/

Toyota to launch next Camry remake in April

Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp., whose Camry sedan has been the top-selling U.S. car for the past 12 years, will roll out a refreshed model next month as Ford Motor Co. and domestic rivals gain on the perennial leader.

Toyota will show an updated Camry at the New York International Auto Show on April 16, spokesman Curt McAllister said. The refreshed version “will challenge conventional expectations of a mid-cycle model change,” he said.

The world’s largest automaker has been selling the current generation of Camry since late 2011 and has redesigned it roughly every five years. President Akio Toyoda has emphasized more aggressive styling as the Camry faces competition from midsize cars including Ford’s Fusion, Honda Motor Co.’s Accord and Nissan Motor Co.’s Altima.

The Camry trailed the Altima in the U.S. through the first two months of this year and ceded share to the Fusion and Accord in 2013.

Toyota gave hints earlier this year that an updated Camry was in the works. The aim for the next Camry was a “more emotional, more impactful design,” Kevin Hunter, head of the automaker’s U.S. design studio, said at the North American International Auto Show in January.

Camry’s U.S. sales fell 17 percent in the year’s first two months and trailed Altima by 1,034 deliveries, according to researcher Autodata Corp. Sales of the Camry last year rose 0.9 percent as the Fusion surged 22 percent, the Accord gained 10 percent and Altima advanced 5.9 percent.

Magazines such as Consumer Reports and Car and Driver have been critical of the Camry for its staid design. Consumer Reports called the current generation Camry’s styling “conservative” and said it was “not that exciting to drive” in a December 2011 review. When Car and Driver ranked the five most “normcore” (bland) vehicles in a blog post on its website this month, it listed five trim levels of the Camry.

“Camry’s taken some hits on styling, but it’s still selling well,” Hunter, the design chief, said in January. “We need to create better design for Camry in the future.”

Toyoda, 57, has pushed an overhaul at the company founded by his grandfather by stressing “waku-doki” design, a phrase that translates to heart-racing qualities. There are limits to how much the Camry can be redesigned because of its vast customer base of 5 million owners, Kazuo Ohara, head of Toyota’s U.S. sales unit, said in January.

“I would not go so far as saying we could be adventurous, but at least more aggressive,” he said. With the current Camry, “we were probably a little bit too conservative.”