Toyota's best-seller Camry faces rival threats in U.S.

Saturday 17 December 2011, 10:52 AM by

Toyota Motor Corporation aiming to strengthen sales with revamped Camry is under threat by converging competition in the mid-size league. Japan based auto maker's flagship model is up against escalating competition besides discouraging economic factors. The top-selling U.S. passenger car from Toyota's stable was launched in October with the view to fuel sales for the auto maker, which were rammed by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

As a consequence, the auto maker's earnings forecast went down by 50 per cent for the year ending in March. Mid-size league players in U.S. are continuously pressurising the model that has been doing commendably well, toppling the segment for the past 14 years. “There’s a lot of pressure on that car. It’s been reviewed as being competitive within the mid-size sedan segment, but not that much better or worse than competitors. Right now, the perceived design leader is Hyundai’s Sonata, and Kia’s Optima is also doing well.” said Maryann Keller, an auto analyst and President at Maryann Keller & Associates.

Meanwhile, Toyota Motors Corporation is doing its every bit to maintain the segment leading stint of Camry in U.S. “We have been increasing the volume of shipments to our dealers since we began production in September,” said Steve Curtis, a spokesman for the company’s U.S. sales unit. Mike Goss, a spokesman for the company’s manufacturing unit, quoted, “We are running full production on Camry lines as we continue to replenish inventory and meet market demand.”

Meanwhile, Toyota Camry seems losing on its pricing credibility, with the overwhelming response received by Hyundai Sonata and Kia’s Optima and Ford Fusion that are positioned in the same price bracket. Against 23,440 Camry units sold in November, 15,668 Sonatas and 9,533 Optimas were sold. Production delays for Toyota have cut down sales volume by 7.3 per cent, whereas Sonata's volume climbed up by 15 per cent and Optima registered triple sales growth from last year.

For 2012, Toyota in U.S. aims of sell 360,000 Camrys. The company has sold 275,004 units of the model in the first 11 months of 2011, surpassing Nissan Altima’s 243,005 units and Honda Accord's 217,958 units. For North America, Toyota Camry is produced at Toyota’s plant in Georgetown (Kentucky) and also at the under contract Subaru plant in Lafayette (Indiana). After a quake and tsunami that led to production slowdown, the capacity of these plants was lowered, which can collectively produce 500,000 cars annually.

Toyota Camry's latest edition is claimed by the auto maker to be more fuel-efficient and smooth to handle. Moreover, sedan has various added safety arrangements due to which it received a top score in federal crash tests. The revamped version has rounder edges besides roomier rear seat and bigger trunk. In terms of cabin space, it beats counterparts such as Accord, Sonata, Optima, Altima, Fusion and Malibu. It has the highest fuel economy rating in four-cylinder mid-size segment; another aspect that lures target group.

Thailand’s floods have disrupted production in 2011, as auto maker fell short of components, which turned in favour of rivals of Camry in U.S. With competition getting narrower in the mid-size segment, Toyota Camry is under tremendous pressure to restore situation for Toyota in key market of US.