Jeannine Anderson's Honda Accord served her well for 13 years before she decided to give it to her son-in-law. But when the self-described Honda fan was hunting a new car, she decided to consider the Toyota Camry, a car her late husband had wanted and one whose stellar reputation she knew from reading Consumer Reports.
After test drives with the Accord and the Camry, Anderson, 71, got her first Toyota _ a gray V-6 she says gets 36 miles per gallon.
"I just absolutely love it," Anderson, of Bancroft, said Thursday. "It's quiet, dependable."
Drivers like Anderson have helped make the Camry a perennial top seller, with 2005 figures showing it was the best-selling car in the United States for the fourth year in a row, and eight of the last nine years. It again topped the Accord and other mid-size competitors such as the Chevrolet Impala.
And with a hybrid Camry due out this year and a fully redesigned 2007 Camry set to be unveiled Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the sedan likely will set the bar high for its competitors.
"Camry is a benchmark," said Jim Sanfilippo, a senior industry analyst with Bloomfield Hills-based Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc. "The new Camry is going to be another Toyota benchmark. It is going to be a little more expressive in its styling ... it will be more powerful."
Toyota hasn't released details about the new Camry, but Jim Press, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., said it will offer better style, technology and drivability. And it will build on the reputation the nameplate has established in previous incarnations.
"It's a car that really hits the needs of most customers," Press said during a conference call Wednesday about the company's latest U.S. sales performance. "It's a car that will get you from here to there without any hassle. It's a good reflection of our brand, because it's about customer satisfaction."
Press said he expects the company this year to sell about the nearly 432,000 Camrys it sold in 2005, but may lose some sales as it switches from offering the old model. He said Toyota strives to keep Camry's style timeless while keeping in mind the goal of a well-balanced car that satisfies drivers' needs.
The Camry's nearly perfect streak atop the car market stretches back to 1997, when it toppled Ford Motor Co.'s Taurus as America's best-selling car. It was the first time the Japanese automaker held that spot.
Like many of its counterparts, the Camry has evolved from its boxy and utilitarian beginnings to a more stylish exterior and refined interior. But reliability, affordability, good gas mileage and improved safety, dealerships say, have been among the key factors in its continued popularity.
Honda Motor Co., which has the No. 2 and No. 3 selling cars in the United States in the compact Civic and mid-size Accord, respectively, is bringing a slightly redesigned Accord to the market for 2006. And it recognizes the appeal of the Camry and Accord to drivers young and old alike.
Sanfilippo said the Camry has been able to build a reputation for quality over the years, and appeals to drivers who demand such reliability. And he said the car represents a challenge to the rest of the auto industry, which will roll out some of its best prospects at the Detroit show.
"Somebody is going to have to do better than the Camry to get people away from the Camry," he said.