Although Toyota had long heard that the Camry needed more style, the automaker has taken the message more seriously in recent years, as its traditional lead in what industry types know as QRD—quality, reliability and durability—has been shrinking.
Toyota last week previewed the updated Camry to the media, showing off its more sculpted and tech-savvy look that includes a larger video screen, more smartphone-based apps and a wireless cellphone charging system.
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"The world moved around us," said Monte Kaehr, the chief engineer for the 2015 Camry, during a drive of the new sedan. "When even people who've been buying Camrys for years told us we needed more styling, we knew we'd better listen."
The Japanese maker long downplayed criticism of its style by noting the breadth of its market and suggesting it had to play it safe to appeal to such a diverse group of buyers. But it was stunned by the response it received from dealers after previewing the 2011 Camry ahead of its its public launch. The criticism was so intense Toyota raced to make as many changes as possible before the sedan reached showrooms.
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"They've recognized their styling needs to be more dynamic," said IHS Automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley, after attending last week's Camry preview. "They're competing in a world where plain vanilla isn't strong enough anymore."