LOS ANGELES (Sept. 14, 2006) — America's best-selling car is hot. Really hot.
Car dealers have a slim 10-day supply of the redesigned 2007 Toyota Camry, which hit dealerships in March. The Georgetown, Ky., plant where the vehicles are assembled is running overtime and weekend shifts. Sales executives are begging for the Japanese Camry plant to export more. The car has no incentives.
“Customers are following the car carriers to the dealership,” said Toby Hynes, president of Gulf States Toyota, which distributes vehicles to 148 Toyota dealerships. “This is not just selected dealers. It's every dealer in every market that is short of product,” he told Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business.
The 2007 redesign gave the Camry more attractive styling, more interior room and more power. A hybrid version is now available. And rising gasoline prices are pushing customers away from trucks and toward cars.
If Toyota Motor North America Inc.'s manufacturing plants keep up with demand, there is a strong chance that the Camry could be the first car to top 450,000 sales since the Chevrolet Impala in 1978.
The Camry has been America's best-selling car every year but one since 1997.
But before the 2007 model was introduced, the Camry was actually a loss-leader for Toyota dealers and was often selling for below dealer invoice, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). “Although Camry sales have increased, so have customer complaints,” SEMA said. The biggest complaint has been that the powertrain hesitates under low-speed acceleration, and therefore Toyota has issued several technical service bulletins addressing transmission malfunctions, spiking RPMs and harsh downshifts, the trade group added.
Midsize cars have experienced flat sales, down 0.4 percent in the March-July period. Those account for more than half of the vehicles motorists trade in to get a Camry, SEMA said, with the numbers of sport-utility vehicles traded in for Camrys increasing from 13.5 percent to 15.6 percent.