Toyota Shows Off New-Look Camry and Arizona Lets Tesla Bill Die

Toyota's Camry has ruled the midsize segment for 12 years, but is the end nearing?

Apr 16, 2014 at 3:00PM

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was trading 140 points higher, or 0.87%, by midafternoon despite less than impressive numbers out of the housing industry. Housing starts increased 2.8% month over month in March, to 946,000 units, but that was well below expectations for a 973,000-unit rate. Starts were actually down 5.9% from last March, which was the biggest decline since April 2011.

"There have been growing signs that the rebound in the housing market we have seen the past several years might be petering out," said Anthony Karydakis, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak, according to Reuters.

While several parts of the economy are strengthening, housing appears to remain soft and will be of continued interest to investors as the industry remains vital to the broader economy. With those trends in mind, here are a couple of automotive companies making headlines today.

A bill that would have allowed Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) to sell its vehicles though factory-owned showrooms in Arizona has died in the state's Senate. With the bill not making it to the floor this session it will likely be another year before a new proposal could be debated.

This is just one of many battles that Tesla faces in its potentially bright future. As the young electric automaker continues to build out its supercharger network to make electric vehicle adoption easier, the company's business model will surely remain under fire from dealerships claiming Tesla must play by the same rules as its industry peers.

Arizona is competing with three other states to house Tesla's battery factory; while this might not officially hurt the state's chances, it certainly doesn't help. Tesla's factory will set the stage for the company to mass produce batteries used in its vehicles, which would bring costs low enough to produce a vehicle that costs roughly half of the current Model S. The factory will cost an estimated $5 billion to build and employ roughly 6,500 people.

Toyota's 2015 Camry. Source: Toyota.

Meanwhile, Toyota (NYSE:TM) is showing off its freshened Camry at the New York International Auto Show today in hopes the new look will help the company extend its 12-year reign as the best-selling car in the U.S. market. However, the Camry's place at the top could be nearing an end as competition has picked up considerably in the midsize sedan segment.

Just last year, Honda's Accord actually outsold the Camry to individual buyers, 360,089 to 342,007. It wasn't until you counted in sales to fleets and rental companies that the Camry topped the Accord, with final tallies of more than 408,000 and 366,678 vehicles, respectively.

This year, Ford's (NYSE:F) Fusion has even taken a slight step ahead of the Accord. Sales of the Fusion through the first quarter reached 77,578, compared to the Accord's 76,407. Both still trail the Camry's 94,283 vehicles sold through March, but Toyota is feeling the heat and hopes a more significant refresh than is typical through the middle of its vehicle cycle will help keep its sales lead over the competition.

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Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Tesla Motors. 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.

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