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Toyota reveals all-new Camry, sales to begin mid-2017




Toyota has provided details of the all-new Camry at a recent US media event. The new Camry has greater differentiation between grade levels and the model remains one of the few mid-size sedans in the US to offer a V6 option.

IHS Markit perspective

  • Significance: The Toyota Camry has been the best-selling passenger car in the US in 19 of the past 20 years, although sales of sedans continue to be eroded. Toyota is looking to retain that crown, with a Camry offering a more emotional experience. The new Camry also looks to be a bit of everything to everyone; in this generation of the model, there is more distinction between grade levels, three powertrains, and more distinctive styling.
  • Implications: This is the first vehicle fully on the Toyota New Generation Architecture (TGNA), according to the automaker. The new architecture targets cost management and improving vehicle performance, two elements that may be particularly important against sliding interest in mid-size sedans.
  • Outlook: The new Camry range brings a common level of technology, and bucks the trend on powertrains, continuing to offer a V6 and non-turbo 4-cylinder. As the mid-size sedan segment faces headwinds, IHS Markit forecasts the Camry will retain the top position in that US segment, but its sales volumes will continue to be eroded. The company acknowledges that maintaining the model's sales volume will be difficult, but says this new generation is more expressive and daring.

With the all-new 2018 model-year Toyota Camry, the only carryover element to the exterior is the familiar Toyota badge. This level of exterior change also reflects the fact that the car is riding on a ground-up, all-new platform. Toyota wants people to see the nameplate as a more exciting and emotional entry. The company's approach with the eighth-generation Camry was summed by Jack Hollis, group vice-president and general manager of the Toyota division, Toyota Motor North America, in an Automotive News report, saying, "There's nothing pushing people into sedans. It's a perfect time to start fresh, from scratch, lead the industry, lead the sedan segment."

IHS Markit had the opportunity to spend some time discussing the car with the chief engineer, Masato Katsumata, and US-based marketing and product planning staff during a recent media and analysts' event in the United States. We knew from the new generation's reveal at the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in January that the car has a more striking profile than the previous generation. A sleeker profile typically means a rear roof and door design that compromises rear-seat ingress and egress. Toyota designers and engineers worked to reduce the impact of the sleeker profile, utilising the fact that the model's new platform positions the seats lower in the car than previously. There are aggressive front and rear fenders, with a new two-piece grille sporting what Toyota calls the "Keen Look" design philosophy. Toyota also spent considerable time ensuring that the comfort-orientated LE and XLE grades have a distinct front look from the sportier SE and XSE grades, and that the hybrid has yet another forward look.

The new Camry will be offered in an array of grades, with three powertrain options. The five grade levels include L, LE, XLE, SE, and XSE; several of these will be available with any of the three powertrains. The SE and XSE grades have sculpted rocker panels, 19-inch wheels, a rear spoiler lip, more aggressive-looking front bumper, and a lower diffuser in the rear bumper. Toyota wants the grade levels distinctive and identifiable from 200 yards away.

The Camry, Toyota says, is the first car to be fully on the all-new Toyota New Generation Architecture (TGNA), although the Prius used many elements from the TGNA. In the Camry, the TGNA enabled a lower centre of gravity, increased visibility, improved structure, and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). The development programme's design target was to improve vehicle performance, aerodynamics, efficiency, and stability, while making common parts more universal. Efforts like this can significantly lower costs, although increasing component commonality also has the potential to raise cost and impact on recalls, whether minor or significant. The platform includes a switch to a double-wishbone rear suspension set-up, with new gas-filled shock absorbers and stabiliser bar. The front continues with MacPherson struts and gas-filled shock absorbers. Toyota also says the new generation's more edgy trim levels add sport-tuned shock absorbers and springs.

Powertrains

Toyota has gone against the grain with the powertrains for this eighth-generation Camry. While much of the market has moved to exclusively offering turbo-charged 4-cylinder engines, Camry customers are able to choose between a new direct-injection, naturally aspirated 203-hp or 206-hp 2.5-litre 4-cylinder (depending on trim level), a 301-hp 3.5-litre V6, or Toyota's Hybrid Synergy II hybrid system, delivering 208-hp in this application. The hybrid option functionally fills the gap between the 4-cylinder and the V6, providing more torque and acceleration than the 4-cylinder and less than the V6. Whether the hybrid uses a nickel metal hydride or a lithium-ion battery depends on the grade. The base hybrid, the LE, has the more expensive but more powerful and lighter lithium-ion battery. The upper hybrid trims have Toyota's nickel metal hydride battery. According to the chief engineer, buyers of the base hybrid are more concerned about the maximum fuel-economy number, while those who choose the variants with higher content are willing to give up an mpg or two to get the content they want.

According to IHS Markit registration data, however, only about 11,000 V6 Camry cars were registered in 2016, compared with about 377,700 4-cylinder Camry cars (including hybrids). Nevertheless, Toyota says continuing the V6 option is important, and that the more dynamic handling of the new generation will also support demand for this configuration. With the 2.5-litre engine, the Camry is able to offer a bit more power than some other sedans, presumably without having a substantial effect on fuel economy. This new generation of the Camry also continues to offer a hybrid, leveraging a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine. As is true of other Toyota (and Lexus) line-ups, the company has fully integrated the hybrid option into the Camry range.

The new 4-cylinder leverages dual injection and dual VVT-iE (variable valve timing intelligent system, uses an electric motor instead of oil pressure to control variable valve timing), equipped with D4-S, which means it is a direct injection 4-stroke gasoline (petrol) engine. The 3.5-litre V6 can cycle between Otto-cycle and Atkinson-cycle with a new variable valve timing–wide system; Toyota says this ensures the best possible torque at all engine speeds. Both gasoline engines are offered only with an 8-speed automatic transmission, at a time when others are installing 9- and 10-speed transmissions.

Technology: infotainment and safety

The latest Camry offers some firsts for the model and some Toyota firsts, as the company looks to ensure it is a segment contender in the technology game. New to any Toyota is the optional 10-inch colour head-up display (HUD); intelligent clearance sonar (ICS) and rear-cross traffic braking (RCTB) systems; and the latest Entune 3.0. The ICS system uses ultrasonic sensors to detect potential collision with an obstacle in the direction the vehicle is driving, forward or reverse. The RCTB system works with both ICS and traditional blind-spot monitoring sensors and the car will automatically brake if the system detects an impact with a vehicle approaching from the right or the left is likely.

The new Camry ushers in Entune 3.0 and introduces improved infotainment technology to the model. Toyota has used the Linux open-source platform for apps Toyota does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Entune enables a third-party app (Scout GPS) that adds a connected feature for moving maps, as well as turn by turn, and can perform many of the functions smartphone projection apps can do. Expanded Entune 3.0 Toyota Connected Services include WiFi connection, remote start connection, and service connect. The top Camry head unit (Entune 3.0 Premium Audio with JBL with Clari-Fi, Dynamic Navigation and Entune App Suite, in Toyota parlance) has dynamic navigation, dynamic point of interest search, and destination assist. These are enabled through using a data communications module (DCM), connecting the navigation system to the cloud for access to more points of interest, as well as real-time map updates. Destination assist enables access to a human for directions, as with General Motors' OnStar. Both the Scout GPS program and Dynamic Navigation features come with a three-year complimentary trial; pricing after that period has not been set. Toyota WiFi connectivity is through Verizon, whereas others have worked with AT&T for the WiFi data stream. The Dynamic Navigation's cloud communication uses the onboard DCM, and not the Verizon paid data pipe. Having onboard navigation with access to the cloud should provide easier address input and information equally up to date with the smartphone apps.

Outlook and Implications

The new Camry brings a common level of technology to the line-up, and bucks the trend in powertrains, continuing to offer a V6 and non-turbo 4-cylinder, whereas many other mid-size sedans have dropped V6 engines in favour of turbo 4-cylinder engines. The new Camry offers more expressive styling, with distinct exterior cues to match a sporty or comfortable grade level. As the US mid-size sedan segment faces headwinds, IHS Markit forecasts the Camry will likely retain a top-selling position in that segment, but its sales volume will continue to be eroded. The company acknowledges that maintaining sales volume will be difficult, but it says it has freed itself to be more expressive and daring with this generation.

Including because of external challenges to the mid-size sedan market and the contraction expected in the US market late this decade, IHS Markit forecasts the Camry's sales will fall from about 388,000 units in 2016 to 309,000 units in 2021. In terms of the model's share of Toyota sales, this will drop from 17% to 16% of the brand's US sales. Despite this decline, the Camry is largely expected to be able to retain its status as a best-selling vehicle in the segment and possibly the best-selling passenger car in the US. Based on IHS Markit's market segmentation, the Camry is expected to continue leading the standard mid-size car segment, although its share of the segment will see some erosion and will drop from 17.1% in 2016 to about 16.7% in 2022. The segment's sales, according the IHS Markit's April 2017 forecast, are expected to fall from 2.2 million units in 2016 to about 1.87 million units in 2022. Against the backdrop of ongoing sales contraction, competition in the market will become more intense. Entries that prove to be winners for their sales parents will be those that are able to improve transaction pricing and profitability, while seeing slower sales declines than the market. Even at 1.87 million units, this will remain a large and significant segment. The strongest players ‒ the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord, the Nissan Altima, the Ford Fusion, and the Chevrolet Malibu in 2016 ‒ continue to have the opportunity for healthy sales in the segment.

Against the backdrop of waning market sales of mid-size sedans, Toyota is looking for its extra effort in the new Camry to pay off with consumers. Ideally, the new-generation model will help slow the erosion of sales, but perhaps more importantly, Toyota will benefit if the mix of features and pricing enables increased transaction prices and increased profit margins. Toyota has also provided US Environmental Protection Agency ratings and pricing information, which are still under embargo at the time of writing. We will follow up with a brief report on that information as well.

About this article

The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends.​ Get a free trial.

About The Author

Ms. Stephanie Brinley is Senior Analyst-Americas, IHS Automotive, covering North and South America for the IHS World Markets Automotive service.

She is responsible for a daily update of news, events, interviews and product introduction summaries as well as special research reports and company profiles, providing context for and analysis of industry developments to worldwide subscribers. She joined IHS Automotive in summer 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in the automotive sector, including a decade in automotive analysis, four years' experience in supplier-based strategic communications and as a supplier-OEM marketing liaison, and several years on the editing side of a top automotive enthusiast publication in the United States. Ms. Brinley holds an a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Marketing from Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich., and an MBA in Integrative Management from Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business, Lansing, Mich., US.