The best-selling passenger car in America for the past 15 years isn’t selling like it once was, and it’s all your fault. With the car-buying populace increasingly wooed by do-everything crossovers and trucks, the Toyota Camry isn’t flying off dealer lots in the same volume as before, and, because of this, the automaker has made the decision to slow production of the mighty midsizer.
What are people buying instead of the Camry? A lot of things, but loyal Toyota owners are increasingly heading over to the RAV4 for their grocery-getting duties.
In terms of volume, the Camry closed out last year as the country’s seventh-best selling vehicle, helped along by a 2018 model-year restyle that lifted sales towards the end of the calendar. That buoyancy didn’t last, though it did help propel the sedan well ahead of its chief rival — the equally refreshed Honda Accord.
As we documented over the long, hot summer, Camry sales began falling below last year’s monthly totals in early 2018 until the year-to-date tally finally fell into the red. Yes, July was a sad month for the Camry, and the continued exodus of buyers from the segment ensured that assembly lines would soon slow.
According to Automotive News, Toyota plans to throttle back one of the Camry’s three production lines in Georgetown, Kentucky, starting next month. Without going into specific numbers, company spokesman Rick Hesterberg said, “The auto industry is cyclical, and our normal process is to proactively plan months in advance for volume adjustments.”
Vehicle sales do take a dive in the winter, but the slow decline in Camry volume isn’t weather-related. While Camry sales saw a year-over-year uptick of 2.5 percent in October, the nameplate fell 6.1 percent over the first 10 months of the year. Across Toyota’s passenger car lineup, overall sales fell 11 percent in 2018. Trucks and SUV sales, on the other hand, rose 8.5 percent this year.
The loss of sales isn’t likely to hurt the Camry’s standing as the best-selling midsize car (Nissan would love for the new-for-2019 Altima to overtake it, and Honda would sure like a crack), though it does stand to fall further in the overall best-selling rankings. It also risks losing its status as the best-selling car. The difference between TYD Camry and Honda Civic volume is a scant 12,000 units.
With 289,801 sales under its belt through the end of October, the Camry was eclipsed by sales of its compact crossover stablemate, the RAV4. That model moved 353,151 units in the U.S. over the same time frame. Even with a next-generation model waiting in the wings (we’ll have a first drive for you soon), the RAV4 still managed to eke out a 2 percent year-to-date sales gain.