Once a venerable nameplate in the midsize sedan segment, Toyota is at risk of losing its sales-king crown to Korean automaker Hyundai. According to Bloomberg, Toyota sales stand to suffer unless the new 2012 Camry can steal back market share from the Hyundai Sonata.
The Toyota Camry has long been one of the best-selling cars in the U.S. market, but found a new challenger when the 2011 Hyundai Sonata bowed in early 2010. The Sonata offers eye-catching design, high fuel-economy ratings, and affordable prices that pose serious competition to the Camry. That has some Toyota executives and analysts worried that the Sonata will grab a big chunk of the Camry’s market share. The last major revision to the Camry came in 2006 and an all-new version will bow later this year.
Sales of the Camry last year far outpaced the Sonata. In 2010, the Hyundai Sonata tallied 196,623 sales compared to the Toyota Camry’s 327,804 units. However, Hyundai is catching up: in the first six months of 2011, Hyundai sold 115,014 Sonatas, while Toyota sold 147,469 Camrys. Production of the Camry slowed significantly in the wake of Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Moreover, Toyota’s once-solid reputation for quality was shaken by global recalls related to claims of unintended acceleration.
The 2012 Camry will debut later this year and must be significantly improved if it is to continue fighting the Sonata. Toyota has been fairly cryptic on the subject, previously confirming that the car would “meet the changing needs of the 21st century driver.” CEO Akio Toyoda also appeared in a brief video promising that the 2012 model is “the best Camry ever.”