The Toyota Camry is the top-selling midsize sedan in the USA and has been for over two decades - we took a trip Stateside to get behind why this humble midsize sedan just chimes with our brethren across the pond

On a recent holiday to New York, I was overjoyed to see a Toyota Camry in real life. In fact, somewhere between a self-service pub and standing atop the Rockefeller Center on a crisp, clear, Manhattan morning, the sighting of a wild Camry - in NYC taxi colors, no less - was one of the many highlights in what quickly became one of my favorite cities on earth.

You see, for the longest time, I have been captivated by the Camry - especially the outgoing, and deeply handsome XV70 model you see at the top of this story. There is a preconception that because I write about cars for a living, I should immediately gravitate towards exotica such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis. The truth of the matter is, is that

1) I'll never be able to afford one so why should I care?

2) I find supercars somewhat unnecessary and ill-mannered.

Toyota Camry taxi
Admit it - you like it, too
© George East/

So, there you go, it’s now on record that I find myself lusting after a Toyota Camry. Consider this my very first public car confessional. Yes, I know it’s a midsize family sedan, yes, I know it’s relatively sedate, and yes, I’m fully aware it'll definitely not be bothering the likes of the BMW M3.

And yet, the Camry strikes me as being a pleasant and trustworthy soul. It makes you feel good with its kind and gentle character. Given the current state of the world, the aforementioned are all good traits to have in both your car and the company you keep. Were the Toyota Camry a band or musician, it would be Crowded House or its superbly-crested frontman, Neil Finn.

Neil Finn
Neil Finn of Crowded House is the Toyota Camry in human form

Sadly, the Camry never caught on in the United Kingdom where I'm from. That could possibly be because The Great British Public are more concerned with the likes of the Tesla Model Y, the MINI, and various white goods SUVs. That makes me sad. However, the likable Camry was the best selling midsize sedan in the US from 2002 to 2023. Should the 2025 Camry, the hammerhead shark-faced, hybrid-only XV80 be as good as pundits are saying, expect this trend to continue into this year and beyond.

Whilst I could speculate and opine as to why the Camry has been such a hit with U.S. buyers, I decided to iMessage to my friend and fellow car scribe, Lalita Chemello, about the Camry phenomenon. An Actual Real American, previously the Deputy Editor at Jalopnik and currently the Content Manager at RM Sotheby's, if anyone can help me with my onset of Camry-curiosness, it's her.

2025 Toyota Camry
The 2025 Toyota Camry - nice, isn’t it?
© Toyota Newsroom

Back In The 1980s, American Cars Were Rubbish

To understand the United States' love affair with the Toyota Camry, we must wind back the clock to 1983. For the best part of the previous decade, America's Big Three carmakers - General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler - had been doing their absolute best to squeeze around 130 horsepower from unnecessarily large V8s with gay abandon for the environment. No prizes for guessing why this is known as "the era of malaise" in US car circles.

Under the orders of the Ronald Reagan-led government, the Environmental Protection Agency - that's the EPA if you're not from the United States - proceeded to introduce a bunch of legislation to cut down on emissions, and in doing so, opened the door for the likes of smaller, more fuel efficient machines such as the Ford Tempo, Chevrolet Cavalier, and the Chevrolet Citation. Like most American-made cars of the time, none of these were particularly good.

Toyota Camry V10
The Toyota Camry V10 - the “V10” denotes the chassis type, not the engine
© Toyota Canada

Toyota - like Honda - had been shifting cars on US soil since the late 1950s. Despite some erm, skepticism in the U.S. about both car makers because World War II hadn't been over for that long and a robust dislike for Japanese things amongst certain demographics, Toyota and Honda quickly gained a reputation for building extremely reliable, competitively priced fuel efficient cars. When the Camry "V10" arrived Stateside in 1983, it came with a starting price of $8,623 USD, or $27,040 USD in today's money.

Based on my bank statements after the New York jaunt, that’s exactly the amount of money it costs to have a seafood dinner in Grand Central Station.

Ford Tempo
The Ford Tempo - a car with all the appeal of wet weekend in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood
© Wikipedia

Japanese Reliability And Pricing Wins Over Middle America…

"Initially, the Camry's success came down to price and reliability," Lalita explains. "Toyotas were quickly recognised for their somewhat indestructible existences compared to pretty much any other product out there. Prices were typically comparable to what American-made sedans offered, but the trick was that a Toyota would last forever, and your equivalent Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, or whatever would not.

"When the Camry arrived, the U.S. was still trying to figure out how to make a car that met the new emissions regulations set by the EPA. Toyota never bothered with the low-powered, big displacement thing we had going on during the malaise era because they already had a decent handle on making more fuel-efficient cars. They were already ahead of US car makers in the efficiency stakes.

"The Camry is a name and body style that has persisted for more than four decades. Most American manufacturers saw their sedan names and platforms change over the years, until they completely axed them in this most recent decade. Toyota is one of the few manufacturers still offering a sedan in the form of the Camry. There's something to be said about consistency, and Toyota has certainly kept on it!"

Toyota Camry
A Toyota Camry brochure from back in the day
© eBay

…As Does Decent Tech!

As U.S. carmakers were still finding their way in this brave new era of sensibly-sized family cars with fuel-sipping engines, Toyota had already got the efficiency and reliability thing nailed down to a tee, and focused on offering U.S. consumers heaps more value than they would get if they purchased a comparable American model. To put things into perspective, the Camry received disc brakes at the front, drums at the rear, and a wear sensor for the pads as standard.

The flagship LE model received body-coloured bumpers, a tilt steering wheel, and a tachometer... yet that wasn't all! Toyota threw in an upgraded stereo over lower-end trim models, electric mirrors, and variable-speed intermittent windscreen wipers.

Further options included an automatic gearbox, air conditioning, and a Power Package featuring electric windows, electric locks, and cruise control. At this point, I once again urge you to consider that all of the above was made available on a relatively inexpensive family car in 1983. Other notable technical innovations from that very same year of Our Lord include the Chicken McNugget, Vanish stain remover, and the Cabbage Patch Doll.

Big up the ‘Yota.

Toyota Moves Camry Production To Kentucky

The 10 millionth Toyota Camry
The 10 millionth Toyota Camry
© Toyota Newsroom

Within a few short years after its launch in the U.S., Toyota had perfected the recipe for its midsize sedan aimed squarely at middle America. It wasn't a luxury car, but it wasn't an entry-level vehicle, either. It just sat, well, in the middle, where it has remained comfortably over the last four decades.

In 1988, Toyota moved production of its North American market Camry to its then-new Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) plant in Georgetown, where it has remained in production ever since. In fact, July 2021 saw the 10 millionth Camry roll off the line at the TMMK facility.

You’re welcome for that arcane piece of car trivia.

Given the amount of Uber drivers across the world who use the Camry as their wheels of choice, it should come as no surprise that Camry production isn’t exclusive to Georgetown. Throughout its life, the Camry has been manufactured in Japan (naturally!), China, Russia, and Australia. However, America’s relationship with the car is the focus of this piece, so that’s where we’re staying. Cue the smoothest of segues into my next point…

Answering The Most Difficult Question About The Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry is seven-time NASCAR champion
If the Toyota Camry is good enough for seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, it’s good enough for you
© Legacy Motor Club

I’ve long wrestled with the question about whether the Camry can be considered a “proper American car” along the lines of the - yep, you’ve guessed it! - Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang, or Jeep Wrangler.

Now, If you’re a gentleman of a certain demographic who shouts “YES, HOSS!” unironically and turned a deep, concerning shade of purple when it was announced Jimmie Johnson and Legacy Motor Club would switch from a Camaro to a Camry for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series, then almost certainly, hell will freeze over before you EVER consider the Toyota to be a truly ‘Murcan car.

Yet Lalita is not a man, she is no boomer, and she DEFINITELY knows the difference between “your” and “you’re”. So, the floor is hers to answer my question about the Camry’s provenance as something truly American despite wearing the Toyota badge. You know, something as American as apple pie or defending democracy abroad.

“Yeah, absolutely the Camry can be considered an American car as much as a Ford, a Chevy, or a Jeep,” she says. “It’s not something that’s shouted from the rooftops here in the U.S. but it’s recognised that a Camry is more American-made than most of the vehicles deemed “American Made” because they come from the Big Three.”

Finally, if Jimmie Johnson - one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers - has endorsed the Camry, it’s definitely a true American car. Grow up if you think otherwise.

What The Camry Represents Stateside

Kentucky-built Camry
The very first Kentucky-built Camry (right) with its handsome grandchild (left)
© Toyota Newsroom

“As to whether the Camry has become an integral part of car culture per-se here, I’m not sure. I have yet to come across one at any local or prestigious car show. However, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be,” she continues. “I will say that I think the Camry has made a significant impression in the U.S. and has helped steer the public towards wanting to purchase a Toyota.

“Honestly, when someone is considering a new car and a Toyota is on their list, 90 percent of the time, the Toyota - Camry or otherwise - will hands down serve them well beyond what their other options can provide. Toyotas tend to hold their resale values in a way I rarely see with other manufacturers, so when it’s time to trade it in or sell it, you’ll honestly be ahead of what you might have gotten for a competitor.”

The Toyota Camry In 2024

2025 Toyota Camry
The interior of the 2025 Toyota Camry is reminiscent of that in the rather lovely Toyota Crown - this is a good thing
© Toyota Newsroom

After speaking to Lalita about the significance of the Camry and the role it has played on the automotive scene in the United States, I’ve absolutely developed a true affinity towards the car. Despite having not yet driven one, the Toyota Camry has very much captured a piece of my heart. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I proudly consider it to be somewhat of a friend.

Whilst rivals have completely axed sedans or rebadged some of its most iconic nameplates as SUVs in a cynical cash grab (see, the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the upcoming Corvette SUV), Toyota has quietly gone about improving the recipe that made the Camry great in the first place without dramatically changing the car’s core character.

One For The Enthusiasts

© Toyota Newsroom

More than 40 years after its launch, the Camry remains a synonym for a handsome, honest, and dependable car that won’t require a credit line extension or a secondary job to buy. As the automotive world continues to change at an alarming rate for true car enthusiasts, the Camry remains a reassuring constant for us.

Early this year, I wrote a piece explaining why I consider Toyota to be the most exciting carmaker on the planet at the moment. It’s a statement I stand by. Now, though, I also consider it to be the most comforting.


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