the Camry has retained its title as the best-selling mid-sized sedan in the U.S. market. U.S. sales of the 2011 Camry have reached 174,485 units this year.

Toyota Division general manager Bob Carter is confident about the Camry’s future prospects in the U.S. “One thing won’t change about Camry,” said Carter, “It will remain the number one smart, safe, and worry-free choice of American consumers. Competing in the industry’s most competitive segment, we expect Camry to continue as America’s best-selling car.”

Retaining the title won’t be easy. Kia and Hyundai have increased their share of the U.S. market and Volkswagen will launch a less-expensive 2012 Passat this fall. Next year, Chevrolet plans to introduce a refreshed Malibu early next year. Later in the year, Honda will launch an all-new Accord and Nissan will enter the fray with an all-new Altima.

With the exception of some minor modifications to the sheet metal, Toyota has chosen to leave the Camry’s styling largely unchanged; focusing instead on improved fuel economy.

Carter said, “We’re going to maintain the market by taking the core Camry and expanding in two different directions. With [conventional gas-powered] Camry, you have a true midsize package at 35 miles per gallon, and the Hybrid is 43 mpg. It used to be that you couldn’t dream of a car in this class getting 43 mpg.”

With a starting price of $22,715, the standard Camry went on sale in the U.S. on October 3. The hybrid version is scheduled to hit dealer showrooms in December.

All 2012 Camry models will come with a host of standard safety features, including anti-lock brakes, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, vehicle stability control and 10 air bags.

Toyota expects Camry sales to reach about 360,000 units in the U.S. in 2012. Of those, the company expects about 50,000 units to be the new hybrid model. Carter said he expects annual U.S. sales to exceed 400,000 units once the market fully recovers.

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