Toyota Plans Camry Tweaks in 2014 to Extend U.S. Sales Race Lead

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry, headed for a 12th straight year as the best-selling U.S. car, will get “significant attention” including freshened features to hold the title a 13th year, the brand’s U.S. sales chief said.

The Camry leads its closest rival, Honda Motor Co.’s Accord, by more than 40,000 units through October this year, far ahead of Nissan Motor Co.’s Altima and Ford Motor Co.’s revamped Fusion sedan. Tighter competition in 2014, as Ford boosts Fusion production and Hyundai Motor Co. adds a reworked Sonata, doesn’t guarantee Camry will be knocked from its perch, said Bill Fay, group vice president of the Toyota brand.

“There were some who wanted to write Camry off this year, and it didn’t happen,” Fay said yesterday in an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show. “We’ll make some effort through the collective team to keep it No. 1 next year.”

As Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, battles Camry challengers and the best vehicles from U.S.-based competitors in a generation, the Toyota City, Japan-based company is targeting its highest U.S. sales in as long as six years. Demand for new cars and trucks, a bright spot for the U.S. economy, remains robust as the year winds down, Fay said.

Toyota rose 0.2 percent to 6,310 yen as of 10:56 a.m. in Tokyo trading. The shares have gained 58 percent this year, outperforming a 46 percent increase in Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average.

‘Doing Something’

Combined sales of Toyota, Lexus and Scion autos could total 2.25 million vehicles in 2013, Fay said. That’s up 8.2 percent from last year and the most since an all-time high of 2.62 million in 2007.

Fay declined to elaborate on changes the company is considering for the current Camry, released in 2011 as a 2012 model.

“It’s safe to say we’ll be doing something with it,” he said. “We’ll be paying significant attention to Camry next year.”

Additionally, Toyota expects to sell as many as 240,000 Prius hybrids this year, a record for the U.S., yet shy of an initial goal of 250,000 set in January by Jim Lentz, the company’s North American chief executive officer.

Easing gasoline prices have curbed hybrid demand to an extent, Fay said. A gallon of regular grade gasoline cost $3.209 on Nov. 18, compared with $3.416 a year ago, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge website.

“When the price of fuel gets this affordable, it makes the hybrid equation less appealing to some customers,” he said.

Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based Torrance, California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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