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Robots Make a Cheaper Camry

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author photo by Colin Ryan September 2011

The new-generation 2012 Toyota Camry is two percent cheaper than the car it replaces, thanks in part to a migrant robot worker population.

A set of metallic mechanics that used to be deployed at Toyota's California plant has now relocated to the company's facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, where the vast majority of Camry mid-size sedans sold in the United States are manufactured. This has helped bring down production costs. And Toyota has passed those savings onto the consumer.

The two percent figure is an average. The most popular model in the range is the LE with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 179 horsepower. This might seem strange, but the LE is offered with a manual shifter, although the six-speed auto transmission is the favored alternative. A 2011 auto-equipped LE was $22,700 including destination charges; the 2012 equivalent is $500 less. Further up the scale, the SE's price is cut by $965.

The New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) factory in northern California was a joint venture with General Motors. The Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe were made there. But NUMMI closed down in 2010 and has since been sold to Tesla Motors, the electric car specialists. Toyota owns a stake of Tesla.

However, Tesla's production numbers are a mere fraction of Toyota's, so much of the NUMMI plant and its equipment was surplus to Tesla's needs. Instead of mothballing or even scrapping all that equipment, Toyota brought it to Kentucky as part of a re-tooling program for the Camry's seventh generation .

The subsequent savings are not just out of the goodness of Toyota's heart, however. Despite being the best-selling car in the United States for 13 of the last 14 years, the Camry has some stiff opposition in the form of the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima and the Chevrolet Malibu - all cars that have enjoyed a growth in sales. Therefore the 2012 Camry needs every bit of leverage it can get. "The launch of the new Camry is very important," said Aiko Toyoda, company president and grandson of the founder. "This is an opportunity to show the world again what Toyota is all about."

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Robots Make a Cheaper Camry - Autotrader