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商业 - 汽车

重振旗鼓:丰田寄望新款凯美瑞

Doron Levin 2011年08月30日

元气大伤的日本汽车巨头将复兴的希望寄托到了一款车上,这款车既不是华丽拉风的新型运动车,也不是混合动力车,而是丰田凯美瑞——一款整洁的家庭日用轿车。

    如果说眼下有一款车对丰田公司(Toyota)重整旗鼓至关重要的话,说的可不是产于美国的外表俗艳的敞篷小货车,也不是丰田自我标榜的普锐斯(Prius)混合动力车系列的扩展车型。我们说的是丰田凯美瑞(Camry)——一款整洁的家庭日用轿车。加速器故障问题导致的飞来横祸以及今年3月的日本大地震使丰田饱受创伤。因此,这家汽车公司迫切需要美国汽车买主继续大量购买其为2012年重新设计的新款凯美瑞。

    第七代丰田凯美瑞将于10月3日正式上市。该车型继承了前辈车型的绝大部分机械和内部设计特征,但采取了崭新的外形设计。同时,丰田公司还大张旗鼓地宣传其先进的新型“信息娱乐”系统,期望借此吸引科技追星族。此外,凯美瑞全新的天然气-电力混合动力车版本也将上市,该车与前代产品相比,不仅功能更为强大,而且燃油经济性更高——在使用混合动力的情况下,平均每加仑行驶41英里。

    新款凯美瑞将沿袭过去的一系列优势。过去14年中有13年,该款车型均位居美国轿车销量榜榜首。自1983年以来,该车在全球已售出970万部。丰田首席执行官丰田童男亲自参与此款新车的推介,并在肯塔基州乔治城工厂的车间里启动了这款车的生产。

    今年晚些时候,日产汽车公司(Nissan)的Altima和通用汽车公司(General Motor)最新版的迈锐宝(Malibu)接连问世,丰田欲继续保持在美国家庭轿车市场的统治地位,可谓难上加难。尽管Altima今年的销量仍落后于凯美瑞,但却上涨了17%,而凯美瑞的销量则下降了8%。大众汽车公司(Volkswagen)则凭借特别设计的全新的帕萨特(Passat)异军突起,成为这一细分市场的有力竞争者,誓与日本最佳汽车一较高下。

    尽管如此,丰田仍然拥有几大优势。价格即是其中之一。丰田集团副总裁鲍勃•卡特于上周二在好莱坞举行的新车推介会上称,丰田汽车始终代表着家庭轿车领域的“最佳性价比”。他宣布,新车型的价格基本上均低于其前一代车型。比如说,LE车的定价为2.25万美元,比2011年该车的零售价低了200美元。“丰田车降低了价格,这点着实令我印象深刻。”专业汽车网站Edmunds.com高级分析师迈克尔•克莱博斯称:“其他汽车厂商都在纷纷提价,但丰田的举措表明‘我们希望重新成为这一细分市场的领导者,为此我们愿意割让一部分利润。’”

    丰田的另一大优势是其位于乔治城的组装工厂,即凯美瑞的生产地。鉴于过去5年中,美元价值相对于日元下滑了35%,在美国国内完成汽车组装将使丰田在价格上拥有绝对优势,这是竞争对手们难以企及的。由于日元相对坚挺,与在美国本土生产的汽车相比,由日本出口到美国的汽车价格可谓高昂。

    目前的未知因素在于,高科技信息娱乐软件在丰田汽车中的表现到底如何。2012款的凯美瑞是首款搭载该公司所谓Entune系统的车型。该系统可识别语音命令,运行智能手机上的应用程序,还能用微软(Microsoft)的必应系统(Bing)实现搜索功能。但是,如果新的Entune系统出现任何质量问题,或者市场反应不佳,丰田公司都会为此付出惨痛代价。福特汽车公司(Ford Motor)曾大肆宣传与微软(Microsoft)共同开发的同步(Sync)信息娱乐系统,不料却引发了客户对该系统的投诉,导致市场研究机构J.D. Power & Associates调低了该公司的总体质量评级。

    可以肯定的一点是,凯美瑞是丰田在美国市场最为重要的车型。这家日本汽车巨人目前正竭尽全力从一片惨淡中突围而出,卷土重来,忠实用户对新版凯美瑞的市场反应或许将成为它能否迎来转折最重要的风向标。

    译者:大海

    If there's one vehicle that matters most to Toyota's fledgling rebound, it's not a flashy, made-in-America pickup or even the expansion of its vaunted Prius hybrid line. It's the Toyota Camry, a no-muss, every-day family sedan. Badly battered by the unintended acceleration fiasco and last March's Japanese earthquake, Toyota desperately needs American car buyers to keep flocking to the Camry, newly redesigned for 2012.

    Toyota's (TM) seventh-generation Camry, which goes on sale Oct. 3, keeps most of the mechanical and architectural underpinnings of its predecessor. The exterior is new and the company is touting a sophisticated new "infotainment" system to appeal to tech-savvy consumers. A new gas-electric hybrid version, more powerful and yielding better mileage than its predecessor, will also be available. That model will average about 41 miles per gallon, combined.

    The new Camry will have a lot to live up to. The model has been the top-selling sedan in the U.S. for the 13 of the past 14 years. A whopping 9.7 million units have been sold worldwide since 1983. Akio Toyoda, Toyota's chief executive officer, himself pitched in to publicly present the new model and start production from the factory floor in Georgetown, Kentucky.

    Toyota's dominance in the U.S. family-sedan market will be harder to maintain with competition like Nissan's (NSNY) Altima and General Motor's (GM) newest version of the Chevrolet Malibu due out later this year. Altima sales, though running behind Camry's, were up more than 17% this year, while Camry's were down 8%. Volkswagen (VLKPY) is also suddenly a factor in the segment thanks to an all-new Passat specifically designed to contend with the best Japan can offer.

    Toyota has a few advantages. Price, for one. Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice president, said Tuesday at the new-model introduction in Hollywood that it has always represented "the best value" in the segment. He announced prices for the new model that were mostly lower than the models they replaced. The $22,500 LE model, for example, sells for $200 less at retail than the 2011 model. "The lower prices impressed me," says Senior Analyst for Edmunds.com Michelle Krebs. "While others are raising prices, Toyota is saying 'we want our leadership back, we're willing to give up some profit to be No. 1.'"

    Another big advantage is Toyota's Georgetown assembly plant, where the Camry is built. Given the 35% slide in the value of the dollar versus the yen over the past five years, domestic assembly will allow Toyota to play aggressive hardball on price -- something competitors will have a harder time doing. With the relative strength of Japanese currency, cars exported from Japan are costly to sell to U.S. customers compared to those built-in the U.S.

    Unknown is how Toyota's reliance on high-tech infotainment software will play out. The 2012 Camry is the first Toyota model to get the company's so-called Entune system, which can recognize voice commands, run apps from smartphones and perform searches using Microsoft's (MSFT) Bing. But any quality hiccups with the new Entune system or poor reaction from consumers could cost Toyota dearly. Ford Motor Co. (F) suffered a decline in its overall quality ratings from J.D. Power & Associates due to customer complaints with Ford's highly-touted Sync infotainment system, developed with Microsoft.

    What's certain is that the Camry is Toyota's most important car in the U.S. The reception the new model gets among the faithful will be the most telling turn yet in the Japanese giant's dramatic attempt to come back from pervasive woes.

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