The new-generation Toyota Camry is billed as a significant step away from tradition, designed to be sold on looks, tech and dynamics as much as comfort, reliability and value.
This shift — along with the possible subtext of higher pricing, and the continued decline in mid-sized car sales across the board in favour of SUVs — means Toyota Australia expects a “dramatic” sales reduction, albeit one that should keep it market leader.
Toyota's focus on areas beyond throughput contrasts its view over the past few years, where it has done keen factory deals partially to keep demand high enough to meet production commitments at its soon-to-be-closed Melbourne plant.
Toyota Australia's executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb admitted this week that the more upmarket new Japanese-imported Camry due in November would come back to the pack sales-wise.
The current version averages 1700 monthly sales and has 53 per cent market share, about six-times higher than the Mazda 6, with about 40 per cent of sales going to government with now-lapsing Buy Australia policies, 35 per cent to business and demo fleets and 25 per cent to private buyers.
"We will move very much from a volume-oriented vehicle to a more premium offering in the market place," Cramb said.
DRIVEN: 2018 Toyota Camry review
“... At this point we are not talking sales aspirations but I think it's clear that the sales volume will dramatically reduce from where we are at the moment, we don’t anticipate sales anywhere near 20,000 annually.”
Toyota is yet to determine local pricing and specifications, but expect a small shift upmarket.
Interestingly, the company expects the new hybrid model with its 4.5L/100km fuel economy claim will eventually become the top-seller, favoured by fleets with CO2 policies - though the base 2.5 petrol will be number-one for the first few years of this generation.
“We genuinely believe that the hybrid will be the vehicle of choice as time goes on and will be the best seller of all the vehicles we introduce in the Camry range," Cramb said.
“The reason we’re confident it’ll be the best seller is that it’s already 25 per cent of our sales, the only market I’m aware of where hybrid outsells diesel (medium cars) and we see that progressing to the point where hybrid will be the number-one seller.”
The new 2018 Camry has a brand-new platform, reworked drivetrains including a brand new 222kW V6, double-wishbone rear suspension and far more cabin and safety technologies. Read in detail here.
Camry is the world's biggest-selling mid-sized car. It sells 30,000 a month in the US and China. Australia, which averages about 2000 a month, is the world's number four market, and produces cars for number three: Saudi Arabia. Toyota has sold 920,000 Camrys in Australia over 34 years, including 45,000 hybrids.
The 2018 model arrives in Australia this November. Keep an eye out for our review from the global launch.