2012 Toyota Camry Kicks Off Toyota’s New Surge into the U.S. Post Tsunami

After three years that included a recession, a massive recall, and a devastating earthquake, Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE:TM) will introduce its new 2012 Toyota Camry as the first in a long line of new U.S. model releases intended to help the automaker regain its lost market share.

The 2012 Toyota Camry was unveiled yesterday at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. The first of 20 new and updated Toyota, Lexus, and Scion models to be released by early 2013, the Camry goes on sale in the U.S. in October. Toyota will go on to release four more new models this year.

U.S. deliveries of Toyota’s three brands declined 7.1% this year as of July, to 943,590, its lowest for the period in twelve years, despite overall light-vehicle sales climbing 11% in the U.S., led by Hyundai, which saw sales climb 23%, then General Motors (NYSE:GM) up 16%, and Ford (NYSE:F) up 12%. To recover some if its market share, Toyota begins by releasing the Camry, the automaker’s top selling U.S. model, followed by the new hybrid Prius v wagon, a revamped Yaris subcompact, Scion iQ minicar, and a modified Tacoma pickup. In 2012, Toyota will release a plug-in version of the Prius and compact Prius c hybrid, a new Lexus GS sport sedan, a battery-powered RAV4 sport-utility vehicle, and a rear-wheel-drive Scion FR-S sports car.

After the company recalled millions of vehicles last year for flaws linked to accelerator-pedal interference, Toyota (NYSE:TM) hopes the new vehicles will overcome lingering consumer concerns about the quality and safety of Toyota vehicles. The new Camry has the best safety, handling, and fuel economy of any U.S. midsize sedan, says Bob Carter, Toyota’s vice president of U.S. sales. The new hybrid Camry will average 41 miles per gallon, a fuel efficiency increase of 24%.

So far this year, Camry sales have declined 7.8% in the U.S. to 174,485 as of July. Toyota’s (NYSE:TM) goal is to sell 360,000 next year. The best year for the Camry to date was 2007, when 473,108 units of the current version were sold in the U.S. Carter says the improvements to the latest model are more “evolutionary” than “revolutionary”. The 2012 model substitutes the 2011 model’s rounder edges with squared-off corners, has a roomier rear seat, bigger trunk, and improved ride and handling.

The four-cylinder 2012 Camry LE will cost $22,500, a $200 deduction in price, while the SE version was reduced by about $1,000 to $23,000, and the XLE was cut by $2,000 to $24,725. The new Sonata’s starting price is $19,695, the Ford Fusion begins at $22,830, and the Camry Hybrid will start at $25,900, with the XLE version priced at $27,400.

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