New York International Auto Show : Toyota Camry gets a top-to-bottom makeover

Apr 17 2014, 20:22 IST
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Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for the last 12 years, supported by loyal buyers. AP Toyota Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for the last 12 years, supported by loyal buyers. AP
SummaryToyota Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for the last 12 years, supported by loyal buyers.

Shaken by the advances of newer, sportier rivals, the Toyota Camry is trying to shed its vanilla reputation.

The redesigned 2015 Camry, unveiled Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show, is longer and wider, with a large, aggressive grille and chiseled sides. Toyota says it changed every exterior piece but the roof.

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The Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for the last 12 years, supported by loyal buyers wedded to a dependable family car. But Toyota acknowledges that tastes have changed, and buyers of midsize cars want more style, comfort and performance to go with the reliability.

U.S. Toyota division chief Bill Fay said the company started redesigning the Camry almost immediately after a new version went on sale in 2011. Fay said the company knew it needed a more daring style after competitors like Hyundai and Ford offered newer, more striking designs.

''Everyone was raising the stakes a bit. We had to make sure we could keep this competitive,'' Fay said Wednesday at the show.

Inside the updated Camry, there are softer materials and a wireless charging system. The body is stiffer and the suspension and steering were retuned for more responsive driving. Even the carpet and side mirrors were redesigned to make the car quieter.

The new Camry, which goes on sale this fall, will help the Camry defend its turf, which has been increasingly challenged by rivals.

The Honda Accord, redesigned for the 2013 model year, narrowed Camry's full-year sales lead to 41,000 cars last year from 73,000 in 2012. The Nissan Altima and the Ford Fusion each had bigger percentage sales gains last year than the Camry.

What's more, the new Mazda6 breezed past the Camry's fuel economy numbers. And even luxury makers like Mercedes-Benz have introduced new cars that sell for under $30,000 - right in Camry buyers' price range.

It didn't help that Toyota's reputation was hurt by a series of recalls in 2010. The Camry has never regained the 15 percent share of the midsize car market it held before the recalls. It controlled 13 percent of that market in 2013, with total sales of 408,484, according to Ward's AutoInfoBank.

The midsize rivals are competing in a shrinking market. Young families and aging Baby Boomers are flocking to small SUVs like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, which offer

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