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Toyota RAV4 Could Eat Into Camry Dominance

DETROIT – Toyota is aiming for segment leadership in the U.S. with the RAV4, vowing to sell 400,000 units annually by 2017 and overtake the Honda CR-V, the longtime leader of WardsAuto’s Middle CUV group, selling 345,647 units last year.

The brand has seen sales of its compact CUV increase sharply in recent years thanks to a ’13 redesign and greater North American production capacity, as well as Japan imports.

Does Toyota envision a day when the RAV4 could overtake the Camry midsize sedan as its No.1-selling model?

“If midsize car continues to outflow, we may end up selling a few less Camrys as time goes on,” Bill Fay, senior vice president-Toyota Div. for Toyota Motors Sales U.S.A., tellsWardsAuto here in an interview.

Toyota eked out a 0.2% increase in Camry sales last year vs. 2014, 429,355 compared with 428,606, as Fay says the segment has been challenged by consumer’s shift toward CUVs and other light trucks.

In comparison, RAV4 sales rose 17.8% to 315,412.

“Over time, there might be a closer correlation to Camry and RAV sales, but I would like to continue to make sure Camry stays a success in the marketplace,” he says.

One way Toyota kept Camry volume up last year was with fleet sales. Deliveries to fleets typically comprise 10% of the annual volume of a Toyota model, but Fay ballparks Camry’s fleet mix last year at 17% or 18% of total sales.

CUVs have become so popular in the U.S. that Toyota last year struggled to fill demand.

Fay believes it was a factor in the Toyota brand’s U.S. market share dropping to 12.1% last year compared with 12.2% in 2014.

As it has made a variety of production changes to boost capacity of the hot sellers, he says Toyota’s 2016 light-truck supply should be sufficient to meet most of the customer demand.

Jan 26th, 2016