Toyota Camry: A History of the World’s Best-Selling Midsize Sedan

Every automaker has a best-selling model. But not every automaker can boast the world’s best-selling midsize sedan in history. The Toyota Camry has earned that title. In its 13th generation, it has not only outsold every other sedan in the United States for 18 consecutive years in a row but also remains one of the most popular used cars, according to Car and Driver.

A brief history of the Toyota Camry

The Japanese manufacturer Toyota has been selling the Camry internationally since 1983. Early models were narrow-body compact cars, and later models morphed into wide-body midsize sedans. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Toyota manufactured both narrow- and wide-body versions. It produced the final narrow-body Camry in 2003. And ever since the release of the wide-bodied version, the automaker extolled it as its second “world car.” The Corolla was the company’s first.

Before the station wagon lost its appeal, Toyota built a Camry wagon during the second generation. To increase the car’s appeal, the brand built a sporty coupe, the Camry Solara (popularly known as simply Solara), from 1999 through 2008. With the introduction of the Solara came the first convertible version of the Camry.

From 1997 through 2000, Toyota Camry models with V6 engines offered the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) package, boosting the sedan’s power to over 245 hp and producing upward of 242 lb-ft of torque. Today, the Camry even competes in North America’s most popular stock car racing circuit, NASCAR.

SUVs’ growing popularity has hurt Toyota Camry sales

RELATED: 2020 or 2021 Toyota Camry: Which Is the Better Buy?

The Toyota Camry saw its popularity rise thanks to its comfortable ride and reliability. In 1983, Car and Driver called it “a nice, well-behaved four-wheeled valet that will get you where you’re going with no muss, no fuss, and no bother.” For a time, it seemed the Camry would never lose its momentum.

And over time, it earned a reputation as a remarkable family sedan. Though its popularity has waned somewhat in SUVs’ shadow, it seems to be looking for a comeback. According to a Car and Driver review of the 2021 model, “The Toyota is once again a truly desirable option in a segment that’s slumping but still highly competitive.” The author points out that if it weren’t for the Honda Accord dominating C/D’s 10Best list, it’s possible the Camry would be more desirable to buyers.

The week of July 4, 2013, Toyota revealed it had sold more than 10 million Camry models since 1983, MotorTrend reported. This was despite fluctuating sales between 2016 and 2020. According to GoodCarBadCar, the last year Toyota sold over 400,000 Camry units in the United States was 2015. Since then, sales have steadily dropped, with only 294,348 sold in pandemic-ravaged 2020.

Its best year was 2007, when 472,808 units sold, thanks to a slick redesign. (However, the 2007 Camry, along with the 2009 version, is one of the two model years you should avoid.) In 2021, things are looking up for the sedan, nonetheless. The 2021 Toyota Camry was the best-selling sedan in the first quarter of this year.

What to expect from the 2021 model

Credit goes to the 2021 Toyota Camry’s various powertrains and 12 trims, half of which are hybrid versions. You can choose an economical four-cylinder, a fuel-efficient hybrid, or a stout V6 if you’re someone who prefers power over savings. Of course, Toyota still offers the legitimately sporty TRD trim, packing a 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC​​ V6. According to Autoevolution, “the Camry TRD offers a completely different model than those for retired people.” This high-level trim harnesses 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. There’s also the cool-looking Nightshade Edition, a 203-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a black grille and glossy black wheels.

Toyota lists the base-model 2021 Camry LE at $24,970 and the top-trim XSE V6 with a starting MSRP of $35,545. The gas-powered models get an average fuel economy of 28 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. And the hybrid models get an EPA-estimated 44 mpg in the city and 47 mpg on the highway. However, the LE Hybrid gets an impressive 51 mpg in the city and 53 on the highway.