By on August 13, 2007

1m_honda_al.jpgWhat's killing the minivan? The Detroit News thinks it's sliding doors. Citing the sliding rear doors as the primary feature that distinguishes minivans from crossovers, they point out minivan sales are down 22 percent so far this year, while crossover sales are on the rise. Automotive marketer Wes Brown sees the sliding door as epitomizing the "less-exciting realities of minivan ownership" for the poor schlubs who are "stuck in a rut of having a family." Interesting thing, though– the first generation Mazda MPV and Honda Odyssey had regular rear doors instead of sliders. They were less than stellar sellers. The second generation of both models had proper sliding doors, just as God intended. Who knows? If they'd stuck with the regular doors and changed their marketing strategy, they might have been credited with starting the crossover craze. Either that or disappeared.

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30 Comments on “Are Sliding Doors the Kiss of Death?...”


  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    We just purchased an Odyssey for my wife, and the sliding doors were an important consideration. It is much, much easier to get the baby in the car seat, especially when some idiot parks over the line and leaves little space to maneuver. Plus, my four year old thinks the doors are cool…

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    i recently had my first minivan experience. i now want *all* car doors to be sliding.

    it’s 2007 and i’m still swinging a door open? sliders all around, please.

  • avatar
    AKM

    If practical sold, There would be more hatches and wagons in this country. Peugeot 1007 is a coupe with 2 sliding doors. Ultimate in practicality. It’s a slow seller because or poor price positioning, but most people admire its practicality.

    The U.S. car market tends to be more heavily influence by social and psychological factors (i.e. “I gotta keep up with the Joneses” and “Man, I’m going limp and balding, I need a coupe”) than Europe or Japan.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Odyssey sales are flat compared to last year, Sienna is down 11% YTD. Just because the Detroit 2.801 van sales have tailed off significantly due to lost fleet sales and axed product doesn’t mean minivans are dead – just to GM and Ford.

  • avatar
    craigefa

    I think all doors are uncool. I enter and exit my vehicle through the window, Duke boy style. Unfortunately, the Enclave isn’t a good minivan alternative for me because it sits too high off the ground to effectively use the window. Sorry, GM, you missed the mark again. Build something more like the 1980 Caprice Classic wagon my parents used to have and you’ve got my money.

  • avatar

    I keep asking friends and family why the irrational SUV craze *STILL* hasn’t ended yet (no, CUVs aren’t a departure but an evolution). They’ve been in fashion for much longer than I would have predicted.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    I love the sliding doors. Not only for family transport, but when you are driving out of town to a college football game, you can urinate right out the door without stopping (just make sure a buddy is holding you in, since I’m sure drinking was involved).

    What is not to love about the sliding door? If you wife doesn’t like it, try growing a pair and telling her the way it is going to be.

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    NICK NICK totally stole my thunder. All doors must slide. How cool would it be for me to open all them doors from the keyfob. Front doors sliding forward into the fenders, how hard could that be…no more banging the doors into neighbors.

    Of course, for minivans to be cool, they should have gull wing doors.

    BTW, I can’t get the wife to consider swapping the POS T&C for a Mazda5, even though she loves the Mazda 3. “Honey, it’s the same platform…” Spacevans are too cool for the U.S.

    Taxman, that’s the “door gunner” position. Also, there’s a “tail gunner”. Ah, memories.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I haven’t seen any data one way or the other, but I’m going to guess that the sliding doors aren’t the problem. I suspect that sales are declining because minivans get inferior fuel economy — minivans are large vehicles — and tend to be less reliable than other vehicles.

    Even the Siennas and Odysseys are far from bulletproof, if Consumer Reports is to be believed. So if they suck more gas and break more often, what exactly would be the point?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    How did being a great family man or woman become a bad thing? Oh, so much better to be a drug-addicted party-hopping celebrity complete with ‘net home porn movies. Many of the 20-somethings are obsessed with such creatures and at the same time are horrified at the thought of being a mother or father. Yikes.

    The weird cultural crap that all but killed the decent mid-sized station wagon is also taking aim at the minivan. I guess that people want to be like the Japanese with all adults and hardly any children being born or nurtured.

    Selfishness run amok.

  • avatar
    nonce

    I kind of like the fact that minivans aren’t sexy. It means I’ll be able to buy one with minimal markup.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    door gunner position? that’s hilarious!
    things like that are so much funnier with the names attached.
    anyone remember driving “submarine captain?”
    probably not. if you did it, you’re likely dead

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Starlightmica,
    Good point. Minivan sales are down because there hasn’t been any new product from the major players. Ford and GM ran off, and all the Mopar fans are waiting for the ’08 Caravan/T&C.

    The Ody and Sienna are great, but they last forever, so buyers need a real reason trade in. Maybe those ‘swivel and go’ seats and Nickelodeon will work for Chrysler.

    PCH101: I think you should check your facts. Minivans get better mileage than SUVs and even CUVs, especially when you consider the extra room and utility.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Pch101:
    Even the Siennas and Odysseys are far from bulletproof, if CR is to be believed. So if they suck more gas and break more often, what exactly would be the point?

    Per CR, Siennas and Odysseys look really bad when compared to a Prius (ahem, next article?). Compared to a mid-sized CUV: bigger, cheaper, as good or better reliability than many, and better mileage – Sienna AWD clocked 2mpg overall better than an Outlook.

    So what broke on our Sienna? the CD player. Didn’t have to listen to Sesame Street songs for a couple of weeks.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I think you should check your facts. Minivans get better mileage than SUVs and even CUVs

    No, the small CUV’s get better fuel economy:

    Honda Odyssey: 16/23
    Toyota Sienna: 17/24

    Honda CRV: 20/27
    Toyota RAV4: 21/27

    Minivans, like the traditional SUV’s, are heavy and large vehicles. Both segments are in a slide downward. A Toyota Sienna has a 3.5 liter 266 hp engine and weighs 4,200 lbs., so sure, it’s going to be a gas guzzler compared to a 166 hp 3,300 lbs. RAV 4.

    People learn how to make do with less when they must. That makes CUV’s attractive to some of this segment, even if the vehicles are smaller and have less power. That group will give up the sliding doors if that means saving some money at the pump.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    To add to the above, looking at Honda’s and Toyota’s 2007 year-to-date sales figures as of July in comparison to the same period of 2006 is pretty telling. In round numbers:

    -Sienna sales down 9,700
    -RAV4 sales up 11,900
    -Highlander flat (up 200 — the tiny sales gain might be hybrids?)

    -Odyssey sales down 12,300
    -Pilot sales down 10,500
    -CR-V sales up 36,700

    It’s a bit early to generalize, perhaps, but it seems fair to say that perhaps 10-15% of the medium-to-large SUV and minivan markets have been willing to downsize to something more fuel-efficient. Sure, it comes at the expense of power and space, but these are things that some manage to do without when they really have to pay for them. (The Europeans aren’t driving all of those smaller cars because they are shorter than Americans…)

  • avatar
    windswords

    # Pch101:
    August 13th, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    I think you should check your facts. Minivans get better mileage than SUVs and even CUVs

    No, the small CUV’s get better fuel economy:

    Honda Odyssey: 16/23
    Toyota Sienna: 17/24

    Honda CRV: 20/27
    Toyota RAV4: 21/27
    ——————–

    What you state is true, but it’s not a fare comparison because minivans, even the short wheel base ones (does anyone make those anymore?) are in a different size category. Compared to larger SUV’s and CUV’s Minivans do get better gas mileage, and have better handling, and have more room, and have no kids swinging a door into another parked car at the mall. :)

  • avatar
    Pch101

    What you state is true, but it’s not a fair comparison because minivans, even the short wheel base ones (does anyone make those anymore?) are in a different size category.

    It’s a fair comparison in the sense that some buyers are willing to trade a larger minivan for a smaller CUV. This is not a technological point, but one of marketing. Smaller CUV’s can serve as an acceptable substitute for a large number of would-be minivan buyers.

    The CUV’s don’t offer the same heft or space, but they do offer a more fuel-efficient boxy package to those buyers who want them. The efficiency comes at a price, but as the sales figures above illustrate, some buyers have so far been quite willing to make those trade offs.

    Let’s face it, Americans tend to buy more vehicle than they need. They can make do with less, and if fuel prices continue northward, more of them will find a way to cut the fat. That means fewer sliding doors in our future, but in my opinion, that’s a symptom of the real trend — the trend toward downsizing — not the cause of the market decline.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Whoa!!!!

    No, the small CUV’s get better fuel economy:

    Honda Odyssey: 16/23
    Toyota Sienna: 17/24

    Honda CRV: 20/27
    Toyota RAV4: 21/27

    First off the CRV & RAV4 are compact SUV’s, They compete directly with the Ford Escape and Jeep Liberty.

    2nd… minivans generaly get slightly better mileage but that has zip to do with their dropoff in sales.

    It’s all about product. The Sienna, Odyssey and Chrysler’s minivans are all long in the tooth while the GM minivans and the Freestar/Monterey/Mazda 5 have been absolute duds.

    Not even the Hyundai/Kia models have been well received. I would say that since stow n’ go was offered by Chrysler back in 2005, there really hasn’t been anything of worthy note that’s happened in the minivan market.

    That will change dramatically within the next 18 months.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    Minivans are stuck in an evolutionary vortex; current owners are generally too conservative to want big changes and there’s not enough big changes to entice in new buyers. CUV’s are taking off because they’re a stylistic departure from the boxy SUV’s which now seem so 1990′s and are too often associated with destroying the environment.

    Someone needs to take a chance, in a non Pontiac Aztek sort of way, and design a minivan that looks like a 21st century vehicle.

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    I’m not sure the styling is 21st century radical enough, but how about the 2nd gen Toyota Estima Hybrid? Powertrain similar to the Camry Hybrid, but with electric AWD.

    http://www.toyota.co.jp/en/news/06/0612_2.html

  • avatar
    MR42HH

    aitting@home: Minivan that looks like a 21st century vehicle… umm:
    Ford S-Max?
    Renault Espace?

    (both with conventional doors though)

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I don’t think minivan buyers are looking to take chances. Remember the mid-engined Previa? The dustbuster Pontiac? The artsy Nissan? All poor sellers.

    PCH101: If your point is that a lot of people could get smaller vehicles, fine. But when minivan buyers cross-shop, they look at the Outlook/Acadia, the Yukon/Suburban, the Expedition.

    If they could fit in a CR-V, they can fit in an Accord, and get 30 MPG. Or a Civic and get 35.

  • avatar

    Hmmm minivans are a dying segment so GM and Ford are leaving that market to their competitors. Now that sounds like a winning strategy. There won’t be any long term consequences for chasing the easy money and not competing for the customer when the easy money is gone.

  • avatar
    gfen

    The problem with minivans aren’t the sliding doors, its the fact that they’re minivans.

    My wife and I found out we were having twins recently, and the first thing we absolutely decided against was buying a minivan. The second thing was a full size SUV.

    We looked at the Mazda 5, and it felt dangerously slow when I merged on the highway, and well.. looked like a minivan.

    Although, other than its shape, it was an awesome car. I wish I could get sliding doors on a more appealing exterior design.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Folks, look at the sales data. Minivan sales are declining, large SUV sales are declining and CUV sales are increasing.

    Something happened since the minivan boom began — the price of gas doubled. Minivans use a lot of gas. Ditto with gargantuan SUV’s, which is why their sales are falling like rocks.

    As it turns out, you can actually fit your kids and their junk in a smaller car, if you really want to. Some Americans are figuring that out, and you can see that in the sales numbers. If fuel prices stay this high or increase further, I believe that you will see more families get into downsizing mode.

    Assuming that vehicle sizes must remain the same is exactly the mindset that made the Big 3 devolve into today’s Not Quite So Big Two Point Whatever. They assumed falsely that Americans will always demand large, heavy vehicles. The reality is that while some will insist on buying such things, other consumers are more flexible and do adapt to changing market conditions.

  • avatar
    Rick Korallus

    Caution: if the pilot is going too fast, the door gunner will “shoot” the tail gunner. I witnessed this not once but twice in college! Luckily I didn’t get hit and it wasn’t in my vehicle.

    Robert and Frank: where is the article about the new Mercedes gas engine? Surely 40% better gas mileage over a diesel is newsworthy!!!

  • avatar
    confused1096

    Maybe part of the problem is minivan owners? We run ours into the ground before getting rid of them. Most people I know do the same thing. Our last minivan (Ford Aerostar) was traded in with over 215,000 miles (still ran great). We’ll keep the Windstar that replaced it a similar amount of time. If the vehicles are not turned over as fast would this affect the sales numbers?

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Maybe part of the problem is minivan owners?

    I think that the sales numbers tell you that demand is shifting somewhat away from larger vehicles with low fuel economy (large SUV’s, large pickup trucks and minivans) toward somewhat smaller, more efficient alternatives.

    The fact that their numbers are declining while sales of other types of vehicles are increasing is a likely indicator of a shift in consumer tastes. The fact that the sales growth tends to be in more efficient vehicles is another indicator that fuel economy is a greater motivator than it used to be. People don’t necessarily demand 50 mpg econoboxes, but the biggest fuel burners are increasingly being rejected in favor of more moderate vehicles.

  • avatar
    Johnster

    The problem is the sliding doors. Definitely. When your vehicle has sliding doors you’re not able to leave door dings in the cars you park beside and if you have an SUV that’s jacked up off the ground, you can ding the roof pillars and windows of the cars you park beside.


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