Toyota (NYSE:TM) is the world's largest-selling and most profitable automaker. It's a good situation to be in. But even Toyota has problems, and here's one: The Camry is losing market share.
The midsize Toyota Camry has been America's best-selling car for years. But over the last year, it has lost ground: The Camry is still a good car, but rivals have gotten a lot better, and they've been stealing sales from Toyota's mainstay. One of those key rivals is Ford's (NYSE:F) Fusion, which has grabbed sales with its stylish good looks and long list of premium features.
Toyota has said that it will defend the Camry's top-dog status, but it hasn't yet said exactly what it has in mind. But we do know this: The company plans to show off a revised Camry at this week's New York International Auto Show.
Fool contributor John Rosevear will be there when it's unveiled. As he explains in this video, there are good reasons to think Toyota could be aiming its overhauled Camry straight at Ford's handsome Fusion.
A transcript of the video is below.
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John Rosevear: Hey Fools, it's John Rosevear, senior auto analyst for Fool.com. The New York International Auto Show starts this coming week, media days are Wednesday and Thursday, and we're expecting the automakers to unveil several interesting new models. I'll be there with my Foolish colleague Rex Moore, we'll bring you a video report of the show's highlights at the end of each day, and we'll have a bunch of more in-depth reports for you over the next week or so after that.
One of the vehicles we're expecting to be a highlight of the show -- in fact it's the very first press conference on the agenda -- is an overhauled version of the Toyota Camry.
Now, this isn't an all-new Camry, it's what is normally called in the industry a "mid-cycle refresh." For most automakers, with most models, that means maybe a grille and new taillights and maybe some tweaks to the interior or the suspension or something, changes intended to make the existing model a little fresher and keep its sales strong for a little longer, but not a whole new model.
But Toyota has been hinting that they have something much more dramatic in store for the Camry. They really seem to be feeling the need to do something significant, because the Camry has been under a lot of pressure over the last year or so. The Camry has been America's best-selling car for a long while, but lately, it has been losing market share, and that's not because the current Camry is bad, it's because the competition is a whole lot better than it used to be.
The Honda (NYSE:HMC) Accord has always been a very polished product, it has always been the Camry's chief rival. That's all still true, but now there's the Nissan (NASDAQOTH:NSANY) Altima hitting the Camry hard on price from one side, and the Ford Fusion hitting it on the other side, as a more stylish and somewhat more premium alternative. Now, Toyota certainly has the muscle to win a price war if it really wants to do that, but it might be trying a different approach.
There has been some speculation that the Camry will get a more dramatic restyling than we usually expect with a mid-cycle refresh, I've included a couple of photos of a concept car that Toyota showed in Detroit in 2012 called the NS4, it's a plug-in hybrid sedan, and as you can see, it's got much more dramatic styling than the current Camry does. It's possible that Toyota will do something like this with the Camry to try to fend off the Fusion.
Or, it's possible that there's some other significant new feature coming, a new hybrid drivetrain or something. But clearly, from what Toyota has said, and from the fact that they grabbed the very first press conference slot at the show in order to say it, this is going to be a big deal. And since this is America's best-selling car, it should be big news, and we'll have it all for you when it happens. Thanks for watching.
John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.