Is Toyota’s sudden improvement too late for sedans?

camry thrill ride

Toyota, one of the world’s largest seller of sedans and hatchbacks, has just introduced a new “TNGA” platform/architecture that spans from the Prius to Lexus ES (in order of gas mileage). By doing that, Toyota transformed the feel and performance of the aged, cheapened Camry and the Corolla beyond recognition.

toyota corolla led headlights
The 2018 Corolla is being replaced by a completely new car. 

Was it too late?

The Corolla and Camry are still massive sellers, each one beating many full brand lineups in the United States, but at a cost — the 2018 Corolla, for example, isn’t loaded up with thousands in rebates, but the car is low-priced and has incredible amount of standard safety equipment. Keeping near the top of the sales charts with these cars has bitten into Toyota’s profits. FCA’s profit margin leaped when they dropped their compact and midsize sedans in the US — though, to be fair, FCA had far lower sales and higher warranty claims than Toyota.

camry thrill ride
The Camry Thrill Ride at the New York Auto Show showed off the shockingly improved cornering and interior design of the midsize stalwart

The new Honda Accord has gotten rave reviews but sales are stumbling — as are those of the Lincoln Continental, which drew praise from critics and yawns from buyers. How will the Camry and Corolla fare? Their reliability has brought new and repeat buyers, even during the times when they were really not particularly pleasant to drive or especially well priced; will suddenly being more comfortable, fun to drive, and far more attractive inside help?

Toyota’s trying to change the Camry’s image with the Camry Thrill Ride at car shows, taking one to three people at a time through the advantages of the car’s new suspension and chassis. It might work, and it might not. The Camry has many years of being less than a sports car to overcome. The new platform may also rejuvenate the Lexus ES and bring it back to the top of its class, but can it overcome buyers’ ever-increasing love of SUVs?

Only time will tell whether the Corolla, Camry, and Lexus ES escape further discounting and sales losses with their new and quite likable platform/architecture, especially since the next-gen Corolla is still largely in the future. That said, Toyota also sells crossovers, and since some of those are going to TNGA as well, the investment will pay off regardless.

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