— Toyota Motor Corp. is speeding the release of its next Camry sedan by at least six months, aiming to keep it the best-selling U.S. car, three industry analysts familiar with the company's plans said, according to Bloomberg News Service.
The 2007 Camry should arrive at dealers as early as February 2006, said analyst Jim Hall, with AutoPacific Inc., basing his comments on talks with Toyota. That would bring the new model to market 4 1/2 years after the current edition's release. The Camry has been redesigned four times since going on sale in the U.S. February 1983. Restyled versions arrived in August 1986, September 1991, September 1996 and August 2001 and put it on sale around early September each time., Toyota spokeswoman Allison Takahashi said. “Shortening the product cycle is one of the ways we can invest in having a more-desirable product,” said Jim Press, Toyota's chief operating officer in the U.S., in an interview. Press declined to comment on Camry directly. “One of our philosophies is to change a car before it gets old.”Camry will also be the first U.S.-built Toyota gasoline-electric hybrid, according to Hall, Langley and Catherine Madden, who forecasts auto production plans for Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Mass. The analysts based their information on discussions with Toyota and suppliers to the Georgetown, Ky., plant that builds the car.Toyota has said it will eventually offer hybrid drives in all its top-selling models. It wants to build on the lead it holds in hybrid sales of Prius cars and add a direct competitor to Honda Motor Co.'s gasoline-electric Accord, which went on sale in 2004, Hall said. “There's some competitive pressure to get a hybrid Camry into the market soon,” said Hall, who is based in Southfield, Michigan. In addition to the hybrid Accord, Nissan Motor Co. plans to add a gasoline-electric Altima sedan in the U.S. in 2006. Ford Motor Co., which sells hybrid Escape sport-utility vehicles, has said it will sell hybrid versions of its Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans by 2008, according to the Bloomberg News Service.