Toyota and Hyundai turned up the heat in the competitive mid-size sedan segment at the 2014 New York International Auto Show by releasing refreshed and all-new versions of the popular Camry and Sonata. The improvements made by each respective brand were similar: more athletic exterior styling cues, new interiors and even more advanced technology features.
Before the refreshed version of the Camry made its debut in New York, Toyota reminded members of the media of the Camry’s past popularity. In 2013, the Camry was Toyota’s top-selling model with over 408,000 units sold, which accounted for 22% of the brand’s total sales. Toyota also emphasized that the Camry has been the best-selling sedan in the United States for the past 12 years in a row and that ever since the model first went on sale here in the United States, roughly 10 million have been sold. If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, Toyota also stated that one in 50 U.S. families currently owns a Camry.
For the 2015 model year, every exterior panel except for the roof has been changed. On the inside, the new Camry looks like it could compete in the luxury sector, and shares some of its styling cues with the Lexus product line. Toyota says that the interior has been upgraded with higher quality materials and boasts a more efficient streamlined layout with a focus on the driver.
Toyota also developed a sportier model named the XSE, which should be the most athletic Camry ever. The XSE will get special treatments, including a sport-tuned suspension, unique stability control program, 18-inch wheels along with an aggressive front end including mesh grille inserts and revised fascia.
While the Sonata doesn’t have the same pedigree as the Camry, its importance to Hyundai is just as significant as Camry is to Toyota. In 2013, the Sonata was Hyundai’s best-selling vehicle with 180,000 sales, which accounted for 25% of the brand’s total sales.
The next generation Sonata ditched the swooping lines of the outgoing model in favor of straight edges and crisper angles. Up front, a large grille and sporty headlamps tie into the new athletic coupe-like shape.
"We crafted the shape of the 2015 Sonata in the same way an award-winning chef refines his recipe over the years," said Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai Design North America. "With the 2011 Sonata, Hyundai took the mid-size sedan from a meal to a gourmet dinner. The evolution to Fluidic Sculpture 2.0's more taut, modern lines reflect the improvements in refinement and driving dynamics for 2015."
Inside the new Sonata, we find a redesigned and bigger interior which focuses on ergonomics and comfort. Controls are grouped logically and placed in the most convenient position to help keep the driver focused on the road ahead and provide confidence behind the wheel.
Current Mid-Size Car Marketplace
While the 2015 Camry and 2015 Sonata look like they have what it takes to be instant successes, let’s take a look at how the current generation models are currently performing in the marketplace. Through the first three months of 2014, Camry sales are down by 6.5% compared to the same period last year and month-end days’ supply through March sat at a lean 50 days. Sonata sales are also down, but by a more significant 14.9%, and through March month-end days’ supply sat at 64 days. In 2014, incentive spending in the mid-size sedan segment has averaged $2,821 per unit sold; during this same period Toyota spent an average of $2,989 per Camry and Hyundai spent an average of $2,386 per Sonata.
In the mid-size car segment, the gaps between major refreshes and redesigns are shrinking more and more with each passing year as manufacturers strive to have the best product on the market. The Camry is a perfect example of this: while it was totally redesigned for the 2012 model year, Toyota felt it needed significantly update both the exterior and interior of the sedan in order to stay competitive in the segment.
For the 2015 model year, the mid-size sedan segment will also welcome new versions of the Chrysler 200 and Subaru Legacy, which debuted earlier this year that the 2014 Detroit International Auto Show and the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. The 2015 versions of the Camry, Sonata, 200 and Legacy will soon go heads-to-head against other recently updated models like the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Mazda Mazda6 and Nissan Altima, which will make the mid-size sedan segment one of the most competitive in the industry.