2013 Toyota Camry- The American Idol

IMG_20130420_081220Riddle me this: what is the Japanese word for “crown” and if you look outside your window towards the street at this very moment, you’re likely to see at least one?  Take a good look out there.  Give up?  It’s the Toyota Camry.  With the exception of 2001, the Camry has been the best-selling car in America every year since 1997.  It’s a title that every automaker wants to claim but only one can.  The popularity of this car is astonishing and as sure as the sun rises in the east, it has comfortably outsold its rivals from Honda, GM, and Ford annually.  Since its introduction in 1982, there have been over nine million sold in the US and 308,000 found homes in 2011 alone.  To put that in perspective;  that’s more sales in the same year than the entire lineups from Audi, Volvo, and Mini combined.  Interestingly enough, even though the Camry sells like hotcakes in the US and Australia, it’s not a volume seller in its home market of Japan and was even discontinued in Europe almost a decade ago.  Fellow auto journalists love to belittle the Camry, accusing it of being soulless and bland, and having no excitement to offer.  So what gives? How has a car that is condemned by enthusiasts and consumers in other markets found the elusive recipe to success in America?  It was time to find out.

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2011 Nissan Altima- Filling Some Big Shoes

Americans love the word “big”.  We’re a big country with big mountains, big rivers, big portions of food, and big people.  We invented the Big Gulp, Big Mac, Big Lots, Big And Tall, Big KMart, Bob’s Big Boy, and the Notorious B-I-G. If it’s not ridiculously large then it’s not worth wasting time over.

The original Nissan Altima faced this dilemma when it was introduced in 1993.  Its mission was to compete head-to-head with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Ford Taurus of the time.  But it was more compact than its rivals and had tighter interior quarters.  Although it was a competent car, buyers stayed away in droves.  Nissan, not one to be bullied out of the market, rethought its strategy when it redesigned the Altima for 2002.  The car was not only striking in design, but was much larger in almost every dimension.  Sales skyrocketed and the Altima has consistently been one of the 10 best-selling cars in America since then.  Bigger really is sometimes better.

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