Will Passat take a bite out of Camry sales?

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat has been redesigned and engineered for American tastes.

OK, you have heard that before.

But that's another way of saying that the car is targeted at this country's perennial sales winner, the Toyota Camry.

For those who haven't seen the Passat at an auto show -- sales begin this fall -- the car's exterior dimensions are right on the top of the 2011 Camry. This isn't another Euro-sized sedan that has been tweaked for Americans.

Specifically, the Passat's wheelbase is 110.4 inches, 1.1 inches longer than Camry's. The Passat is 191.6 inches long, 2.4 inches longer than the Camry; and the width is 72.2 inches, 0.5 inches wider. The Passat's passenger volume is slightly bigger, 102.0 cubic feet vs. the Camry's 101.4.

You get the picture.

In terms of power, both are in the same neighborhood. The base Passat carries a 170-hp 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with 177 pounds-feet of torque. The Camry offers a 169-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 167 pounds-feet of torque.

Even the base price is similar -- for now.

The base 2012 Passat sticker with transportation is $20,765. The 2011 Camry's is $20,955. There's no word on 2012 Camry pricing.

Can the Passat take a bite out of Camry sales? Last year U.S. sales of the Camry totaled 327,804 units, slipping 8 percent from 2009. This year, Camry's January through May sales were about even with last year's for a number of reasons.

So it certainly seems like a good time for the new Passat to grab Camry sales, right?

But timing is everything, and Toyota has an ace up its sleeve.

The redesigned 2012 Camry goes on sale this fall, about the same time as the 2012 Passat. Expect the Camry's loyal flock to embrace the redesigned Toyota sedan.

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