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Toyota Goes Back to Drawing Board for Next-Gen Camry

No more “refrigerators” mantra pushes maker to improve styling.

by on Dec.01, 2016

Toyota offers a hint of the new Camry model it will reveal at the North American International Auto Show.

Look for an all-new, eighth-generation Toyota Camry to make its debut at the upcoming North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the automaker’s top U.S. executive confirmed today.

Calling it perhaps the most important product the automaker has ever launched in the U.S., Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations Bob Carter said the 2018 Camry will introduce a new and much more passionate approach to design and driving dynamics. The goal is to move away from the reliable but boring product that, Carter acknowledged, is often derided as a rolling “refrigerator.”

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“We’ve been criticized for being conservative in our styling. Some of you call it boring,” said Carter, speaking to reporters at a holiday gathering in Detroit. “Now we’re focusing on building a more fun-drive, stylish vehicle” which, he said, “sent shivers down my spine the first time I saw it.”

Toyota has been working to up its design ante for several years, driven on by the maker’s chief executive and founding family heir Akio Toyoda, who often talks about the need for more “passion” in the brand’s products. That’s all the more so, many industry analysts contend, as key competitors, including Germany’s Volkswagen AG and Detroit’s General Motors, make gains on Toyota’s traditional strengths: quality, reliability and dependability, or QRD, in industry-speak.

Toyota is bringing an all-new Camry to the Detroit Auto Show. The new sedan will feature new exterior to keep pace with competition.

(Toyota tumbles; operating profits plunge 43%. Click Here for details.)

“They need to add more passion but they also need to make sure they don’t lose the attributes that get 350,000 to 400,000 people to buy Camrys ever year,” Stephanie Brinley, senior automotive analyst with IHS Automotive, told TheDetroitBureau.com.

But there are other challenges facing Toyota and, in particular, the Camry. Long both the best-selling midsize sedan in the U.S., as well as the top-selling model in the Toyota portfolio, Camry sales have been slipping as the overall midsize segment continues to lose ground to sport-utility vehicles and other light trucks.

“That trend, we believe, is going to accelerate into the future,” said Carter.

In fact, he later told TheDetroitBureau.com, it is quite “possible” that even the all-new Camry will lose at least one of its sales crowns in the near future.

(Click Here for more about Toyota’s plans for its car line-up.)

“My goal is Camry will always be the number one-selling sedan in North America,” said Carter, “but (the compact crossover) RAV4 could be Toyota’s number-one best-seller” overall in the American market.

Toyota designers are looking to add some "fun" and excitement to the Camry as it looks to compete with vehicles like the Chevy Malibu.

Toyota officials would not discuss any specific details about the new Camry beyond its upcoming Detroit debut. But beyond more aggressive styling and more nimble driving dynamics, several other details can be comfortably anticipated:

  • Look for the new model to shed weight in an effort to improve fuel efficiency;
  • The new Camry will likely offer a mix of powertrains, including a hybrid system. Even a plug-in and a pure battery-electric model could be in store over the next model’s lifecycle;
  • There will be new infotainment technologies and likely some more connected car systems onboard;
  • Toyota will continue to add more advanced safety features, offering them as a relatively low-cost package.

While pricing isn’t likely to be announced until closer to the vehicle’s 2018 model-year launch, the weakened market for midsize sedans will likely put pressure on the Japanese giant to hold down any increases even with the updates and additional content.

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Expect to hear plenty more when the 2018 Toyota Camry makes its official debut in about five weeks.

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