Toyota Going More Flexible

Next week at the Chicago Auto Show, Toyota is going to roll out two new versions of the Camry and the Corolla, which we might have otherwise not mentioned were it not for the fact that they point out something that seems to be a profound shift at the corporation.

Next week at the Chicago Auto Show, Toyota is going to roll out two new versions of the Camry and the Corolla, which we might have otherwise not mentioned were it not for the fact that they point out something that seems to be a profound shift at the corporation.

First, there is the Camry Special Edition.

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Realize that Toyota substantially reengineered the Camry last year, changing all of the exterior sheet metal, for example, with the exception of the roof.

Realize that last year, with sales of 428,606 units (compared with 408.484 in 2013), Camry was the #1-selling vehicle in the U.S.—for the 13th year running.

Although some people deride the Camry for being a “soul-less appliance,” presumably other manufacturers of midsize cars only wish that they could have a car nearly as appealing as the Camry.

The Special Edition will have special 18-inch alloy wheels, a moon roof, smoked tail lamps, special seat material and stitching, wireless charging, and other features.

Then there is the Corolla Special Edition.

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Again, the Corolla is a fairly fresh car, having been introduced in 2014.

And while it didn’t do Camry numbers last year, with 339,498 units, it did more than respectably well. To put that in context: Civic, 325,981; Cruze, 273,060; Focus, 219,634.

This Special Edition will have modifications similar to the Camry.

Here’s the point:

Toyota is going to be building the Camry Special Edition from August 2015 to January 2016. Period. The company calculates there will be just some 12,000 units built.

Toyota will be building the Corolla Special Edition between August and December 2015. The company will build 8,000 units.

Toyota is nothing if not a mass-manufacturer. It builds lots of cars.

But one thing that tends to be forgotten is that Toyota is the master of flexible manufacturing. It has the ability to shift production in a way that would leave many other manufacturers with their proverbial heads spinning.

Perhaps it hasn’t exhibited that aspect of its skill set much of late (at least in the context of coming out with new models: let’s not forget that when there was the alleged problems leading to massive recalls a few years back, it responded with production post-haste).

The designs at Toyota are becoming more expressive.

Now we may be seeing the company putting its manufacturing flexibility to work as well.

This is the profound shift we’re talking about.