The 2012 Toyota Camry (Toyota).
It may not be hyperbole to say that Toyota's future success in the U.S. hinges on whether or not consumers fall in love with the new 2012 Toyota Camry.

The Camry has been the best-selling sedan in the U.S. for 13 of the past 14 years. It accounts for 22% of Toyota's overall sales volume here, and it's the one car consumers associate most with Toyota.

It has also become synonymous for bland and boring cars. Buyers don't opt for the Camry because of its styling -- they bought it for its reliability and reputation. But now other automakers -- most notably Ford, GM and Hyundai -- are gaining in reliability and reputation. And their cars tend to be more modern and fun.

"It's critical they get this right," said Michael Robinet, vice president of global vehicle forecasts at IHS Automotive. "They are facing a deluge of competitors that are really getting it right."

The Camry could help reverse two years of setbacks for Toyota. The automaker took a hit last year due to massive recalls related to sudden acceleration woes, caused by sticky gas pedals and floormats that snagged gas pedals. And this year, the automaker was dealt a blow when a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, forcing many parts suppliers to close and seriously hindering supplies of popular cars.

AOL Autos drove the 2012 Camry a few weeks ago at a resort in Cle Elum, Wash. Toyota has clearly taken a lot of care designing the interior – the dashboard looks like a hand-stitched horse saddle, and the seat and roof materials are a clear improvement over the prior generation.

Toyota has added a new in-car information service, Entune, which is easy to use and lets drivers connect to services like the popular Internet music service Pandora.

View More Photos: 2012 Toyota Camry

And the car drives solidly and quietly. The only major downside is the exterior, which looks slab-sided and boxy. But it's not distasteful, and likely won't turn off Camry's core buyers.

The most notable improvements are with the new Camry hybrid. It hardly drives like a hybrid. It's quiet, and there is none of the standard transmission hesitation that comes along with hybrid drivetrains.

The new Camry is not a revolutionary improvement, but builds on Toyota's history of continuously evolving its designs and products to keep customers happy.

Enthusiasts -- otherwise known as hard-core car guys -- will probably tell you the new Camry doesn't go far enough to be fun or isn't cool enough inside to compete with what's already on the market. But the Camry doesn't need to be a hip, trendy car to be successful.
Is the 2012 Toyota Camry a hit or a miss?
Hit 785 (38.2%)
Miss 1268 (61.8%)

It just needs to make current owners feel happy moving into a new Camry, and be nice enough to lure a few more other shoppers Toyota's way.

"None of the vehicle's improvements will stop certain enthusiasts from scoffing at the 2012 Toyota Camry and its less-than-revolutionary suit of clothes," said Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing at consumer web site "But enthusiasts never sat square in Toyota's crosshairs to begin with."

Still, the automaker wants to attract a younger crowd. The Camry has the oldest age demographic in the industry for mid-sized sedans, at 60 years old. The average age of sedan buyers is 57 -- but that figure is somewhat distorted by the fact that Camry is such a large part of that segment. The automaker wants to bring the age down to around 55, but if it's successful, the average age of the segment will probably come down, too.

Competitors like the Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, and Volkswagen Jetta have pretty much eliminated the one strong selling point Toyota used to have over everyone else: Reliability. Cars today overall are better in quality, so customers are looking more at interior features, entertainment systems, price and styling to make their decisions.

"The players in this segment have all raised their game in terms of reliability," Robinet said. "That's the biggest competitive threat Toyota is facing."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow its boring i really didnt expect that
      • 3 Years Ago
      It looks like a bigger Corolla
      • 3 Years Ago
      uh-oh...looks like a cheap american-made model. did japan unionize? ;)
      • 3 Years Ago
      Keep buying that Jap Scrap made with RADIOACTIVE PARTS, but do not ask me to pay for your Medicade when you areGlowing in the Dark!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I personally think the 94 Camry was one of the better Camry models. I had mine for 14 years. I have a 09 Camry now. I like it. If I were in the market for a new car I would look at all the others but probably would buy the Camry. I am not in the 60 year old demographic (I'm 46) but I guess I'm like the Camry, boring and bland but dependable.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The '92-'96 Camry was the best driving, riding Camry ever built. Still driving my 1995. I also have a 2002 Camry and it oversteers, doesn't take bumps as good, is not as good a ride and isn't as attractive. I much prefer driving the 1995.
      Zelma Hall
      • 3 Years Ago
      I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from,
      • 3 Years Ago
      Still look's old and boring to me!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Who even cares about this Jap crap anymore?
      • 3 Years Ago
      looks like the offspring of the late model KIA optima and the Honda civic......really pathetic
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have an 07 camry and have been waiting for the 12. This styling does not make me want the new one
        • 3 Years Ago
        agree ... the '12 still looks like a 6 year old design!
      • 3 Years Ago
      I work for a Toyota plant in Kentucky and my salary is $28 /hr and my benefits are very competitive. (Bonuses every 6 months). No bailouts for my company and during the recession, recalls, and tsunami, Toyota kept us employed by offering on the job classroom training. Tell the 8000+ employees at this plant that we make half of what American automakers make. Remember, Ford, Chrysler, and GM now hire workers at $14/hr on a tiered rate for TEN years...Go Union lol..Learn your facts..Really look at where American cars are built. You'll be surprised!! Camry may not inspire but it sells and 400,000 + people every year must like something about it.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Hey Leslie take your toyota CRAP and stick it where the sun doesn't shine, You and the rest of the hicks don't deserve 28.00 per hour and anybody and I MEAN ANYBODY that buys a jap or korean car is a TRAITOR TO AMERICA,,,,SO STUFF IT!!!!!
          • 3 Years Ago
          hey cliff where was your computer made ? your tv ? your cell phone? half the parts of your so called american car? guess what it wasnt made here so just who is the TRAITOR? half of all american cars are built in mexico or canada anyways i like alot of people own a toyota and you know what ,i have the right to do just that ,i served my country in the first gulf war so how could i be a traitor for buying what i want
      • 3 Years Ago
      I have never liked the Camry. However, I must say that the current model had a little flair to it... for a Camry. This new one is horribly ugly, a major step backwards in exterior design. the 2012 looks even older than the previous gen Camry. If the recall and tsunami hurt Toyota sales, this new Camry will sink the ship. Sure Toyota is a reliable car, but as the story mentioned, so are the competition. I have the 2011 Sonata. If you asked me 2 years ago if I'd would drive a Hyundai, I'd of fallen over laughing. But Hyundai has seriously changed their image and is making cars that are as reliable as Toyota and miles ahead in design. I am getting more compliments than when I owned ( in a better economy) my Volvo C70. When longtime Toyota and Honda buyers wake up and realize there are cars out there which are just as reliable, look and drive better, and cost less, Hyundai will be the king and the others just the court jesters.
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