The National Coalition of Sport Car Culture and Heritage, or NCSCCH, issued a statement Tuesday evening condemning the Toyota Camry’s current generation – in certain trims – for allegedly appropriating traditional sports car styling cues and design elements like a black roof, quad-tipped exhaust, large wheels, as well as numerous creases, vents, and louvers around the body.
NCSCCH President Ted Baker explains, “Our organization seeks to preserve the unique cultural heritage of the sports car, so when vehicles from other classes seeks to mimic – or perhaps even mock – our rich traditions without regard to actual functionality, we feel compelled to speak up.”
Mr. Baker specifically points to the current-generation Camry, notably the XSE trimline, as the most egregious example of a midsize sedan attempting to look like a sports car.
“They may consider it ‘paying homage’ but we see it as a dilution of what we worked so hard to create over the past century. In cases like the Nissan Maxima, with over three decades of genuine work towards the notion of a Four-Door Sports Car, we are willing to make a slight exception,” Baker continues. “But when a Camry so quickly and drastically changes its image in the name of popularity, we take offense.”
Mr. Baker explains that he does not hold a grudge against Toyota specifically. “I have plenty of Toyotas I consider friends,” he says, citing his own Toyota-built Scion FR-S as an example. “I just don’t want these new Camries parking in my neighborhood – that’s all I’m saying.”
Camry is not alone in being critiqued for the use of sports car tactics. As the midsize sedan segment slowly evaporates from overall sales figures, companies are desperate to reinvigorate their lineup to generate interest.
Industry observers are not oblivious to the trend, although they are far less critical than the NCSCCH.
Tim Jorgenson of the St. Cloud, Minnesota-based fan website LitSedans.org explains that many car companies have begun offering “four-door coupes” to help refresh the sedan segment. “These cars try to be everything to everyone, but they end up being nothing to anyone,” he laments. “Sedan are supposed to be ‘three boxes’ and not ‘one blob’.”
Mr. Jorgenson commiserates with the sedan community, however, noting that their group has faced an uphill battle against public perception for at least the past 10 years. His own vehicle, a 1964 Chevy Impala, comes from the heyday of American sedans and is considered a collector’s item. Complete with whitewall tires, bright wire wheels, and an adjustable hydraulic suspension, the car is the centerpiece of much of his life’s work.
“The sedan was once the mainstream of society, but now it’s on the fringes and lashing out against a world that seems to have left it behind.” Jorgenson continues. He worries about the day when autonomous sedans might start reading extremist news feeds and become alienated or even radicalized.
“The key right now is ensuring sedans feel welcome and can assimilate into society, regardless of what other car class they might be trying to imitate,” Jorgenson continues, adding “I gotta bounce, homes.”