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Toyota, GM, Honda: Let The Car Wars Begin

Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 | 10:24 AM ET

OK, let's be honest. The mid-size car market is not the sexiest one. These cars have often been viewed as "boring". After all, when was the last time you heard somebody say the new Camry gets their blood racing?

Honda Accord
AP
Honda Accord

That said, we are on the cusp of a substantial car war critical to Toyota, GM and Honda. Today, Honda is showing reporters its redesigned Accord. In addition to updated styling, the Accord will feature advanced safety features and variable cylinder management where the engine shuts down 1, 2 or 3 of the 6 cylinders when not needed. For Honda, the redesigned sedan (price: $17,000-$28,000) is a statement: We're not backing off of the mid-size car market.

Chevy Malibu
AP
Chevy Malibu

The new Accord will hit the market just a few months ahead of Chevy's re-designed Malibu and just a year after Toyota re-designed the best selling car in the U.S., the Camry. All of the automakers realize they need to win the heart of the car market if they are going to gain market share. Ignore this market and you pay a hefty price. Look at Ford. The Taurus once was the best selling car in this country. Ford ignored it and the Taurus ultimately died. Even now, as the company re-badges it's struggling 500 sedan as the Taurus, Ford is so far behind Toyota, GM, and Honda, it will be tough to catch up anytime soon.

So who wins this war?

Toyota Camry
AP
Toyota Camry

For now, Camry is still king with 212,460 being sold this year. Chevy's Impala and Honda's Accord have both sold just over 180,000 vehicles in the same time frame. And the old Malibu has sold just 60,025. You see why GM is so intent on making sure the new Malibu connects with buyers And from what I've seen of the updated styling and interior, the Malibu will do just that.

But ultimately, consumers are the winners. These cars are a big improvement over previous models. They have more content, more safety features, better styling, at prices that are not that much more compared to previous generations.

So get ready folks, the real car war is coming.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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