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Toyota Motor Sales USA's all-new Camry Solara bowed in network TV advertising Sept. 6. But the big push for the new two-door coupe -- a style missing from the Camry's lineup since the '96 model year -- goes into high gear a couple of weeks later along with the rest of the marketer's fall efforts.

"We launch our cars with a lot of horsepower," said Mike Bevan, national advertising manager, but there are not enough cars at dealerships, "so we wanted to save a lot of the big guns until the third week of September, with the new fall [TV] shows."

He declined to reveal the ad budget for Solara, but said it would be comparable to other Toyota launches. Estimates are the marketer will spend $35 million for the introduction.

The car is aimed primarily at active empty nesters with a median age of 40 to 45, as well as younger professionals. Solara's positioning, the executive said, is "now is the time to reward and indulge yourself."

As one spot says, "There are times when life is full of responsibilities. There are vehicles for those times. This is not one of those vehicles."

Toyota earlier said about 1.5 million empty-nest boomers enter the market every year and 30% of them say they'd like to buy a sports car.


Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, created three 30-second commercials. Although they carry the Toyota brand's "Everyday" tag, the spots close with "an entirely different kind of Camry."

The second and third spots will break Sept. 17. Print ads begin in Sept. 14 weeklies and in October monthlies; outdoor will be used in six markets.

TV support for other Toyota models will start up after Sept. 17.

Toyota has been beating the drums for Solara since January, when the car was unveiled at the Detroit auto show. At auto shows, the marketer collected more than 7,500 names of people interested in the car. Those potential customers will be mailed a 6-minute video.


Toyota expects to sell 50,000 Solaras annually, which could help Camry in its battle with American Honda Motor Co.'s Accord for best-selling U.S. car.

Camry won the crown last calender year. But Accord is in the lead now, selling 266,280 units through August vs. 176,577 for Camry, according to sales figures released last week by both car marketers.

"Camry has a strong name so Solara can appeal to those people who want reliability and quality but want something more stylish," said consultant John Rettie, president of

Currently, however, "The mass market for two-door sports coupes has gone away," he said, citing slumping sales for General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. He said sport-utility vehicles have replaced sporty coupes not because of their utility but because of their image.

Mr. Rettie said Toyota may be leading a new wave, as boomers who may have driven Celicas 15 or 20 years ago want a smaller vehicle now that their families are grown.

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