The Toyota Camry has a reputation, even within Toyota itself, for being a humdrum car.
But gosh does it ever sell.
The Camry was the top-selling passenger car in the United States in 2019, and is one of the bestselling vehicles of all time.
It remains one of Toyota’s most successful vehicles of any shape, despite the fact that it is trying to compete in a market that is tilting in favor of sport utility vehicles and crossovers.
That isn’t to say the shift hasn’t away from cars hasn’t hurt it. Sales are falling, from a peak of about 473,000 in 2007 to about 337,000 today.
Unlike U.S. automakers, which have cut production of their own sedans and coupes, Toyota is not pulling out of traditional passenger cars anytime soon. The company sees the abandonment of these segments by others as an opportunity to grab market share, which it has. In the standard midsize sedan segment, Toyota told CNBC it gained 5 percentage points of market share between 2015 and 2019, rising from 15% to 20%.
It is possible that the pendulum of consumer taste could swing back toward low-slung passenger cars, but many auto industry observers think the slide toward higher-riding crossovers and sport utility vehicles is here to stay. The Camry was once Toyota’s bestselling vehicle, but now that title belongs to Toyota’s RAV4 midsize crossover SUV.
So the automaker has been spicing up the Camry, in keeping with Toyota President Akio Toyoda’s directive to stop producing “boring” cars. For example, it shocked many in the industry when it released a sport-tuned version of the humble sedan bearing the Toyota Racing Development badge for the 2020 model year.
In a tougher market for cars, it helps to take some risks.
Correction: Toyota told CNBC that in the standard midsize sedan segment, Camry gained 5 percentage points of market share between 2015 and 2019. An earlier version misstated the percentage point gain.