It’s fair to say that a very likely unhealthy portion of my life revolves around cars, and a truly alarming percentage of my thoughts are automotive-related. These are my jackstands to bear. That’s why I always love finding a whole new automotive concept I somehow have missed. This time it’s the excitingly dull phenomenon known as the Camry Dent.
The Camry Dent, also sometimes known as the Camry Corner, is pretty much what it sounds like: a prominent dent on the corner of a Toyota Camry’s bumper. The Camrys affected seem to be the ‘wide-body’ Camrys, starting with the XV10 Camry from 1991. Every Camry generation from the 1990s on to the present (XV20, XV30, XV40, XV50) seems to be at risk for the Camry Dent.
The dent itself is usually limited to the polyurethane bumper covers used on all affected generations of Camry. Most commonly, the dent does not appear to affect any structural part of the car, though there are certainly many exceptions. The dent must be on a corner – or both corners – to be considered a true Camry Dent.
The phenomenon seems to have first been officially recognized as early as 2011, as noted in this VWVortex post, one of the earliest references to the use of the term “Camry Dent” I could find. Based on the content of the thread, the surprising ubiquity of these dents seems to have been well-known, but I’m not sure it had ever been specifically codified until this point.
From there, a number of Facebook groups and Twitter feeds dedicated to the Camry Dent started to show up, and are still going strong today. Once you actually are aware that this is a phenomenon, it’s remarkable how much you start to notice it. In fact, when I first became woke to the concept of the Camry Dent that very evening I was out driving and saw this:
A perfect, textbook Camry Dent. My wife was absolutely baffled by why I was so excited and demanded she snap a picture of the car with my phone – usually my embarrassing car-triggered histrionics are caused by passing Citroën 2CVs or vintage Beetles or something. Never a fucking Camry!
But this wasn’t just a Camry – this was experiential proof that Camry Dents were, indeed A Thing. The question now is why?
It’s not like the general rear-corner design of the Camry is that radically different from a Passat or Maxima or Fusion or Optima or Accord any number of other similar mid-size sedans. That’s sort of the defining trait of the Camry – it has almost no defining traits.
It’s not like the bumper caps stick out all that much more than many other cars, and, of course, other cars are susceptible to similar kinds of bumper damage. So why does the Camry seem to be so disproportionately afflicted by bumper corner cave-ins?
A popular theory is that Camry drivers, based on their selection of one of the most anonymous, forgettable cars available on the market, must not give that substantial a shit about their cars, and are perhaps less skilled drivers.
There may be something to the idea that people who just aren’t that interested in cars wouldn’t bother to fix a cosmetic dent. Still, I’ve known plenty people with painfully boring cars who still love their boring-ass cars, and that’s great. They’d likely fix dents. And even if you don’t care about cars, I don’t think that necessarily makes you a careless driver, as such.
Technically, I’m not sure if there’s anything inherent in these multiple generations of Camry design to make their bumper corners more susceptible to these comically deep dents. They’re a quite conventional design, with a rigid steel beam forming the base structure, a middle layer of energy-absorbing dense styrofoam, and an outer polyurethane outer bumper skin. Almost all modern cars use a similar design.
Are the corners less supported on a Camry? Are they, for some reason, harder to see, or do they jut out in an unusual or deceptive way? It doesn’t seem so, but to be sure, I reached out to Toyota. Amazingly, they sent me a response:
The best explanation I can offer is that Camry has been the best-selling sedan in the US going on 15 years running and therefore by virtue of its popularity, you’re more likely to spot a Camry with damage.
I’d also like to add that the email had this header:
ll PROTECTED 関係者外秘
Now, Toyota’s response may seem like the usual PR dodge, but there’s a valid point in there: there are a metric crapton of Camrys out in the world, and this is a pretty common type of body damage that can happen to a car.
I spoke to Pamela An, the Admin of the Toyota Camry Dent Club Facebook group, and asked why they felt these were so common on Camrys?
I finally asked someone who caused their dent and asked how they got it and it was from reversing and hitting another car. I think it has to be a combination of the bumper material and maybe even the driver’s view. I mean how can so many of the dents be on the drivers side? Before then I used to joke that it was just an initiation process of owning a Camry.
The Admin also mentioned
An interesting observation over the years has been there’s a higher number of gold Camry dents.
... which seems to be referencing a remarkable bit of research about the Camry Dent, where 158 Camry Dent pictures were analyzed and some key facts tabulated, including generation of Camry, size/type of dent, and color. It actually looks like silver is the most common color.
I’m still not really sure there is a solid explanation for this grippingly mundane mystery. There’s a lot of possible factors, very little hard data to support any of the common theories: apathetic owners, shitty drivers, significant visibility blind spots, vulnerable bumper skins, etc.
One thing I do know is that Toyota is either blissfully ignorant about the Camry bumper corner dent phenomenon or they’re masterful trolls. How else would you explain their new tagline for the 2017 Toyota Camry?
They’ve got to be trolling us, right?