CARMEL, Calif. - Toyota's new coupe will be marketed as the Camry Solara, so sales of that car will bolster the 1997 best-seller's total.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. sees the strategy as win-win: It will make marketing the new coupe cost-efficient, and will enhance the image of both cars.
The Solara goes on sale in mid-August. Prices will start below $20,000.
Toyota expects to sell 40,000 to 50,000 a year. The Solara will compete against the Honda Accord and Chrysler Sebring coupes.
Toyota General Manger Don Esmond said the new coupe will target empty-nesters seeking 'justifiable indulgence.'
The Solara is based on the Camry platform, and shares its powertrains and basic suspension design.
The Solara SE has a 200-hp 3.0-liter V-6 or a 135-hp four-cylinder engine with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. The upscale SLE has a V-6 with automatic transmission.
Toyota expects that 75 to 80 percent of Solaras sold the first year will have the V-6.
The Solara is longer and lower than the Camry, and shares no sheet metal.
Chief Designer Warren Crain, 35, says the Solara's hard edges and tight surfaces convey a balanced personality. 'It's a good balance of the styling and practicality,' he said at a press preview here earlier this month. 'The space efficiency is really good, and yet I don't think we compromised the sportiness or the real coupe quality. It doesn't have a sedan image, but has pretty nearly sedan interior volume.'
The Solara was topless when it debuted at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1997 as a concept vehicle. Asked if the Camry Solara would be a convertible as well as a coupe, Esmond stopped short of announcing anything, but said, 'It's a natural.'