By on February 6, 2014


The story basically writes itself. America’s minivan segment, which declined faster than the overall industry before becoming mostly stagnant as the U.S. automobile market regained strength, enjoyed a sales boost in January 2014 even as the overall market decreased in size.

Eight minivans combined for a 13% year-over-year sales increase last month as four nameplates – up from just one a year ago and one the year before that – crested the 7000-unit barrier.

Minivan volume increased by 3764 sales in January 2014. Growth which was slowed only by the Mazda 5’s slight 80-unit decrease, the Nissan Quest’s 25% drop, and the Toyota Sienna’s slight 1% decline.

Even the Volkswagen Routan generated more January sales in 2014 than in 2013. Yes, that Routan, the Grand Caravan copy that was cancelled ages ago and oft-ignored before cancellation. In fact, as Volkswagen sales tumbled in January; as every single continuing model other than the Beetle Convertible reported a year-over-year decrease, Routan sales rose to the highest level since last February.

This is utterly inconsequential. The Routan owned just 1% of America’s minivan market in January 2014 (just 0.4% in calendar year 2013). Its Windsor, Ontario-built twins from Chrysler and Dodge, the Town & Country and Grand Caravan, grabbed 43% of January’s minivan buyers, up from 39% a year ago.

Indeed, Chrysler/Dodge minivan market share in January 2013 was particularly low, which, in part, leads us a greater understand of January 2014’s segment-wide improvement. A year before last month’s 13% increase, minivan sales dropped 7% in January 2013, a decrease which assisted in making last month’s increase appear more substantial. Yet, the category’s total last month was also higher than what the same vans managed two years ago in 2011, when 31,685 were sold. Dodge Grand Caravan sales were down 10% from that period, however.

Ignoring the identical twins’ combined total, the Honda Odyssey led all minivans in total sales in January 2014. The Odyssey was the top ranked minivan in 2013, as well, although it trailed the Toyota Sienna by more than 1000 units a year ago.

The top four leave very few crumbs over which the remaining quartet can battle. The Kia Sedona, Mazda 5, Nissan Quest, and yes, the Volkswagen Routan produced one out of every ten January 2014 minivan sales, down from 12% in January 2013.

No matter the vehicle type, January is not a month on which to base trends. It is traditionally the lowest-volume auto sales month of the year. Weather is believed to have been more of a deterrent last month than is typically the case, as well. In 2013, January was responsible for just 5.5% of the minivans sold over the course of twelve months.

Meanwhile, sales of SUVs and crossovers increased approximately 5% in January as sales of passenger cars tumbled 9% and pickup trucks decreased a little less than 5%.

January 2014
January 2013
% Change
Chrysler Town & Country
6525 + 8.1%
Dodge Grand Caravan
4965 + 46.8%
Honda Odyssey
6760 + 16.6%
Kia Sedona
363 + 21.8%
Mazda 5
1880 – 4.3%
Nissan Quest
978 – 24.8%
Toyota Sienna
7781 – 1.1%
Volkswagen Routan
241 + 49.0%
29,493 + 12.8%
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17 Comments on “Cain’s Segments: Minivans Up!...”

  • avatar

    Does this mean we don’t hate mini-vans anymore?

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t read too much into January minivan sales numbers – good or bad. The weather in the half of the country that buys the most minivans was just awful. I suspect the only people who bought minivans in the northern half of the country were people who had to because they crashed their old one. IMHO, minivan sales have stagnated because minivan innovation has stagnated. The Honda and Chryslers especially are bloated, with curb weights over 4,600 lbs. The Toyota is 300 lbs. lighter, but Toyota trim levels and option packages are still puzzling. In the past 5 years, midsize sedans have become safer than ever, quicker than ever, more luxurious than ever, and now get fuel economy that compacts struggled to get 5 years ago. Minivans have barely changed.

  • avatar

    Minivans make the most sense to me. I was hoping to see a refresh with the new 9 speed transmission and the larger UConnect screen and other new toys.

  • avatar

    It will be interesting to see how Chrysler, which currently sells the most combined minivans, does with just one nameplate, The Chrysler Town & Country, since the Dodge Caravan is either being dropped or morphed into something else.

    • 0 avatar

      I wonder how many Chrysler dealerships are also Dodge dealers too and how many towns only have a Dodge dealer. How is it possible that Fiat-Chrysler thinks it can lose a distribution channel for approx half it’s vans and still keep sales up?

      • 0 avatar

        With Chrysler’s Bankruptcy Filing in 2009, the company simply revoked some of the dealers franchise agreements. Most of them were the single stand only dealerships (Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep) and then granted these dealerships to existing dealers within the same market.

        Chrysler (and GM, don’t forget about GM) could legally do this under the terms of the Bankruptcy, and almost all (if not all) Chrysler dealerships now sell all brands under one roof.

        GM also had to do this with stand only Buick Dealerships, and GMC Dealerships so that they are now Buick GMC combined Dealers.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect if the new single van can cover the bases of the old duo, sales won’t suffer. Where sales of the van itself will suffer is where the van and alleged crossover overlap, I suspect at the high end. If they ditch the value package vans, sales will definitely drop.

      “I wonder how many Chrysler dealerships are also Dodge dealers too and how many towns only have a Dodge dealer.”

      Basically all of them, so having 2 van nameplates on the lot with significant overlap was a little too redundant.

      • 0 avatar
        Richard Chen

        IIRC there were lost sales with the discontinuation of the Plymouth Voyager, but can’t find a link to the article.

        There was another article about the Ford Windstar losing sales after being renamed the Freestar, people would call the dealership asking for the former and being told it was discontinued.

        • 0 avatar

          Those two changes coincided with a market that was turning away from minivans and into SUV/CUVs. The market was already in a a decline, and the name drop/change in the case of those vehicles left consumers with the exact same vehicle to buy. In short, precisely no one left a Chrysler dealer without a minivan because they cancelled the Plymouth Voyager.

  • avatar

    There is one very key segment of the market that only Minivans can satisfy, and that is the Adaptive Mobility Market. There are several modifiers who can outfit a minivan so that people with special needs can be transported, or better yet, drive themselves when they need to.

    There are really only three vans that make up this part of the market, and include the Chrysler Twins, the Sienna, and the Odyssey. The van converters usually have to re-engineer a new floor, modify the van’s suspension system, add in fully operational ramps, and make them easily convertible for Hand Controls, or other equipment necessary for those with special needs.

    On another front, the Taxi commissions within the major cities are all pushing for more Wheelchair Adaptable vehicles within the Taxi Fleets, with the NY Taxi & Limousine Commission aiming for at least 25% (or more) of the entire fleet to be Wheelchair Accessible vehicles. The two most popular conversions are the Ford Transit Connect (with the current version sold out) and the Toyota Sienna.

    Boston and Chicago are looking at what NYC is currently doing about accessible cabs, and are following suit. Minivan sales will only grow in the future.

  • avatar

    I think one of the reasons for the lower market share of “minvans” lately is they just aren’t so mini anymore. Like full-size pickups, they have gotten increasingly larger, heavier and much more expensive. I had hoped that when Chrysler redesigned the T&C and Caravan, they would return the Caravan to it’s original size in a SWB version, with the T&C retained as the LWB version. But it now appears the Caravan replacement will be some sort of a crossover thingy, perhaps replacing the Caravan and Journey, with one model. Jaravan, Courney?

  • avatar

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

    At $20k, The Grand Caravan AVP is one of the (if not THE) greatest bargain available today.

  • avatar

    The Chrysler twins have traditionally skewed heavily toward fleet.

    This I’m not sure about, but I believe that Januarys tend to be a bit fleet-heavy (if only because the retail buyers are busy avoiding the cold and licking their Christmas spending wounds.)

    With Dodge getting 62% of the lift for the month, I have to wonder who was doing the buying.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I remain a fan of our 09 Sedona, and am impressed that Kia intends to continue fighting in this segment by offering a redesigned model soon.

    (For those who don’t know: the 06-13 Sedona is an all-Kia product, not the rebadged Ford which preceded it.)

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