Wednesday, September 07, 2011

[Cars] The New Camrys Are Out!

The New Camrys Are Out!: So what? Outside of car journals, the release of a new model Camry will get a collective yawn and an article or two and a few repackaged press releases. Whether Toyota has been affected by the twin terrors of unintended acceleration and earthquake/tidal wave/nuclear meltdowns doesn't seem to have ratcheted up the popular interest. Nearly all newsworthy events are only fractionally as important as their coverage suggests. The release of a new model of what is still the most popular car in the U.S. by a long shot and probably the most successful car in history appears to be getting the opposite treatment.

Well, maybe it's just me. As you know, I have owned Camrys for nearly 19 years now. That amounts to two cars -- a '93 and an '02. In some circles, people like me are referred to as "beige". I prefer "unpretentious". Were it not for the damn house, I would probably be looking into getting Camry number 3 right now, but it's not a slam dunk anymore. I would consider other cars in that class now -- Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion (or maybe even Taurus), Nissan Altima - mainly because my current '02 Camry, while trusty as a Border Collie, is not up to the build quality of the '93. That car was a revelation to me, and that generation Camry was something of a high-water mark in automotive quality.

The fact of the matter is that things have changed so much over the years that buying a new car doesn't make much sense in most normal circumstances. Actually, unless it's a total basket case, the thing that almost always makes the most sense is keeping the car you have, if you own it outright, and just paying for repairs as they come. Even if you have to budget $2000 a year for repairs and maintenance, you're still ahead of having car payments. This is evidenced in the market by the fact the used car prices are historically high.

So you've got a lot going on. You've got Toyota trying to recover from a dubious-at-best scandal and a natural disaster, you've got competitors that have leveled the field, and you've got the industry evolving in such a way that used cars are where all the action is. In the midst of this, the premier car of its time gets a redesign. You would think there would be more interest.

Anyway, here are three reviews of the new Camry that I found insightful: at TTAC, at AutoSavant, and an alternative at TTAC.

As for me, I am strictly in the keep it running as long as you can camp, thanks to the house. Although, if I happened to stumble across a VERY low mileage version of one of those 3rd generation Camrys (92-96), I'd probably jump on it. Maybe I should start trolling the used car lots down in the Florida for a little ol' lady special. It'd be good for a couple hundred thousand miles, which is to say, it might be the last car I ever drive.

Tangentially, Curbside Classic posted an inspired recap of the most notorious auto liability scandals. It caused me to reminisce wistfully about my old Pinto.