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Shout ‘I want this…I HAVE to drive this!’ about a Camry? That’s Toyota’s design challenge

The words “excitement” and “Toyota” go together about as well as matter and antimatter. Boom! Antimatter slam!

Sure, the Japanese carmaker has had a few recent bright spots in the form of the Scion FR-S, Lexus RC F, and the FT-1 concept, but the Toyotas most people buy are as dull as insurance documents.

That’s something Toyota wants to change.

In an interview with Bloomberg at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show Kevin Hunter – head of Calty, Toyota’s U.S. design studio – said the company wanted a “more emotional, more impactful design” for the next Camry midsize sedan.

The Camry is the bestselling car in the United States and, for better or worse, it’s one of Toyota’s most recognized nameplates, alongside the Prius and Corolla. Over the years, the Camry has earned a reputation for reliability, but not style.

However, style is becoming important to midsize sedan buyers. With cars like the Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, and Mazda6 on the market, Toyota can’t ignore design anymore.

A reinvigorated Camry is the latest attempt to heed CEO Akio Toyoda’s call for “more exciting” models. Toyoda is reportedly pushing for a new design language based on “waku-doki,” a Japanese phrase that roughly translates to “heart-racing.” Specifically, Toyoda wants buyers to look at his company’s cars and shout, “I want this…I HAVE to drive this!”

However, designers have to be careful not to make buyers hearts race too much.

The Camry is a bestseller because it appeals to a wide variety of buyers; it has a sort of lowest-common-denominator appeal.

Toyota U.S. sales chief Kazuo Ohara told Bloomberg that there are limits to how much the company can change the Camry’s styling without alienating customers, although he said the current car is a bit too conservative.

After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Hopefully Toyota can create a new design that doesn’t put people asleep, or offend them. With rivals rolling out stylish midsize sedans, it doesn’t seem impossible for Japan’s largest carmaker to pull it off.

While they’re at it, perhaps Toyota’s engineers could give the next Camry a sporty chassis and powertrain worthy of its more extroverted styling.

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