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Honda Accord Vs Toyota Camry: Sales Volume has little to do with overall quality or value

2018 Honda Accord is “North America Car of the Year.” Nonetheless, Toyota Camry outsells Accord by a meaningful margine. Torque News takes a closer look.


After years in the Auto business, and the better part of a decade reporting on developments in what's been deemed the new Golden Age of the car, I’ve learned a thing or two about car sales and marketing; or more to the point; how effective advertising campaigns and factory dealership incentives drive car sales. In play is the sales battle between two 4-door sedan titans; Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Long the two best selling sedans in North America, one of them is ‘killing it!’

2018 Honda Accord; Did the Auto Press get it wrong?

Despite an unprecedented waterfall of written praise from the automotive press for Honda’s reinvented from the tires up 2018 Accord, the new world-platformed Toyota Camry is hammering Accord at the dealership. We’ve driven both, “brothers from different mother” comes to mind. Accord and Camry bring to what many in the business acknowledge as a slowly dying car segment, a very capable, comfortable, and pleasing to drive sedan.They’re both remarkably improved cars. Read our latest Toyota Camry drive review here.

Yet with overall car sales receding from the near gidy market highs of the past 3 years, consumers continue to migrate to Crossovers and SUVs. With Fiat Chrysler and Ford sounding the death nel of the sedan class with the pending stop on sedan production, Honda and Toyota look to preserve market share by presenting the safest and most tech-advanced, near-premium sedans in automotive history. With Ford out of the way, they may be onto something.

Accord and Camry compete in a race that few care about

Torque News experienced the press reveal of both Honda Accord and Toyota Camry last Fall. In open conference, both makers acknowledged a measurable shift in consumer sentiment when it came to the conventional midsize family sedan -- fewer people were buying them.

At that time it was estimated that 41% of all new car sales (not trucks man) landed in the sedan segment. Honda and Toyota moved to preserve their share of the market by producing the largest, most fuel efficient and comfortable Accord and Camry in the maker’s history. This Honda man loves Accord Sport..

Neither maker believed the sedan segment would grow. In rolled two reinvented midsize 5-place sedans effectively setting the benchmark in the segment; with new found fuel efficiency, lower emissions, clean-line aerodynamic good looks, and advanced active safety features; now standard on all Camry trim levels, and all but the entry trim level in the Accord lineup.

I should of had a V6

While Honda killed the V6 option for the Accord lineup, instead, embracing low displacement turbocharged 4 cylinder engines,an available 6-speed manual, and re engineered CVT and 10 speed automatic transmissions; Toyota engineering opted for a normally aspirated 4 or 6 cylinder engine for Camry, with shifting duty delegated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

In speaking with Toyota Engineering through an interpreter, it was shared with Torque News that the maker found little to no reason to turbocharge Camry. Toyota bettered Camry's MPG without turbocharging, and left the heavy lifting to a time proven race-inspired 3.5 Liter V6. Thi left Camry with one of the last remaining V6 engines available in the bread and butter family sedan segment; The-is factoid wasn’t lost on the public.

Honda Accord goes 100% turbocharged; there’s a downside to it

While Toyota Camry preserves the more conventional exhaust note and driving attributes of a normally aspirated mill, Honda opts for the slightly higher fuel efficiency and constant torque generated by the Civic derived 1.5L and 2.0L direct and port injected turbocharged low internal friction 4 cylinder gasoline engine.

By and large consumers, and more specifically, long-term Honda owners, remain skeptical as to the mechanical reliability and longevity of turbocharged engines. Furthermore, the diesel-like rattle, (negligible) harmonic idle-vibration, and exhaust note generated by Honda’s Earth Dream mill does not lend itself to what most consumers perceive as “premium.” Adopting the Accord Touring mill from Civic Type-R, puts a twist on premium. Unfortunately for some drivers, the exhaust note doesn’t sound premium.

Second only to rebates and factory incentives, it’s the first drive impression that sells a car

There’s little arguing that today’s 2018 Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are visually compelling. So, with Honda taking the lead in ease of personal electronic connectivity, fuel efficiency, and overall superior ride dynamic, why does Toyota Camry dominate in the monthly sales reports? Surprisingly for many consumers, Camry’s advantage in this sales race does not come from superior quality, favorable MSRP, or total comprehensive trim packaging. It comes down to 3 considerations.

Toyota Camry takes the lead in factory incentives and consumer perks

Frankly, neither brand is killing it on the lot when we look to the sales report for the month of April 2018. Both maker's sales are down off the highs of 2017. Again, nothing more than a side note for the consumer looking to make a deal on that new car or light truck. After spending much seat time behind the wheel of Accord and Toyota, I believe the total-package-offered assessment is too close to call in this race.

So, your decision to purchase an Accord or Camry will most likely come down to brand loyalty, and personal budget. Toyota has long subsidized dealership sales momentum with factory purchase incentives; Honda’s very conservative with incentives towards the goal of preserving high residual resale value. Toyota offers a 2-year maintenance plan, inclusive with the purchase of Camry; Honda Accord does not.

Simply put: If your a brand loyalist, you'll most likely remain with your brand

Priced within a few hundred dollars of each other. Honda Accord and Toyota Camry don’t often gain each other's long-term brand loyal customers in the Sedan sales game. Currently, Camry’s outselling Accord by 7,000 units per month -- chicken scratch in an industry where well over 16 million cars and light trucks will be sold in 2018. Yet, people like me scratch our collective heads in pondering the wisdom of pouring heavy R&D and manufacturing resources into the sedan segment. I like driving a good performance sedan from time to time. But, for the long run, I’ll take a hatchback crossover or SUV for the higher seating position and utility.

Price point: Top trim Accord and Camry approach $40K

Here’s my final observation: We get what we pay for. Although both Accord and Camry offer entry-level trim packages priced below $25,000, by the time one is done compiling the build sheet, or negotiating with their friendly dealership sales department, most buyers will land in the $30 K plus range, with a monthly payment approaching $500.

Camry's lead over Accord in sales has little to do with initial quality or purchase value

That’s a lot of dough for an Accord or Camry. The final reason why new car sales are down in North America is the massive used car and lease-return volume. This is the best time in recent years to negotiate a favorable term on a new or used car. To catch Toyota Camry in the new car sales game, Honda will need to incentivize Accord.


Jesse (not verified)    May 6, 2018 - 5:27PM

This article reminds me of the last presidential election. Like-minded people hanging out with like-minded people believing each other's like-minded hype. Then the people spoke! This isn't a political reaction, but a realization that the public has the final say in what is bought or not bought in a free and open market. No matter how we want a certain outcome, in this case, the Camry is outselling the Accord when both cars seem evenly matched. So we grapple with why this has happened.

The auto companies have to build products that meet federal/state emission, safety, and mpg standards. That is why we see turbo-charged engines and CVT transmissions. I don't think either of these is particularly superior to non-turbo or conventional transmissions, they just offer a way to better mpg. Parks, you make a valid point as to why you would take a crossover or SUV as vehicle of choice. Seating position. That is the first thing I look at in a vehicle today. In so many vehicles the seats are too low, cramped, and entrance/exit can be challenging. And while we are at it, the stop/start feature we see in many cars and trucks is there for one reason, MPG! The only thing this feature does for me is to vow to never own a vehicle with it. My 2017 Chevrolet Silverado 4-door 4wd is comfortable, especially on long trips. The seating position is fantastic front or back. And I am doing my part in keeping the oil companies in business.

Steve C# (not verified)    May 6, 2018 - 6:58PM

It would be helpful if you got your transmission info straight, this is just sloppiness. All non-hybrid 2018 Camry's have an 8 speed automatic while the 2018 Accord 1.5L a CVT and the 2.0L a 10 speed automatic. You are probably confusing the 2018 RAV4 which has a 6 speed auto and the 2018 Camry which does not. Hondas have a well earned, bad reputation for transmission problems.

Earnest (not verified)    May 24, 2018 - 5:18PM

In reply to by Parks McCants

Exactly: Honda's 10-speed is still new, so it hasn't had an opportunity to prove itself yet. The Accord's CVT is a modified version of the CVT used in previous Accords and CR-V's that required replacement and/or software updates due to belt slipping issues a couple of years ago. The 9HP Honda licensed from ZF for use in the Pilot and Odyssey isn't worthy of the effort it takes to type about. The only "time proven" transmission in recent Honda history is the 6AT. Thankfully, you can still get it in the lower Pilot trims and the Ridgeline.

Tim (not verified)    May 28, 2018 - 2:42PM

In my opinion Honda reliability is not that great any more lots of problems with their recent cars

SDiego Dream (not verified)    October 8, 2018 - 5:17AM

The simple reason why the Honda Accord is not selling well against the Toyota Camry in this current cycle is because the Honda Accord LOOKS HIDEOUS, real ugly!! Face the music. Many people think the Honda Accord is really bad looking compared directly to the previous generation of Accords. I read recently that the previous generation of Honda Accords were styled after BMW's. This is very true if you look at the 2017 Accord Sport rear view versus the BMW 5 series or 7 series. However, the dolts at Honda, decided to trash a great model, and now go with the Accord being modeled after Audi, like an Audi A7. You are really gambling with your customer's expectation, if you switch what you are modeling your car after. But, Honda/Acura has much experience with badly styled vehicles. Just look at the ill-styled Acura TL from 2009 vs the 2008. The badly styled 2009 sank TL sales. The same could happen with Accord sales. Honda has been here before.

dinklebrow masters (not verified)    November 23, 2018 - 2:59AM

You overlooked the most glaring difference in sales between Accord and Camry. Toyota aggressively sells multitudes of cars to rental car companies while Honda does not. That is the number one reason that sales are higher for the Camry. I am surprised you missed that.

Ventura Oxnard… (not verified)    March 16, 2019 - 2:27AM

I agree with SDiego, the Honda Accord looks really bad in comparison to the restyled Toyota Camry. Especially the Sport or SE model. The Toyota Camry Sport looks totally bad-ass, especially from the back or 3/4 view on the back. The Accord looks like a Dodge Charger. Or, as mentioned, the Accord looks like a really bad copy of an Audi A7. On top of all this, the Camry is more discounted at the dealer than the Accord. The Leasing deals on the Camry are better than the Accord. The Toyota transmission is much better in both dynamic performance, build quality, and design compared to the Accord. (Look it up, Honda transmissions, especially in the Odyssey mini-van are imploding and do not last.) AND FINALLY: Who wants a small, Turbo 4 cylinder, compared to a normally aspirated V6 that will last twice as long as that blown 4-banger. So to sum it all up, why are the Camry's selling better than the Accords: (1) Pretty vs. Ugly (2) Better Discounting at the Dealer (3) Better Lease Deals at the Dealer (4) Transmission design & reliability (5) V6 vs. Turbo-4
And that is all she wrote!

D (not verified)    September 9, 2019 - 7:18PM

You gave it away that you're a Honda fan because it's very obvious that the Camry has the looks advantage over almost all but few cars

Even Tesla made the mistake of including a picture of a Camry in an ad and then couldn't wait to get rid of it

Mike (not verified)    November 3, 2019 - 10:36PM

The real reason three words, Camry fleet sales that's the only reason Camry sells more but accord has more private sales

Master Mechanic (not verified)    April 13, 2020 - 6:51AM

Stop crying that Toyota sells more because of fleet sales! I'm sure Honda would love to have more fleet sales, but because of professional experience, Honda's don't provide as much value as Toyota. Big business like car rentals or Taxi cabs are not stupid, they buy Toyota because they are more reliable and have a lower overall operating cost. They don't care if Honda's are faster or corner better because that doesn't mater. Honda only sells to guys with big ego's that are trying to compensate. If you want real facts, check out Car Complaints and you'll be shocked to see Honda has 10x more complaints than Toyota. Those complaints are all registered so there's no biased scamming going on. PS. Accord does not have more private sales, unless you are talking about the used car business where everyone is trying to dump their Accord's.

Parks McCants    April 13, 2020 - 5:25PM

In reply to by Master Mechanic (not verified)

Could be! I'll assume that you've wrenched on late model Accords and Toyota's. Or, that you work at a Toyota dealership. I find value in both offerings. My personal design taste runs to the Accord. And, I appreciate the mid-range torque afforded by the 1.5 and 2.0 4 cylinder turbocharged Honda, although historically, I'm a V6 fan. The truth is, both cars are appliance cookie cutters. Both offer safe transportation, clean body lines, and near premium car features. For most buyers it comes to down to MSRP, factory purchase incentives, monthly payment, and then, brand loyalty. Take car. P.

Robby (not verified)    February 22, 2023 - 5:39AM

Magazine reviewers love Accords as they don't have to maintain them year after year.
They also love exotic BMW's and other fancy and problematic makes for the same reason. They test them for a few joyrides and then move on to the next ride and don't have a clue about the transmission problems and other frustrations that lie a year or five ahead. The everyday consumer is a lot smarter than marketing departments give them credit for - that's also the reasons fleets go for the Camry, dependability and resale value.