Reconnecting with an old friend on the road to Detroit
|Douglas A. Bolduc is Managing Editor at Automotive News Europe.|
On the road to the Detroit auto show this week I reconnected with an old friend, the Toyota Camry.
It was the first chance I've had to drive the vehicle in more than a decade after owning two different Camry generations from 1991 until 2002.
It didn't take long to be reminded why it is the best-selling sedan in the United States: the highway ride and handling is quiet and comfortable; there is plenty of room for passengers and luggage; and the addition of a hybrid powertrain helps reduce fuel consumption while providing a noticeable power boost.
Despite its U.S. success, Toyota discontinued the Camry in western Europe in 2006 after car buyers completely abandoned the volume large-car segment in favor of minivans from mass-market players and big sedans from premium brands. The UK-made Avensis, which is smaller than the Camry, is Toyota's flagship sedan/station wagon for Europe, where it ranked in the top 10 in the mid-sized segment that is dominated by the Volkswagen Passat.
Toyota can take some comfort in the fact that the Camry is a major player in sedan-friendly Russia. The locally made Camry ranks as one of the country's top 25 sellers with a volume of 32,895 in Russia last year. By comparison, Toyota sold 408,484 Camrys in the United States in 2013.