The 1992 Camry was a game changer for Toyota. The car hit the market with a design and build quality that was unlike anything seen in its class at the time. These attributes impressed buyers and even the competition. Those same attributes not only propelled the Camry to best-selling car status later in the decade, but also elevated the brand's stature in America.
Prior to 1992, the Toyota Camry was a conservative car, but a strong seller for the company. As work began on the 3rd generation model in 1989, company executives in Japan were content to stay conservative with the car. When Bob McCurry (executive vice president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. at that time) viewed the initial designs of the car, however, he was not a happy camper. He demanded that the car be redesigned to cater to American buyers, not the smaller, conservative renderings designed for the Japanese market. Initially, McCurry's bluntness did not go over well with Japanese executives who were not used to such a demanding approach. But Yoshio Ishizaka, the senior vice president and chief coordinating officer of their U.S. division, helped to convince the Japanese executives (slowly but surely) that catering to American tastes would ultimately elevate and strengthen the brand in the long run.
The 3rd generation Toyota Camry arrived on the scene for the 1992 model year, and it was a quantum leap from the previous model. The new car grew bigger, longer, and wider in dimensions, and featured upscale styling first seen on the Lexus LS400. It also had build quality that was unlike anything else in its class (such as triple sealed doors and asphalt body mounts), and that resulted in an ultra quiet interior and refined ride that gave the car a premium feel.Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
The base vehicle was powered by a new 130 horsepower, 2.2 liter inline-4 engine that featured balance shafts for quiet operation, improved fuel economy and performance. The optional engine was a new 3.0 liter V6 that produced 185 horsepower, and provided a performance boost unseen in previous Camrys. Though the new model incurred a fairly sizable price increase over its predecessor (as much as $2600 for some models), offering more standard features than its domestic competition helped to offset the price difference.
The Game is Changed
The 1992 Camry changed how America viewed the family sedan. It had successfully been moved upmarket from a compact car to a midsize sedan in a recession. Initially, sales did not take off for the new car. However, when American buyers began to notice the car's design, build quality, and standard features, sales eventually picked up steam. By 1997, the Camry finally overtook the Ford Taurus to become the best-selling car in America, and has yet to relinquish the title. It made the competition (particularly Ford) sit up and take notice, and forced its competitors to improve their cars to keep pace.Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
This Camry also changed how America viewed the Toyota brand. After its introduction, it brought buyers into their dealerships that otherwise would not have considered a Toyota before. The brand would eventually hit the 1 million mark for sales in the U.S., and has not looked back since. There have been many revisions to the car since 1992 (5 new models in total), but none have had the profound impact of the 3rd generation model on the family sedan market. When we look back on history, it will show that the 1992 Toyota Camry truly was a game changer.