Importing Camry rather than producing locally won’t dent image, company suggests

The fact that the new 2018 Toyota Camry will be imported from Japan rather than built in Australia like the outgoing model should not have a great impact on sales, which nevertheless are expected to decline in response to the car’s push upmarket.

The 2018 Toyota Camry – generation number eight – is a new-from-the-ground-up model with different architecture and fully revised designs outside and in.

It’ll also come from Japan, with Toyota’s Melbourne plant in Altona, the oldest anywhere outside Toyota’s home market, closing in October. Altona currently makes Camry for Australia (20,000 annual sales) and much higher numbers for export to the Middle East region.

Correlating with this, Toyota is moving away from focusing in on being a pure high-volume seller in Australia, predicting a “dramatic” sales drop, though it’ll still target government and business fleets (not demos) particularly with the revised hybrid.

But Toyota Australia suspects it’s not the shift away from domestic production that’ll hurt sales, with the Buy Australia fleet policy lapsing anyway.

Instead, it cites a changing fleet-purchasing model, a fragmenting market, a refusal to do super-sharp deals to inflate demand, ergo meeting factory targets, and likely price rises as the car moves upmarket.

The new 2018 Camry has a brand new platform, reworked drivetrains including a brand-new 225kW V6, double-wishbone rear suspension and far more cabin and safety technologies. Read in detail here.

“It probably has more impact on us, psychologically, than it does on the consumer,” said Toyota Australia’s executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb.

DRIVEN: 2018 Toyota Camry review

“Regrettably in the past from a Toyota perspective we have had trouble convincing people we actually manufacture cars there [Australia] in the first place.

“So probably it doesn’t have a great impact, and frankly within Toyota we like to say it doesn’t matter where it’s built, it’s made to the same standards. In reality it shouldn’t matter where we get the vehicle from, it should represent the same quality.

“We’ve never traded on the ‘built in Australia’ to the degree that Holden and Ford might have, and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, I just don’t think it’s part of what people understand to be part of Camry or Aurion.”

The current version averages 1700 monthly sales and has 53 per cent market share, about six-times higher than the Mazda 6, with about 40 per cent of sales going to government with now-lapsing Buy Australia policies, 35 per cent to business and demo fleets and 25 per cent to private buyers.

“We will move very much from a volume-oriented vehicle to a more premium offering in the marketplace,” Cramb said.

Camry is the world’s biggest-selling mid-sized car. It sells 30,000 a month in the US and China. Australia, which averages about 2000 a month, is the brand’s number four market, and produces cars for number three: Saudi Arabia. Toyota has sold 920,000 Camrys in Australia over 34 years, including 45,000 hybrids.

The 2018 model arrives in Australia this November. Keep an eye out for our review from the global launch.