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First Drive: 2015 Toyota Camry

The midsize market’s 800-lb gorilla gets an unexpected thorough makeover.

by on Oct.15, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Camry is full of surprises, including the fact that it got a top-down makeover just three short years after the last generation's introduction.

We live in an era of individuality. Whether it’s cellphones or sedans, Americans want products that reflect their individual tastes and needs. That’s especially true in the auto industry where buyers can choose from hundreds of different offerings and even a luxury brand like Mercedes-Benz has promised to deliver 30 new models by the end of the decade.

Yet a few key products routinely defy this trend, none more effectively than the venerable Toyota Camry which in 2013 generated about 408,000 sales in the U.S. alone, with the Japanese maker expecting that to reach 415,000 this year. When you’re clear and away the industry’s best-seller, why change your formula?

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And for the past three decades, Camry has, indeed, changed relatively little – which is why Toyota delivered such a shock when it unveiled the updated 2015 Camry earlier this year. Introduced barely three years after the last full model update, we might have expected only the most modest revisions, perhaps a new fascia and some tweaks to the interior. Instead, Toyota has changed nearly every single body panel and heavily reworked the cabin. (more…)

Toyota Expects to Sell 100,000 More Cars in 2014

Strong fundamentals, redesigned Camry make the difference.

by on Aug.15, 2014

Toyota Vice President Bob Carter told a crowd last night in New York that the maker will sell 100,000 more vehicles this year.

Toyota expects industry-wide vehicle sales to hit 16.3 million units, an increase of just over 5% and expects to sell 100,000 more units this year than it did in 2013, according to Bob Carter, Toyota Motor Sales senior vice president for automotive operations.

During a speech in New York, Carter noted the growth this year is slightly slower than the past few years, but is being driven by stronger economic and market conditions and a hangover pent-up demand from the recession.

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Moreover, 400,000 more customers than last year are expected to come off leases from all brands and most will turn around and buy or lease a new vehicle, helping push sales higher, Carter added. (more…)

New Car Sales Booming, But Good Deals Abound

KBB.com points out best August offers.

by on Aug.14, 2014

Looking for a good deal this month? The Fiat 500 can be gotten for as little as $99 a month, according to KBB.com.

New car and truck sales are still humming along in 2014, but if you’re searching for a deal, compact and midsize sedans are the segments where you should start the hunting.

There are deals for those looking to lease or buy, especially for the Fiat 500. Right now, according to KBB.com, a 2014 Fiat 500 can be had for as little as $99 a month for 24 months. It requires nearly $2,400 down. However, if you’re looking to buy, the same car can be had for $265 a month for 60 months using the $3,000 cash back the automaker is offering buyers.

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“Compact and midsize sedans are among the most popular segments in the United States, and this month consumers will be able to find red-hot deals on the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Cruze,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director and executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com. (more…)

Ford F-150 Tops 2014 Most American Vehicle List

Japanese makers take seven of top 10 spots.

by on Jul.01, 2014

Ford's F-150 full-size pickup truck was named the "most American" vehicle by Cars.com.

As the most patriotic of holidays – Independence Day – approaches, it may come as a shock to discover that if you want to buy an “American” car, you may need to go to a Toyota or Honda dealership.

Cars.com released its annual list of “Most American” vehicles and once again, the Ford F-150 topped the list. However, the Toyota Camry placed second for the second year in a row. In fact, four of the top six “American” cars are Toyotas, according to the website.

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The list reflects the levels of American-made parts on new vehicles. The vehicles on the list have an American-made parts content of 75% or more. For the 2014 model year, just 13 models assembled in the U.S. have domestic-parts content of 75% or higher, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but three of those were disqualified because they’re being discontinued. (more…)

Hyundai Takes Aim at Toyota with 2015 Sonata

New Korean sedan tones down styling, adds more features.

by on Apr.16, 2014

Hyundai's Dave Zuchowski introduces the new Sonata at the New York International Auto Show.

Not all that long ago, Hyundai was an afterthought in the competitive midsize sedan market, largely focusing on bargain hunting buyers. But all that changed, a few years back, when it introduced a stylish new remake of the Sonata sedan, the first model to showcase its distinctive “Fluidic Sculpture” design language.

For 2015, the Korean carmaker is rolling out an all-new version of the Sonata, and while it is toning down the previous model’s sometimes over-the-top angles and curves, Hyundai is growing more confident it can take on even some of the midsize segment’s most formidable players, notably including the Toyota Camry.

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“The Sonata has been playing a key role in Hyundai Motor’s rapid growth in the global market, as well as leading the development of the Korean auto industry. We are confident that the all-new Sonata will change the landscape of the global midsize sedan market,” said Choong Ho Kim, the maker’s president and CEO, said when the all-new version was unveiled in South Korea last month. Now, U.S. buyers will have a chance to decide as the all-new Sonata makes its American debut at the New York Auto Show. (more…)

Toyota Delivers Major Mid-Cycle Update for Camry

Japanese giant aims to keep its king-of-the-hill status.

by on Apr.16, 2014

Bill Fay is group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., introduced the new Toyota Camry at the New York International Auto Show today.

This story has been updated to include new information.

Few vehicles have consistently dominated the competition as the Toyota Camry has, so one might traditionally expect it to deliver only the most modest of mid-cycle updates. But the 2015 Camry “refresh” is anything if conservative. The Japanese giant has rolled out an unexpectedly significant update that seems bound and determined to help Camry maintain its position as America’s best-selling passenger car.

Until recently, that dominance would seem hard to question, but Camry has been facing threats from a variety of fronts, including the Ford Fusion, the Nissan Altima – which actually claimed brief sales leadership in January and February – and from the Hyundai Sonata which is undergoing a major redesign that’s also debuting at this year’s New York Auto Show.

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Toyota got a sign that the market was shifting when it launched the current version of the Camry in late 2011. It received an unexpectedly cold response from dealers who saw an early prototype barely 18 months before launch, a big chill severe enough to force the maker to rush through a number of exterior changes late in the game.

So, this time, the maker isn’t taking any chances, and claims to have “re-imagined nearly every exterior surface of the car,” to the point where the only carryover piece of sheet metal is the roof.

“This is the biggest segment in the industry and everybody is upping their game,” said Toyota division general manager Bill Fay, noting that almost 2,000 different parts have been changed for 2015.

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With Competitors Gaining Ground, Toyota Plans Major Camry Update

Maker promises more than the typical mid-cycle “refresh.”

by on Apr.03, 2014

The 2015 Toyota Camry update may borrow key design cues from the NS4 Plug-in Hybrid Concept.

It’s been a tough winter for Toyota, the maker’s traditionally best-selling Camry line unexpectedly losing some of its momentum in a hotly competitive midsize sedan market.

And that has the Japanese giant scrambling to hang onto the sales lead it has held in the U.S. market for the last dozen years. Toyota confirms it will unveil a new version of the Camry at the New York Auto Show later this month, and it promises that the 2015 update will be more than just the usual mid-cycle refresh.

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Just how far it will go without a complete redesign remains to be seen, but with the Nissan Altima actually having led the sales race during January and February, Toyota officials are rapidly buying into the philosophy set by CEO Akio Toyoda who is demanding more “passion” from its future products – or “waku-doki” in Japanese.

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First Drive: 2015 Chrysler 200

Chrysler finally gets into the (midsize) game.

by on Mar.20, 2014

Chrysler is looking to make inroads into the competitive midsize market segment with the news 2015 Chrysler 200.

Anyone looking for a midsize car has a wealth of choices from a wide variety of carmakers which have brought some very good options to U.S. showrooms in recent years.

Now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has entered the competition with a very good alternative that could provide an unexpected challenge to such formidable rivals as the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda6, and Chevrolet Malibu, never mind the midsize segment-leading Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

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For those familiar with the old Chrysler 200 – or worse, the old Sebring – the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 that made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year is likely to come as a very big surprise. Start with its distinctive exterior styling – which harkens back to the era, two decades ago, when Chrysler routinely set the industry agenda when it came to design. (more…)

Toyota Does Damage Control: Renews Camry’s Ratings

Sedan regains CR’s “Recommended,” IIHS’s “Top Safety Pick” endorsements.

by on Dec.20, 2013

Toyota modified its Camry in November, and it now gets an "Acceptable" rating in the IIHS small overlap crash test.

Toyota is in the midst of some serious damage control – quite literally.

The maker took a beating earlier this year when several models were slammed for their poor performance in the new “small overlap” crash test established by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That meant the best-selling passenger car in America might lose its IIHS “Top Safety Pick” endorsement while influential Consumer Reports, notably, yanked its “Recommended” rating for the midsize sedan.

Toyota officials have been frantically trying to downplay the significance of the poor showing by a variety of models that also included Corolla and Prius – while also noting that they’re far from the only ones who’ve been hurt by doing poorly in the new IIHS test.

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Indeed, that was a key reason why the number of models that the Insurance Institute this week awarded “Top Safety Pick” and “Top Safety Pick Plus” awards plunged to 39 from 130 last year.

Significantly, Camry was named a top pick and Prius got the vaunted plus rating.  Meanwhile, Consumer Reports has put Camry back on its recommended list.  But there’s a footnote here.  The IIHS pointedly noted that only Camry and Prius models produced since November qualified.

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US Car Market Boom Likely to Continue, Forecasts Senior Toyota Exec

But sales may not set new record, cautions Carter.

by on Sep.05, 2013

Toyota's Camry outpaced the already strong surge of the US car market last month.

August’s strong automotive sales surge seems to have taken everyone by surprise, including top managers at Toyota — demand for the Japanese maker’s Toyota, Lexus and Scion branded products jumping nearly 23% last month as the U.S. market reached its highest level in at least six years.

A variety of factors seem to be drawing buyers back to showrooms, suggested Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. But one stands out, “Consumer confidence,” he said succinctly. “People are feeling good,” and are increasingly willing to open up their pocketbooks again.

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Industry analysts and observers have been steadily raising their forecasts for 2013 and beyond, and Toyota is no exception. After the worst industry downturn in decades, demand is likely to top 15.5 million this year, and could nudge into 16 million territory in 2014. But how high is up? Speaking to the Detroit Automotive Press Association, Carter noted some forecasters anticipate near-record numbers of 17 million by as early as 2018.

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