With four months of 2010 in the rearview mirror, the Toyota Camry, long the top-selling car in the United States, might be in danger of falling out of the lead.
The Camry, which is made at Toyota's plant in Georgetown, was one of several models that the automaker stopped selling earlier this year as part of its series of widespread recalls over issues including faulty gas pedals.
At the end of April, the Camry trailed the Honda Accord in year-to-date sales by 7,592 units. The Accord and its family of models including the Accord Crosstour sold 104,101 units to the 96,509 sold of the Camry and its family including Camry Hybrid.
The Camry has been the top-selling car in the United States for 12 of the past 13 years, losing only once, to the Accord in 2001.
That year, Camry went through a model change, which in the past has affected volume.
"We did lose considerable volume when going through those stages of major model changes," said Georgetown plant spokesman Rick Hesterberg. "We've become more efficient at it in the last 10 years where that did not occur."
Camry is not the overall top-selling vehicle, though. That crown has been claimed by Ford's F-Series pickup line for ages (See chart on page B3). The Camry also frequently trails the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, though it did top it last year and became the second best-selling vehicle in the country.
Being the top seller is an accolade that automakers often use in marketing.
"You can definitely use that in advertising," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin. "It does provide maybe some reassurance to certain customers that they're picking a vehicle that a lot of other people are picking."
With eight months of numbers still to go in 2010, it's possible the Camry will pull back in front. On the back of unprecedented financial incentives by Toyota, it outsold the Accord by more than 7,000 units in March; however, the Accord again outsold the Camry by nearly 4,000 units in April. The Accord outsold the Camry in both January and February. Those months saw dealerships stop selling certain Camrys, as well as the height of recall-related publicity.
Steve St. Angelo, president of the Georgetown plant and Toyota's chief quality officer for North America, emphasized that it's still early in the year and things could change.
Hesterberg added that the title of best-selling car is a point of pride for the thousands of workers in Georgetown.
"It's a good feeling to know you're building a car that consumers really love," he said. "I think it's significant, and it motivates you to build a very high-quality product."
Honda's Martin said his company isn't focused on the accolade.
"Before the end of the year, it could totally change," he said. "It's a factor of production capacity, world balance on where you're going to put your capacity, the amount you're able to spend on incentives. ... A lot of companies chase that. Honda, as a company, doesn't. ...
"It will be a happy occurrence if that turns out to be true, but it's not going to be because of us trying to target that or achieve it."