From Crown to Hybrid, the Evolution of the Toyota Camry
Author: Casey Copeland
Few vehicles on the road have a better reputation for reliability and a longer legacy of satisfied owners than the Toyota Camry. The best selling car in the U.S. for nine of the past ten years, the Camry has been the midsize sedan of choice for millions of American families for its fuel economy, high resale value, dependability, comfortable interior, standard features and many more desirable attributes. Walk through the parking lot of any grocery store in America and you\'ll see everything from the newest Camry hybrid models to Camrys over twenty years old being driven by their third or fourth owner.
The Camry\'s popularity extends well beyond American car buyers with very respectable sales now and over the years in Canada, Australia and several countries in Southeast Asia. Buyers choose the Camry again and again because they know that they\'re getting a great car. The Camry\'s enviable reputation for dependability and its modest retail price make it an ideal choice for families on tight budgets; these families have voted for the Toyota Camry with their checkbooks for over 25 years.
The History of the Camry
The Toyota Camry made its American debut as a compact in 1983 to critical acclaim and commercial success, but the model\'s roots go back to the 1950s in Japan where its predecessor was named the Toyota Crown. The crown connotation with the Camry name seems to have been two-fold: one from the car model that it succeeded and the other from a phonetic stylization of the Japanese word for crown, kanmuri. In the early 1980s, Toyota designed and built the Camry specifically to gain a greater market share of family sedans sold in America, and their plans succeeded well beyond preliminary sales figures. In fact, the Camry has dominated the midsize family sedan segment nearly every year since its introduction to the American market.
In 1994, Toyota experimented with expanding the Camry model a bit with the introduction of the Camry Coup, which was a sporty coupe also available as a convertible. In 1999 the Coup name was dropped in favor of a new name, Camry Solara, in an attempt to capitalize on sporty models offered by competitors and distance itself from the Coup\'s low sales figures. However, sales for the Solara coupe were also disappointing. Therefore, while Toyota plans to continue making the Camry Solara convertible, the Solara Coup will be discontinued in 2008. There are some indications that Toyota may reintroduce the Coup in the future, but on a different platform.
Current Camry Models
Now in its seventh generation, the Camry is a midsize and continues to uphold and build on its reputation for dependability and affordability. Recent models also feature many updates that are worthy of mentioning and come standard such as:
Air conditioning Power windows, mirrors and locks Front and full-length side curtain air bags Six-speaker audio system w/ CD player Disc brakes on all four wheels with ABS Cruise control Tire-pressure monitoring And much more
These standard features are available even on base-level Camrys with the upgraded Camry LE, Sporty Camry SE and fully-loaded luxurious Camry XLE models boasting these features and a great many more. Features which were once considered luxury-only options now being offered in the most modestly priced new Camry models is indicative of Toyota\'s efforts to retain the Camry\'s market share as well as the model\'s tradition for giving Camry owners the most car for their money.
In addition to the Camry, Camry LE, Camry SE and Camry XLE models, buyers can also choose the Camry Hybrid which is manufactured at Toyota\'s Georgetown, Kentucky plant which boasts better fuel economy than other Camry model and benefits from Toyota\'s progressive and proven hybrid technology. Not content to rest on its laurels, Toyota recently announced that it will be introducing yet another Camry Hybrid in the near future which will run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), taking advantage of North America\'s considerable natural gas reserves. Toyota has not yet said when this car will be introduced but it\'s likely that they have overcome the design limitations of an experimental Camry CNG Hybrid released in California in the late 1990s.
Today and for the foreseeable future, loyal Camry buyers have more models to choose from than ever with each filling its own niche very capably and affordably. Young families on tight budgets tend to favor the Camry base-model or the Camry LE. Recent college grads looking for something sporty can select from the Camry SE or Camry Solara convertible. The environmentally-conscious have the Camry Hybrid or the soon-to-be-released Camry CNG Hybrid. Drivers who want an uncommon level of luxury but shy away from paying a luxury sticker price can select the Camry XLE and have it both ways. Given the Toyota Camry\'s long history of success in the U.S. and across much of the world and its ambitious plans for the future, it\'s looking like the Camry will continue to dominate the midsize sedan market for a long time to come.