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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Is the Camry set to get old and stuffy?

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Is the Camry set to get old and stuffy?

Popular sedan becoming this generation’s Buick, Oldsmobile

Source:

MSNBC

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16774146/

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Toyota Camry hybrid

Is the Toyota Camry, shown here in its hybrid version, destined to become an old and stuffy brand?

Bryan Mitchell / Getty Images file

For several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Oldsmobile Cutlass was the best-selling car in America, boosted by popular designs, positive reviews and the perception of quality and reliability.

How times have changed. Today, the once-venerable General Motors brand lies defunct, phased out in 2004 after steadily declining sales. The Olds was killed by its image as old and stuffy, despite an attempt to revive it with a public relations campaign in the late 1980s that promised the new models were “not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

Story continues below.

It’s a cautionary tale worth noting, especially for the Toyota Camry, the best-selling car in the United States for eight of the past nine years. Statistics compiled by consulting company Global Insight show that, up to the 2002 model year, the average age of U.S. buyers of Toyota’s popular sedan rose by one year for every year that passed. The brand is in danger of becoming outdated.

“This is the price you pay for making a connection with a generation,” said John Wolkonowicz, senior auto analyst for North America at Global Insight. Wolkonowicz notes that Toyota’s bread-and butter sedan, known for dependability and comfort, has made a solid connection with baby boomers, typically born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s.

“Camry buyers are on average in their low to mid-50s, and if Toyota doesn’t change the trajectory ... the Camry will become the Oldsmobile or the Buick of 20 years from now,” he said. “Their customers will be the oldest Americans, who are dying out of the market every day. Toyota is adamant that they are not going to let this happen, but they may be powerless to change it.”

Brand changes aren’t always successful, despite the best marketing makeovers. But Toyota shouldn’t be underestimated, Wolkonowicz added.

Since the 1990s, the Camry sedan has transitioned from its boxy beginnings to a more athletic exterior, while retaining a reputation for reliability, affordability and good fuel economy. Toyota sold 450,000 Camrys in 2006, up nearly 4 percent from 2005, according to Autodata, and well ahead of the No. 2 Accord, which sold 354,000 units, a decline of about 4 percent.

Still, before the Camry came the Ford Taurus, which held the position as the nation’s best-selling car between 1992 and 1996, only to lose its perch at the top of the automotive tree to the Camry in 1997. Ford produced its last Taurus last year.

Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, which tracks the automotive industry, says there does seem to be a natural arc for a successful car brand. Older nameplates like Buick, Pontiac and Mercury are all struggling, he said, although none of them are showing signs of going away.

“But it’s interesting because a few years ago you would have added the Cadillac brand to the list of struggling brands, and now it is resurgent,” he said. “It has shown that a brand that is on its last legs can find a new market given the right product and the right marketing strategy. Thanks to the CTS, Cadillac has a younger market; it has become youthful and edgy.”

Capturing the Generation X and Y demographics — generally speaking, those born after 1965 — is the aim of most carmakers, said Wolkonowicz. These consumers are more interested in BMWs than Camrys, he said, and many of them are buying premium models on the used market.

Toyota is working to capture this demographic with its lower-cost Scion brand. The initial Scions — the xA subcompact, the xB wagon, and to a lesser extent the tC sport coupe — received middling reviews. The next generation xB and the new xD, the successor to the xA, will be unveiled next month at the Chicago auto show.

“My guess is these new models will yet again be steps along the way,” Wolkonowicz said. “In typical fashion, Toyota is taking it slow and easy and getting better and better with every step. Scion will not be an overnight success. Ultimately, they will be a success, given Toyota’s might and money — it will just take time.”

Scion certainly seems to be holding its own. In a year of declining vehicle sales, Scion’s sales were up 10.6 percent in 2006 over 2005, and its share of the light vehicle market rose to 1.04 percent from 0.92 percent a year earlier.

The second part of the Japanese carmaker’s plan to capture younger consumers is to make the flagship Toyota brand more exciting by designing more expressive vehicles, adding emotion and horsepower, Wolkonowicz said.

“Toyota is known for reliability and good resale value,” he said. “Toyota is a rational purchase — it’s for people who care about making a smart purchase decision. It doesn’t get the adrenaline flowing.

“So it remains to be seen what they can accomplish here. The car business is like fashion, and like the fashion business, brands carry cachet. They also carry baggage, especially for younger people. It depends on whether they think the new styles are cool.”

Early signs suggest Toyota’s plan to rejuvenate the Camry with a sportier, more aggressive design is working, according to Bill Kwong, a spokesperson for Toyota. He says company data show the median age for the base Camry CE model buyers declined from 55 to 48 from 2005 to 2006.

“Yes, the age of Camry drivers was starting to get older,” Kwong said. “They are very loyal, so every time they come back to buy a new one they get a little older. But we think the new data show our buyers’ ages are decreasing.”

But Toyota faces other challenges, including questions about quality. The automaker last year faced an issue of engine damage caused by oil sludge that nearly resulted in a class-action lawsuit. More recently, Toyota said it will recall 533,000 Tundra pickups and Sequoia sport utility vehicles because of potential steering problems. The quality issues have led some to ask if Toyota is stretching itself thin to capture more U.S. market share.

And the Camry is a tempting target for rivals. At the recent Detroit auto show, General Motors unveiled a drastically restyled 2008 Chevrolet Malibu, aimed directly at the midsize sedan market.

Honda showcased a concept coupe design for its top-selling Accord, and the company stands to benefit down the road if Toyota falters, according to Wolkonowicz.

Many car consumers see Honda and Toyota the two brands as interchangeable as Coke and Pepsi, he said. But unlike Toyota, Honda enjoys strong appeal among Generation X and Y drivers as well as among baby boomers, he said.

“They have the attention of everyone born after 1954, and that’s a great position to be in,” he said. “So the company could come out of this looking good as the decades pass. But given Toyota’s huge cash position I think they will have the wherewithal to deal with all this.”

Edited by NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

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balthazar    1,865

Clearly; yes.

>>"Camry buyers are on average in their low to mid-50s"<<

Wonder why analysts are hedging here- toyoda unwilling to release actual numbers; prefering instead to combine scion & toyota numbers for a slanted ABA? Hm-mmm.

The camry is AALLRREEAADDYY "this generation's Buick", who can deny it?

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Chicagoland    2

More like today, lots of elders in Corollas and Camrys nowadays. Lots of them buy from fear of breakdowns, Toyota dealers can use old data to convince them the Detroit still makes cars like they did in 1975, and fan the flames of fear.

Also, Scion brand is around to hedge their bets, once Gen x,y, and z get to prime brand new car buying age. [35-55]

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thegriffon    5

The Camry's sales are increasing year-to-year. Is this article suggesting that the average buyer age is also increasing year-to-year?

Maybe it's just that the eyesight and memory of Camry buyers is fading and they have to replace them more often.

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Dsuupr    12

I do think so as the camry goes, the entire company does too. Just like Oldsmobile. Oldsmobile had younger buyers on their less popular products.

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Dragon    0

well , seeing as baby boomers are gettin older, there is a huge market for them, which bodes well for Toyota

Personally, looks wise alone, I think this Camry is the best looking one yet. IMO, it actaully looks kinda sporty, which I prefer over the more elegant look of the Impala.

Overall would rank it pretty high on the looks department, behind the 6 (which is getting a bit dated), but ahead of the Accord, Impala, Five Hundred, GP, etc.

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MyerShift    7

Toyota is stuffy, and old-people like. Why? It's BORING and UNAPPEALING.

I would much rather take a Honda over a Toyota should those be the only choices I have.

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Dsuupr    12

well , seeing as baby boomers are gettin older, there is a huge market for them, which bodes well for Toyota

Personally, looks wise alone, I think this Camry is the best looking one yet. IMO, it actaully looks kinda sporty, which I prefer over the more elegant look of the Impala.

Overall would rank it pretty high on the looks department, behind the 6 (which is getting a bit dated), but ahead of the Accord, Impala, Five Hundred, GP, etc.

With the Aura and upcoming Malibu, the Camry just screams that it's designed for the old.

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There's truth to the article, look around when you're in traffic.

Baby Boomers should be ashamed of themselves for setting

this trend. It's as despicale as spitting on Vietnam Veterans

and in the end their generation, as awsome as it was also

did a lot of damage.

The Camry is just so very evil in so many ways...

- It's NOT American made

- It's NOT exciting

- It's NOT original in styling or otherwise

- It's NOT "the best" of anything

- It's NOT marketed truthfully (90% are still on the road since 1986? BULL&#036;h&#33;!)

- It's NOT inexpensive or even affordable as compared to the competition

- It's NOT sporty, fun to drive or rugged

It IS however a seemingly "safe choice" for people too BRAIN DEAD to

think for themselves and too selfish to even really consider any of the

competition (esp. American) before jumping on the Toyota bandwagon!

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ehaase    18

The Camry is just so very evil in so many ways...

- It's NOT American made

I agree with most of your post, but most Camrys sold in the U.S. are manufactured in Kentucky.

But the Camry will probably still be the best selling car sold in the U.S. 10 years from now.

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Satty    338

For 96% of the population, there are more important things than cars. For them, its easy to realize that a car is JUST a compilation of metal, plastic, rubber, glass and a few other things. Go find a Camry driver and ask how many times they've missed their child's baseball game or dance recital or school play or a family birthday party or a special night out with their significant other whatever else. Cars like the Camry and Accord are perfect for people who realize that cars are needed in today's society but have better things to do than discriminate based on drive wheels (when they rarely get off the highway to exploit whatever handling benefits RWD has) or power (when the highway is usually bumper to bumper, a radio is far more important than 400hp) or country of origin (is a Toyota thats designed and built in America less American than a GM thats designed and built in Australia or Germany or one built in Canada or Mexico?). Nobody lays on their deathbed and says "I wish Toyota would go to hell and every car made was RWD BOF V8."

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FUTURE_OF_GM    26

The Camry is already the "Buick/Olds" of previous generations... Just look around!

My generation wouldn't be caught dead in a Camry and here in the Southeast (One of Toyotas biggest markets) Toyotas are the 'CAR-O-CHOICE' for the elders....

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toyoguy    0

as soon as Toyota wins their first NASCAR Nextell race, I'm celebrating by buying a Camry in beige.

Nobody lays on their deathbed and says "I wish Toyota would go to hell and every car made was RWD BOF V8."

put down your Starbucks and open your eyes man. Edited by toyoguy

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For 96% of the population, there are more important things than cars. For them, its easy to realize that a car is JUST a compilation of metal, plastic, rubber, glass and a few other things. Go find a Camry driver and ask how many times they've missed their child's baseball game or dance recital or school play or a family birthday party or a special night out with their significant other whatever else. Cars like the Camry and Accord are perfect for people who realize that cars are needed in today's society but have better things to do than discriminate based on drive wheels (when they rarely get off the highway to exploit whatever handling benefits RWD has) or power (when the highway is usually bumper to bumper, a radio is far more important than 400hp) or country of origin (is a Toyota thats designed and built in America less American than a GM thats designed and built in Australia or Germany or one built in Canada or Mexico?). Nobody lays on their deathbed and says "I wish Toyota would go to hell and every car made was RWD BOF V8."

True...the Camry is the car of choice of the 'car-as-appliance' crowd...nothing wrong with that, because at some level, even for car enthusiasts, a car IS an appliance..the engineer in me wants a car to be as reliable as my washing machine, refrigerator, etc... and like those appliances, I really don't care where it's manufactured, as long as it done with quality and provides value for the money. On the other hand, the hedonist/enthusiast in me cares about the performance, interior quality, gadgets, styling, design, etc...

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Satty    338

put down your Starbucks and open your eyes man.

I haven't had a cup of coffee in weeks :(:banghead:

True...the Camry is the car of choice of the 'car-as-appliance' crowd...nothing wrong with that, because at some level, even for car enthusiasts, a car IS an appliance..the engineer in me wants a car to be as reliable as my washing machine, refrigerator, etc... and like those appliances, I really don't care where it's manufactured, as long as it done with quality and provides value for the money. On the other hand, the hedonist/enthusiast in me cares about the performance, interior quality, gadgets, styling, design, etc...

90% of car buyers seem to agree with the engineer with you, which is why the Camry (which has a very long reputation of reliability) and Accord (ditto) and the F-150 (the same, but its a truck for the urban cowboys) combine to sell over 1.5 million units a year.

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I agree with most of your post, but most Camrys sold in the U.S. are manufactured in Kentucky.

But the Camry will probably still be the best selling car sold in the U.S. 10 years from now.

WRONG.

It is ASSEMBLED here with parts that are made overseas. That does not make it an AMERICAN car.

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Dragon    0

WRONG.

It is ASSEMBLED here with parts that are made overseas. That does not make it an AMERICAN car.

the same could be said for any number of Ford's, GM's and Chrysler's. There is no such thing as an "american" car these days. Hell, the Camry is more American than the G8

To compare buy a car made by a foreign based car manufacturer and spitting on a vet is stupid. Not even in the same class.

Look around your house, how much stuff says Made in China, or made in taiwan? My guess a ton. In which case, by your logic, YOU should be the one who is ashamed

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gm4life    5

I do think the new Malibu will put the Camry in a world of hurt. Seriously. The new Camry isn't that great of a car, and I do see the age of Buick and Cadillac buyers going down while Toyota is just going North. Alot of older couples where I go to church have traded 3 and 4 year old Buicks and Impalas on the new Camry.

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enzl    0

I do think the new Malibu will put the Camry in a world of hurt. Seriously. The new Camry isn't that great of a car, and I do see the age of Buick and Cadillac buyers going down while Toyota is just going North. Alot of older couples where I go to church have traded 3 and 4 year old Buicks and Impalas on the new Camry.

Not likely. The Mazda 6, Pontiac G6, DCX Sebring/ Avnger or any one of the also rans may get hurt, but the Malibu will probably not have much impact on the 450k Toyota will sell this calendar year.

People simply aren't cross-shopping Chevy & Toyota much anymore...

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The O.C.    2

WRONG.

It is ASSEMBLED here with parts that are made overseas. That does not make it an AMERICAN car.

I'd check your facts before you make those kinds of statements......

I don't have the info......but you'll probably find that there are a significant number of U.S. suppliers that provide input into the Ky-built Camrys.

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The O.C.    2

I do think the new Malibu will put the Camry in a world of hurt. Seriously. The new Camry isn't that great of a car, and I do see the age of Buick and Cadillac buyers going down while Toyota is just going North. Alot of older couples where I go to church have traded 3 and 4 year old Buicks and Impalas on the new Camry.

To be honest, I don't think Malibu will even DENT Camry's sales performance.

That's not to say I don't think Malibu is not a great new entry, in fact, I'd probably go with a new Malibu over a Camry.....not something I can say about the G6 or AURA.

HOWEVER, GM still has that incredible perception-gap to deal with......and you aren't simply going to turn a significant number of buyers over to your product overnight.

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FAPTurbo    1,075

Aren't the Eagles reuniting?

Apparently, the best way to gauge if the Camry is the new 'Buick' is to head to an Eagles concert and check the parking lot and do a tally of vehicles. If the Camry comes out on top, it is a officially the new 'Buick' :P

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