Toyota’s Lentz Vows to Keep Camry’s Lead Over Accord, Fusion

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry, the best-selling car in the U.S. for 11 straight years, will keep its lead in 2013 over competing midsize sedans from Honda Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co., Toyota’s U.S. sales chief said.

Deliveries of Camry, redesigned in late 2011, rose 31 percent last year to 404,886, the highest in four years. Sales will increase in 2013 if U.S. auto demand rises at the same pace of recent months, Jim Lentz said in an interview yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“It will remain No. 1, and I still think there’s possibility for growth in the segment,” Lentz said. “There’s plenty of room for Honda to grow into it, for Ford to grow into it, and for us to maintain our volumes as well.”

Toyota is working to increase U.S. deliveries by about 6 percent to 2.2 million Toyota, Lexus and Scion brand autos in 2013, up from 2.08 million last year. Camry’s gains came amid an 18 percent increase in midsize car sales, the market’s biggest segment, to 3.59 million units, according to Autodata Corp.

Both Honda’s Accord and Ford’s Fusion will be particularly tough competitors this year, Lentz said. Those and other new midsize models are expanding the size of the market, he said.

“It’s a much bigger pie that more manufacturers can get much bigger volume in,” he said.

Enough Capacity

Toyota has enough production capacity to stay ahead of segment competitors, said Alan Baum, principal of auto-industry researcher Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

“It’s still new enough, and has a bigger owner base than the others, and that gives it an advantage,” Baum said in an interview. “It’s important to Toyota that Camry hold that spot, and it will work to keep it.”

While Honda doesn’t have a goal for Accord to surpass Camry in U.S. deliveries, doing so is not “inconceivable,” said John Mendel, Honda’s U.S. executive vice president.

“We’re not targeting outselling Camry,” Mendel said today in an interview in Detroit. The Tokyo-based company’s North American plants are able to further increase production of Accords, now built in Marysville, Ohio, “if the demand were there,” he said, without elaborating.

Accord deliveries grew 41 percent to 331,872 last year, making it the second-biggest seller after Camry. Ford’s Fusion sales fell 2.7 percent to 241,263 as the Dearborn, Michigan-based company shifted to a redesigned model toward year-end.

Camry’s base of at least 5 million current customers and the success of the car’s last redesign keep it in a strong position, Lentz said.

“There’s plenty of room for that to continue to satisfy existing loyal Camry buyers and conquest other buyers.”

Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California. The company’s American depositary receipts fell 0.4 percent to $96.43 at the close in New York.

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