By on September 21, 2012

As the threat of a strike at Chrysler’s Windsor plant looms, it’s worth examining just how much of an iron grip the Pentastar minivans have on the market.

Tim Cain, TTAC’s favorite third-party sales guru, has the latest numbers for American minivan sales, and the Dodge Grand Caravan is firmly in the lead this year, with 94,639 units sold. While the Honda Odyssey is firmly in second place (86,459), holding a nearly 10,000 unit lead over the fourth place Chrysler Town & Country, the combined sales figures for the two Chrysler vans have them outselling the Odyssey by an almost 2:1 margin. No wonder Sergio Marchionne is so eager to consolidate Chrysler’s minivan offerings under a single umbrella.

According to Cain, 45 percent of minivans sold in America this year have been one of the two Chrysler vans. In Canada, that number is even higher; last year saw the Grand Caravan alone account for 56.5 percent of the minivan market. In 2012, the Grand Caravan is ranked 4th in YTD sales up North. Only the Ford F-Series, Dodge Ram and Honda Civic are outselling it.

Cain cites the Canada Value Package and the American Value Package, which sells for $19,995 in both countries, as a key factor in helping drive sales of the Caravan. The Grand Caravan is an even more attractive proposition in Canada, where higher fuel prices make larger SUVs a less attractive proposition. The Grand Caravan still has plenty of room for kids and their hockey bags (hold your laughter, please, this is a serious issue for a lot of consumers in Canada) without offering the fuel economy penalties that come with a large SUV or crossover.  While the CVP is undoubtedly a loss leader for Chrysler, it helps get customers into the showroom, and as Cain notes

“Family van buyers don’t want to pay $10K more for a similarly equipped Sienna or Odyssey, even if they like it more.”

Now put that in the context of a CAW strike; if the Bramalea plant building the LX cars went down, life would go on. But if Windsor stopped cranking out GCs and T&Cs, there might be a problem. As of September 1st, there was a 27 day supply of Grand Caravans and a 49 day supply of Town & Countrys. They’re not exactly stacking them high and selling them cheap like General Motors is forced to do with their full-size pickups.



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36 Comments on “With A Strike Looming, Chrysler Vans Enjoy Market Stranglehold...”

  • avatar

    The real question is who is making the most money from minivan sales?

    Have we learned nothing here at TTAC from the GM bankruptcy? Market share does not translate into profit.

    • 0 avatar
      Sgt Beavis

      Good point, I kinda doubt they have the kind of margins the Ram pickup has.

    • 0 avatar

      You are right however even though you might sell your minivan at 2000 more than me. I make it back at more if I sell twice as much as you do. If they get rid of the Chrysler version they are seriously going to have to bring up the transaction price of the Dodge (aint going to happen).

      • 0 avatar

        If I make $2,500 on each minivan I sell and you make $500 on each of yours, selling twice as many isn’t making up the difference. Considering that the actual figure mentioned was a $10,000 delta between a Chrysler van and a Honda or Toyota one, I’d say there’s a good chance that making money isn’t even the point. They’re probably just keeping the factories running.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah. That’s the same reason for both Chevy and GMC pickups.

  • avatar

    “No wonder Sergio Marchionne is so eager to consolidate Chrysler’s minivan offerings under a single umbrella.”

    I need for some one to explain something to me. Can Sergio really believe that by getting rid of the Chrysler version that those same folks are going to buy the Dodge. I think or believe that he will lose about 40-70 percent of the customers and not get them back. Some folks still buy badge. These lost souls will just wander on over the the local Honda dealer and ask for a minivan and get a breadbox. Some folks just like the more chromed out look of the Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar

      If you compare the 2, you really won’t find much of a difference. You can get all the same options in the Grand Caravan as the T&C for a tad less sticker. The difference really is just the grille, which the Grand Caravan has chromed as well.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s brand loyalty and there’s dealer/salesperson loyalty. That’s why you see people driving these with VW emblems on them.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    I really question how successful Chrysler will be in combining TC and Caravan models. I suspect TC owners may be inclined to look elsewhere just like GMC pickup owners are not generally inclined to buy Chevy Silverados. Dodge is successful at the lower price segment of the market but they will likely be facing some new competition when the new Kia minivan finally arrives. The old KIA was crap but looking at their current models makes me think the next Sedona will be a hit if it remains priced right.

    The next Caravan had better be a home run..

  • avatar

    I think Chrysler could increase their sales even more if they had kept the short wheelbase option.

    That’s all most people need, and by my (cheap) way of thinking, the most practical.

    At least that’s the option I would want. The standard long-wheelbase-only platform took it off my favorite list of vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      My understanding was that the Journey was built to give Dodge a soft roader AND replace the SWB Caravan, which to my eyes didn’t sell as well as the LWB vans.

      Problem is, that the Journey isn’t a minivan. One reason, out of many, that we bought our Mazda 5 is the sliding doors. Journey doesn’t have those. It also doesn’t really have the all-out cargo capacity of a minivan either.

      (A quick check of Edmunds reveals that the Journey has more cargo room with all the seats up than the T&C by the numbers)

    • 0 avatar

      Here on the internet, SWB seems like a good choice.

      Out in the real world, it is LWB or die.

  • avatar

    The Chrysler/Dodge minivans are fleet queens. If you look at Automotive News data (which I don’t have at my fingertips, but you do), then I would assume that their figures would confirm that. In the past, Chrysler fleet sales (including Dodge) were something close to 50%, with most of those going to rental.

    In contrast, Honda has almost no fleet sales at all (and whatever fleet sales that they do have don’t mean much, since Honda doesn’t have a fleet program.)

  • avatar
    el scotto

    The American Value Package van sells for 20k. A Toyota or Honda is 10k more. I think a lot of people look at the 50% premium and say it’s a minivan, this will do just fine. If you wanted to spend 30k, 10k will get you a sheebeload of options.

  • avatar

    My only real concern about these is reliability, not that my 2009 Accord with under 60k hasn’t had its share of transmission and door lock gremlins.

    • 0 avatar

      We have an Odessey right now, but I’m thinking of a Chrysler when replacement time comes around. 10 grand buys me a few transmissions (and even honda isn’t a saint in that department) and I have no problem tinkering with the rest of the vehicle.

      Stow-and-Go seating is just icing on the cake.

      • 0 avatar

        The latest generation stow n go is probably the most impressive feature of the new vans (next to the 3.6 Pentastar). With hardly any effort, the middle seats mousetrap into the floor while the rear ones are fairly east to fold flat as well. The most impressive part is they don’t suck to sit on anymore!

  • avatar

    Did I miss the part where they said the survivor will be a Dodge? Isn’t it more likely that this is just another step towards eliminating Dodge, as with the movement of the Viper to SRT and the trucks to Ram?

    • 0 avatar
      Off a Cliff

      A while back Sergio went on record about plans for the future. Consolidate the minivans, and keep the T&C on maybe as a nameplate with a different body, ala pacifica or similar grandchild delivery vehicle

  • avatar

    I’m not surprised they are popular.

    I had chance to drive the Odyssey a few times before and found it very good. Then, a couple weeks ago I needed to rent a minivan and got a new Grand Caravan for a longer road trip for 7 people. I didn’t have high expectations but in the end I had nothing but good things to say about it. It’s just a great car.

    I also have to agree with others who say that it doesn’t make sense to merge the GC and the T&C. These two cars cover different customer types. Plus loyal Chrysler customers might only be loyal to the brand and not the company.

  • avatar

    Honda and Toyota are out of their minds with most of their vans stickering for close to $40k or more. Most families CAN’T afford those prices, much less want to pay them. Those who can afford them usually have the brains to realize their money is better spent elsewhere. The Canada Value Package is a brilliant way to draw people into showrooms, many of whom will be upsold to higher trim levels with more equipment. GM and Ford could probably succeed here if they actually put some effort into designing a good product and awful styling that always plagued GM vans.

    A also echo the opinion that eliminating one of these hotsellers is a brainless move. Even so, it would make far more sense to keep the GCV and give Chrysler an upmarket, 3-row crossover to compete against the Enclave and move the brand upmarket.

  • avatar

    I’m not a fan of the “blinginess” of the T&C, but it does have more features available over the Dodge and is a bit quieter down the road. I do like the Caravan in R/T trim, though it is obvious that R/T means nothing on a minivan. Maybe Rod and Todd, but not Road and Track.

    As a family man with a realistic budget to deal with, I don’t know if I can say that the Odyssey is that much better than the Mopar van. Edmunds 5 year TCO is within $1000 on the Chrysler and Honda vans, the Dodge is nearly $4000 higher. I don’t know what Mr. Karesh has on the subject.

    As an import lover, I want to go with the Honda, but the new Chryslers are winning me over a little at a time. Plus, you can find a used Mopar van that might only be a year old with low miles for the same price as a 2-4 y/o Oddy with 35-55k on it.

    I have driven my fair share of Chrysler vans as rentals or for work in the pre-Fiat days. Build quality was spotty, the interior low rent and the powertrains were unrefined. But one example used for a car service had over 230k on it, driven by a multitude of uncaring people and “just keep it running” maintenance. It was tired, but it still worked. And that was the old van.

    I have two years to see if the Chryslers are truly in the running.

  • avatar

    While the Value Package ‘may’ be a loss leader,( I’d like to see some proof of that, since their build costs would also be substantially lower due to volume), most of the minivans I see up here in the great white north are upgraded packages. Believe me when I say I see a LOT of minivans, and have had several myself.

    While certain imports sell well here, Chrysler is a very popular manufacturer in Canada. I believe it consistently outsells GM and often rivals Ford in sales. (Ford is usually tops because of the F-150)

    Actually, I think it’s a good move to consolidate the two brands under Dodge, who can then offer models from mild to wild, which they cannot do with Chrysler brand in the game.

    Chrysler is moving upmarket with its attachment to Lancia, and will offer it’s own MPV in the near future.

    Dodge will remain a low to mid – market brand, and will not be disappearing anytime in the foreseeable future. I don’t know where people get these ideas from!

  • avatar

    If you include the Routan sales in the US and Canada, that adds another 7860 units YTD. A relatively small number for one model, but it does bolster the importance of the Windsor plant to Chrysler’s operations. As well as boosting Chrysler’s minivan market share if one were to include the ‘German’ re-badge.

  • avatar

    It’s hard to argue with the value delivered by the Chrysler vans. I suspect people cross-shop these against not only Honda/Toyota vans, but against a variety of sedans and small SUVs as well. Prospective buyers might be thinking, “Why buy a compact car when for the same money I can get all this room for stuff and people?”. And everybody knows someone who has one.

    I rented a pair of them once when I had a whole bunch of visitors coming from out of town, and thought the Chryslers were quite nice. They were new, though, so the interior was still attractive. The upholstry might not hold up as well as an Odyssey, but for the price buyers might not be expecting it to.

  • avatar

    I just rented a 2012 T&C in the DC area for a regular trip I take that I usually rent SUVs for – last time I used an Expedition. But with a new baby, the van made more sense.

    The Stow and Go seats are finally comfortable (!) compared to previous years. The van delivered useful family type transportation far better than the Expedition did, particularly in ingress/egress and driving dynamics.

    But holy crap – that sliding center console thing needs to be sorted out. So creaky it give you serious pause, even though it’s not structural. This is a common complaint, I understand.

    My friends have relatively recent Odysseys – 2/3 of them with more than one transmission issue. And now the latest gen Odyssey handles like a 5 year old Camry and brakes like a 70’s era full sized Chrysler.

    Even with the lesser interior in the T&C (much improved, mind you, but still not quite there) – the Stow & Go and a pile of money would push me towards the T&C.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    We have a 99 Oddy bought new. We cross shopped all of the mini vans sold in the US that year. From my wife’s view, the Oddy was the best of the bunch in driving dynamics and space. It also had the fold flat third seat which was unique at that time. The problem was the tranny was made of paper mache, but I won’t dwell on that.
    Fast forward to 2012. We still have the Oddy which gets drivenabout 5 K miles a year, but is very useful for hauling large items when the second row of seats is removed.
    I ride in a co-workers 2010 TC now and then. IMHO, the stow and go seats are still lacking, but better than those in his 2006 TC. The old Oddy second row seats are far more comfy. Other than the seats, the TC has improved IMHO to be in close contention with Honda especially with the new Pentastar engine. If the gap between a similarily equipped TC and Oddy is $10K, I would take the TC.

    • 0 avatar

      My grandparents have a T&C (current program) but it was purchased right before the Pentastar was available. It is a fuel hog. I’m a fan of the console shifter, but not much else really stood out to me besides the low deck height. That is what sold the vehicle as their mobility isn’t what it used to be.

  • avatar

    Dont believe everything that you read. Chrysler is NOT going to stop making a Town & Country. It will just not be a copy of the Grand Caravan. Its going to be a different platform 7 passenger people mover. Wasnt it just about year ago that the Grand Caravan was dead??

    Just smoke and mirrors.

  • avatar

    As far as getting rid of either the Chrysler or the Dodge version of these vans, if it ain’t broke….

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