For a period of five years, between 1991 to 1996, it wasn't a Japanese automaker responsible for building America's best selling mid-sized car. Instead, Detroit's own Ford Motor Company proudly held that distinction with the Taurus until its third-generation ovaloid redesign proved to be too avant-garde and expensive for its sensible suburban buyers to stomach.
Now orphaned, these consumers packed up their chinos and cardigans and began looking for a new four-door family sedan that didn't look like a rejected mutant from a Ridley Scott film. Lucky for them, Toyota had a car conveniently waiting in the wings. Just as Ford began alienating buyers, the fourth-generation Camry debuted for the 1997 model year, ushering in the birth of a new beige-painted era.
Unlike the Taurus, the new Camry was conventional, reasonable, unassuming and compliant. As a result, Toyota easily grabbed the sales crown from the Taurus that year and held on to it until 2001, when it was dethroned by the Honda Accord by a narrow margin. When the fifth-generation model rolled out in 2002, Toyota's reign of beige resumed, lasting twelve consecutive years so far.
How did it become the darling of every American driveway, exactly? That's actually a hard question to answer if you watch the promotional video above because it certainly doesn't reveal how it possessed any sort of actual advantage versus its competitors. Toyota didn't contrast it against the Accord or whatever the hell General Motors was building, and only made a weak attempt to criticize the Taurus by allowing the owner of a first-generation model to share why she thought the then-new Camry was better than what she had been driving. Yeah, you would hope a brand-new car would be better than another car that was at least several years old at the time.
Toyota instead opted to illustrate that it was better than the model that had preceded it. Again, what's so significant about that? What made Toyota suddenly think it deserved an ice cream trip to Baskin Robbins for doing what every other kid in the class had accomplished? All of the standard equipment highlighted in the promo — like the front and rear cupholders and extendable sunvisors (really, Toyota?) — wasn't exactly impressive either.
So the car that made the Camry a household name clearly wasn't remarkable. But this promo film is curiously remarkable due to the fact that everything seems to be beige. Seriously. The whole thing is a nine minute love letter devoted to mediocrity and the blandest color known to man and it's creepy. The Camry is (big surprise here) beige, every environment the car is filmed in is beige, there even seems to be some sort of a beige filter on the video itself.
I know what color I'm going to see haunting my nightmares tonight.
(Video from Test Drive Junkie)
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