Business

Camry awaits vital Consumer Reports review

Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp.’s revamped Camry, considered key to the reviving the carmaker’s sales in the U.S., is likely to win a favorable review from Consumer Reports, a magazine that has previously been critical of Toyota models.

The magazine, published by the U.S.-based Consumers Union, is currently evaluating the 2012 Camry that went on sale in October, said David Champion, senior director of vehicle testing.

It’s better than the last Camry,” Champion said at the Los Angeles Auto Show last week. “Interior fit and finish is pretty good. It has good quality materials. The seats are pretty good. Fuel economy is a bit better.”

Carmakers seek favorable evaluations from the magazine, whose reviews are considered the most objective because of its policies of accepting no advertising and buying every vehicle it tests.

While Toyota models historically fared well in Consumer Reports reviews, in 2007 the magazine said it would scrutinize the brand more carefully because of problems it found in the Tundra pickup, the high-end Lexus GS and the previous V-6 engine Camry sedan.

The magazine in August declined to recommend Honda Motor Co.’s 2012 Civic compact, a model it previously favored in that segment. Honda has since said it’s considering revisions to the Civic, without elaborating.

The Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for 13 of the past 14 years, and Toyota has vowed to retain that position. Toyota’s goal is to sell 360,000 units of the Camry next year, less than the record 473,108 sold in 2007.

Sales this year through October fell 8.8 percent to 251,564 units, the result of reduced output after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami cut supplies of parts, according to the company. The Camry’s decline mirrors Toyota’s 8.8 percent U.S. sales slide during the same period.

Reviews for the 2012 Camry have been generally favorable, and focused on its improved driving performance. Most also note that the new vehicle’s styling is more conservative than midsize rivals, including the Sonata by Hyundai Motor Co. Sales of the Sonata rose 16 percent through October to 192,953 units.

“The Camry is going to continue to suffer at the hands of the Sonata,” said Eric Noble, president of industry researcher The Car Lab, in Los Angeles last week.

“Its design is far less emotive” in terms of styling, Noble said, adding Toyota and Honda models are “yesterday’s pastiche of old elements.”