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Intrepidation

Looking at Camry without driving one

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Link: http://www.auto123.com/en/info/news/news,v...rtid=61537&pg=1

"Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" is widely regarded as one of the greatest pieces of journalism ever, thanks largely to the fact that writer Gay Talese created an insightful portrait of the great crooner by chronicling the circumstances that conspired to keep him from actually interviewing the subject of his story.

The Toyota Camry isn't the Frank Sinatra of the auto market (Perry Como's more like it), but it is possible to write about the best-selling car in the U.S. without actually driving it, or seeing it, or even knowing anything about the latest version that is just now coming onto the market.

Partly this is because the Japanese firm's intent with Camry hasn't changed through six iterations now, but mostly it's because the people (Boomers, for the most part) who converted to Camryism 20 years ago aren't interested in what anyone has to say about it.

By and large, the people who buy the Camry (and most other Toyota models) do so because they don't really like cars but they know they have to own one. They want an appliance that will serve their needs with maximum reliability and minimum angst, and Camry has served them well for decades. The blandness of the car and the changes in the auto industry that have pushed many other products up to or even beyond Camry's level matter not to these folks. Camry and Toyota have served them well enough so far, so why should they spend any time thinking about another model or even another brand?

As you can imagine, this attitude to Camry and Toyota by large parts of the auto buying public tends to frustrate other car companies, but what's really interesting is that it increasingly tends to concern the people at Toyota.

Right now, the surface picture for Toyota is rosy, as it recently reported US$12.1 billion in profits for the last fiscal year, largely because Japan keeps the yen low against competing currencies and that allows its auto industry to suck billions out of American and Canadian consumers. The fly in this ointment is that its customer base for Camry and most of its other products is aging and a replacement crowd is proving intensely difficult to locate.

When people starting moving to Toyota and Honda 30 or even 20 years ago it made a lot of sense, since the Japanese firms were offering reliable, fuel-efficient products when the U.S. brands were offering mostly junk, or demi-junk. These buyers stayed loyal to Toyota because there was no usually no compelling reason to risk some other brand.

But the folks who weren't forced into Camrys and Corollas have a different view of Toyota's product line, and it isn't enthusiastic. They find Camry and most of the rest of the Toyota lineup boring, and if you scratch below the polite surface they will tell you that the people who buy Camry and most other Toyota models are just as boring as the cars they drive.

True or not, fair or not, this is the impression that Toyota has to battle as it works relentlessly to put a cool, hip face on every new model it launches. The latest Camry is no different, except that the effort to turn it into something desirable for people who know and love cars is a little more forced because Toyota knows that time is running out, that Boomers are coming to the end of their new car buying lives. Unfortunately for the giant Japanese auto company, working hard to look cool essentially kills any chance of that happening. The golden rule of cool is that you're not cool if you say you are.

These are the circumstances that make it unnecessary to actually drive a new Camry before commenting on it. If you want to know, I bet the new Camry is an excellent piece of work that will delight its devotees and cause the rest of us to stay out of Toyota stores in droves.

If I can paraphrase a singer that appeals to a different crowd: "You don't have to drive a Camry to see which way the wind's blowing."

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The requisite Toyota bashing piece of the day.

Yes, heaven forbid that an auto journalist be honest and take a shot at Toyota. Curse him for not excepting Toyota's bribes!!!

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Guest YellowJacket894

Ah, it's so refreshing to read the truth coming from an auto journalist's mouth for once.

Big kudos for posting that, DF. 8)

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Seems to me I've posted my own version of this article over the last few weeks. Nice to see I'm not alone in my "opinions" and impressions. Thanks for the post.

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Oh no you don't, Camino. You were 'proved' wrong and 'wrong' you continue to be. You're just gonna have to live with this burden the rest of your automotive enthusiast life, buddy.

BTW: >>"Boomers are coming to the end of their new car buying lives."<<

Boomers are as young as 41, which is still a number of years LESS than the average age of toyota-in-general buyers, never mind the average age of camry buyers. On average, the younger boomers have up to 35 years of new car buying years ahead of them.

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Oh no you don't, Camino. You were 'proved' wrong and 'wrong' you continue to be. You're just gonna have to live with this burden the rest of your automotive enthusiast life, buddy.

BTW: >>"Boomers are coming to the end of their new car buying lives."<<

Boomers are as young as 41, which is still a number of years LESS than the average age of toyota-in-general buyers, never mind the average age of camry buyers. On average, the younger boomers have up to 35 years of new car buying years ahead of them.

:lol:

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And that is why so many young people are loving Buicks. They might be "old" but atleast they have a personality.

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Ah, it's so refreshing to read the truth coming from an auto journalist's mouth for once.

Big kudos for posting that, DF. 8)

i think this article is why i hate toyota... because it seems to suck the life out of the automotive industry, it takes the enthusiasm out...

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The requisite Toyota bashing piece of the day.

you are just having trouble accepting this.......... as it is the GOSPEL TRUTH!!! toyota has always built really good APPLIANCES, not good CARS! name me a truely cool toyota (that is agreed by many, not by your obviously biased opinion). maybe, just MAYBE, the last gen, supra. the last gen celica? turd. ANY of their trucks? uh, yea right. scions? come back in a couple years after the scion product line get stale (and that i guarantee will happen).

Edited by grandmarquis

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you are just having trouble accepting this.......... as it is the GOSPEL TRUTH!!! toyota has always built really good APPLIANCES, not good CARS! name me a truely cool toyota (that is agreed by many, not by your obviously biased opinion). maybe, just MAYBE, the last gen, supra. the last gen celica? turd. ANY of their trucks? uh, yea right. scions? come back in a couple years after the scion product line get stale (and that i guarantee will happen).

While it is absolutely true that Toyota makes appliances (soulless, but reliable, well built, highly functional and targeted accurately), I don't see how THEY are responsible for sucking the soul out of car building...

Ex. What mainstream product truly possesses soul? BMW? Alfa? Mazda? Nissan?

I'm not sure what the criticism is here, as Toyota's direct competitors, import or domestic, build a ton of really vanilla product.

Is the Malibu or Impala inherently more soulful than a Camry? If so, what is the critierion used to measure that?

I might see an argument that certain Altimas are very sporty, in a way that a Camry isn't....or that the Civic Si, with its screamer engine, is a more involving product than a Corolla.....but are these really products with soul?

Perhaps its semantics, but I don't find any mainstream GM products soulful....Ford might have argument with the Mustang (or Fusion) and the DCX LX's might be arguable...

I'm trying to establish what we are benchmarking, because I can't honestly say that Toyota, GM or any other mass manufacturer really puts out mainstream product that has a 'soul'.

Can anyone shed some light on this one?

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While it is absolutely true that Toyota makes appliances (soulless, but reliable, well built, highly functional and targeted accurately), I don't see how THEY are responsible for sucking the soul out of car building...

Ex. What mainstream product truly possesses soul? BMW? Alfa? Mazda? Nissan?

I'm not sure what the criticism is here, as Toyota's direct competitors, import or domestic, build a ton of really vanilla product.

Is the Malibu or Impala inherently more soulful than a Camry? If so, what is the critierion used to measure that?

I might see an argument that certain Altimas are very sporty, in a way that a Camry isn't....or that the Civic Si, with its screamer engine, is a more involving product than a Corolla.....but are these really products with soul?

Perhaps its semantics, but I don't find any mainstream GM products soulful....Ford might have argument with the Mustang (or Fusion) and the DCX LX's might be arguable...

I'm trying to establish what we are benchmarking, because I can't honestly say that Toyota, GM or any other mass manufacturer really puts out mainstream product that has a 'soul'.

Can anyone shed some light on this one?

maybe "soul" is the wrong choice of words on our part, maybe "character" would be better. something that can make one feel a sense of "connection" to their vehicle. i drive a grand marquis (big surprise) and although is is a not a sporty car or anything like that, it just oozes character. why? can anyone doubt a full-size v8 powered land yacht has "pressence" on the road? toyotas just completely lack any character, just do just one thing, get you down the road invisibly and blandly. they just cannot appeal to one's emotions (unless toyota owners are emotionless robots). current domestic cars i would say that have charracter (or "soul") would be:

corvette (is there any doubt?)

mustang (see above)

fusion (and its siblings, especially after the 3.5 and awd comes out)

focus (really a great driving little sh*tbox)

gt

pt cruiser (although i don't care for them, they do appeal to their owners emotions)

300m

wrangler

viper

cadillac cts, sts, escalade,xlr

now i challenge anyone to find a single toyota that belongs on this list. xb? not a chance. around here in ne ohio only old folks seem to buy them (wasn't the demographic toyota was looking for). corrolla? YAWN!!! yaris? a turd in the making (and btw, what the f*ck is a "yaris"?) their suv's? again, YAWN!!!

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Does it really matter if any new Toyota model has character or not? It doesn't appear you would ever acknowledge it anyway.

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Right now, the surface picture for Toyota is rosy, as it recently reported US$12.1 billion in profits for the last fiscal year, largely because Japan keeps the yen low against competing currencies and that allows its auto industry to suck billions out of American and Canadian consumers.

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Oh no you don't, Camino. You were 'proved' wrong and 'wrong' you continue to be. You're just gonna have to live with this burden the rest of your automotive enthusiast life, buddy.

BTW: >>"Boomers are coming to the end of their new car buying lives."<<

Boomers are as young as 41, which is still a number of years LESS than the average age of toyota-in-general buyers, never mind the average age of camry buyers. On average, the younger boomers have up to 35 years of new car buying years ahead of them.

Also, the article was innacurate with the focus on only boomers..I certainly know plenty Gen Xers that drive Camrys and Corollas..

Many people buy Toyotas as they are the rational, sensible choice..they know they are getting a reliable car and one with a good resale value. These are not car enthusiasts, just regular people that need a car to get from point A to point B and back again.

Edited by moltar

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now i challenge anyone to find a single toyota that belongs on this list. xb? not a chance. around here in ne ohio only old folks seem to buy them (wasn't the  demographic toyota was looking for).  corrolla? YAWN!!! yaris? a turd in the making (and btw, what the f*ck is a "yaris"?) their suv's? again, YAWN!!!

It's a moot point, anyway. Read this quote from the article:

...it is possible to write about the best-selling car in the U.S. without actually driving it... because the people (Boomers, for the most part) who converted to Camryism 20 years ago aren't interested in what anyone has to say about it.

Toyota doesn't build many cars with "character" or "soul" (whichever definition you prefer) because it knows it doesn't have to. Why should they? They get along just fine selling boring appliance cars. That is Toyota's niche in the marketplace, their raison d'etre.

If you want a high performance car, go to Mazda, Nissan, BMW, or (in some cases), Pontiac. If you want a luxurious car, go to Audi, Lexus, Infiniti or Mercedes. If you want a car that you don't have to think about, you go to Toyota. Trust me: they've cornered the market.

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If you want a high performance car, go to Mazda, Nissan, BMW, or (in some cases), Pontiac. If you want a luxurious car, go to Audi, Lexus, Infiniti or Mercedes. If you want a car that you don't have to think about, you go to Toyota. Trust me: they've cornered the market.

And with Lexus, Toyota has luxury cars you don't have to think about... it's also a rational, sensible choice, at higher price points than a Toyota, but still very sensible.

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Also, the article was innacurate with the focus on only boomers..I certainly know plenty Gen Xers that drive Camrys and Corollas..

Many people buy Toyotas as they are the rational, sensible choice..they know they are getting a reliable car and one with a good resale value.  These are not car enthusiasts, just regular people that need a car to get from point A to point B and back again.

So long as you stay away from the Avalon and V6 Camry...yar.

The SRT-4 had character..it may have been a Neon at heart, but it had the power to blow the doors and out handle more than half the cars on the road.

The Charger (or any LX car) has more character in it's grill than the entire Camry has had in its entire lifetime.

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So long as you stay away from the Avalon and V6 Camry...yar.

The SRT-4 had character..it may have been a Neon at heart, but it had the power to blow the doors and out handle more than half the cars on the road.

The Charger (or any LX car) has more character in it's grill than the entire Camry has had in its entire lifetime.

Camry buyers couldn't care less about 'blowing doors off' or 'character'..they want reliable appliances.

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Camry buyers couldn't care less about 'blowing doors off' or 'character'..they want reliable appliances.

So long as they stay away from the Avalon and V6 Camry

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