Honda Odyssey Sales Were Falling, We Got An Odyssey, Now Odyssey Sales Are Rising

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

We’re kidding. Yes, Odyssey sales were falling. Then we used our own money to pay for a new 2015 Honda Odyssey. Forthwith, Odyssey sales increased.

You know better than to connect the two, of course. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, and all that. But I can dream about the power of GoodCarBadCar.net and the sway of a single Jalopnik-recommended article on our Kinja page.

In July and August, 26,274 Americans registered new Odysseys, 12 percent more than in the same period one year ago. This is a strong end-of-lifecycle follow-up to the Odyssey’s 14 percent plunge in the 2014 calendar year and a 1 percent drop in the first half of 2015. Yet even to the sales-stats-obsessed founder of GCBC, the U.S. sales story is secondary, if only in this instance.

As of June 2015, we have a minivan, and I’m too busy loading ten-foot-long 2x4s in the back of my people carrier to care about the Odyssey’s best-selling status or the reasons for the uptick.

Recognizing, therefore, that LeBron James can’t even have an impact on Kia K900 sales, it’s safe to say that my position as a Honda Odyssey driver most assuredly does not propel consumers toward Honda stores. In fact, the one set of friends who were inspired by our new Odyssey to consider moving up their minivan purchase didn’t get an Odyssey. They bought a Toyota Sienna for their six-year-old twin boys and two-year-old girl.

Speaking of the Sienna, it seems that the people curious about our Odyssey decision don’t want more information about our actual van, but rather wish to know the reasons we didn’t choose a different vehicle. Let me answer those questions.

First, why didn’t we go with a different minivan? Grand Caravans should be way less expensive than an Odyssey, but Chrysler/Dodge dealers were completely unwilling to play ball with our Kia Sorento trade-in. Plus, between the two of us, my wife and I had four siblings with Grand Caravans. Stow ’N Go sounds great, but in two months I’ve yet to encounter a circumstance in which the Odyssey’s two outboard second-row seats needed to be removed. And it’s not as though they can’t be removed, if need be. Besides, the Grand Caravan drives like a van. I didn’t want a van that drives like a van.

Updated 2015 Siennas are very nice, as my review of an AWD XLE attests. Unfortunately, even with upgraded handling, Sienna SEs still feel relatively vast in action — Odysseys seem to shrink when driven hastily. And again, Toyota dealers couldn’t compete on price when the trade was taken into account.

The Kia Sedona is handsome, but it doesn’t seem like Kia quite finished the job in terms of ride and handling and rearward accommodations. Mazda 5? Too small, too noisy. Nissan Quest? This is no laughing matter.

If not a different minivan, why not a three-row SUV/crossover? The notion that a Honda Odyssey announces one’s child-rearing status and a Honda Pilot or any other family-friendly crossover doesn’t is, frankly, laughable. More laughable is the crisis of confidence afflicting legions of car buyers who can’t drive the best vehicle for themselves, regardless of what that vehicle may be. My neighbours don’t determine what I wear or where I work or when I eat. I’m not going to let them determine what I should drive. Although it helps that I periodically spend whole weeks with vehicles like the Audi S4, a 6.2L V8-powered GMC Sierra, and the Ford Mustang.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have been happy with a Chevrolet Suburban or Dodge Durango or Ford Flex, all of which impress me, if the vehicles weren’t too expensive, too expensive, and too unavailable and too expensive, respectively. But far too many three-row vehicles offer no space behind the third row, something we routinely require.

Why not a proper six-seater crew cab pickup truck? Odysseys seat eight, but six would have been enough. Unfortunately, a shedding 70-pound dog isn’t welcome in the passenger compartment, and the passenger compartment is the only place for her in a pickup truck.

We’re privileged to be driving manufacturer-supplied press cars every week, so our own vehicle is reserved for more abusive scenarios. Bikes, dogs, muddy stroller wheels, muddy bike trailer wheels, sandy towels, lumber. While much of that content works perfectly with a pickup truck, demanding that occupants share space with a wet dog is far from ideal. Moreover, affordable crew cab 4×4 pickup trucks are only just sufficiently equipped. The trucks also quickly become unaffordable when vital accessories are added to the MSRP.

I want a truck. My wife wants a truck. We will have a truck. But we will not have a truck this year.

In the end, our decision was made easier by friends who own the Centennial Honda store in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The deal-making procedure, including the trade-in assessment, was completed exclusively by email and the vehicle was picked up during a visit at the grandparents. We ended up leasing, as the residuals on Odysseys are so strong (and the rates so low) that the sum total of our lease payments plus the buy-out is less than the cost of financing the van. Leasing isn’t for everyone, nor is it for every vehicle, but we only complete half of our mileage in our own car and the Honda’s ability to hang on to its value marries the right buyer with the right vehicle for ideal leasing.

A surprisingly driver-focused chassis, hugely impressive fuel economy, and near limitless flexibility combine with the affordability factor to make the Odyssey, at least in this particular instance, the best new car value I can currently think of. Put it all together, and we didn’t find ourselves like so many of our siblings and friends who said with regret, “We need a minivan.” We realized, with pleasure, that we wanted an Odyssey.

As for the Honda’s faults, they are few in number but important to note.

The dual-screen Honda infotainment unit is not intuitive. Yet I have found that HondaLink convinces me that an automotive reviewer’s time with a vehicle — even when I spend a full week with new cars — isn’t sufficient to render a verdict on the infotainment unit. I’ve criticized this system in multiple Acuras and Hondas, yet now there’s nothing about the system that truly bothers me. Getting to know the ins and outs took longer, which isn’t ideal, but I no longer give it a second thought.

The styling of the rear side window and sliding door cut line is awful. The transmission is coming into its own but was predictably clunky and confused early on, as I’ve often found in competing vans. Honda isn’t overly generous with features. Our Canadian-spec EX has power doors with built-in sunshades but no power tailgate and no sunshades in the third row. Quicker steering, not at all in keeping with the demands of most minivan buyers, would shorten my wishlist. And while power is more than acceptable, why is the Odyssey forced to soldier on with the 3.5-liter V6’s 248-horsepower output when the Accord, for example, produces 278?

More please.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • Ajla I've owned one 4.5L (Allante) and one N* (Seville). In Allante tune (200hp/270lb ft) the 4.5L feels decent, but I don't know how it would have held up to the competition. The N* is perfectly lovely until it breaks. GM adding a 5th gear to the 4T80 around 2004 would have been nice though.I'm a little surprised that adding a turbo or supercharger to the 4.5/4.9 wasn't considered when other GM divisions were utilizing forced induction in a largely successful fashion. RR and Bentley were using turbos at this time so it isn't like forced induction was taboo in luxury cars.As I'm sure most of us know, adding DOHC heads to an OHV design is something GM eventually did anyway with the 3.4L and although reasonably powerful it was a bigger maintenance and reliability nightmare even than the eventually N*. I'm also interested if the N* has any development overlap with the Quad4 or if it was totally separate.
  • Bd2 Excellent article as always Corey. Looking forward to this series and your style of verbiage.
  • YellowDuck Really surprised it's only 1/3. Lack of Android Auto would be a dealbreaker for me. At this point I might even say it needs to be wireless. I can't believe any manufacturer would still be trying to sell built in nav as like a $1500 option. Must sell it to people with flip phones.
  • Mike Beranek Great subject for a multi-part piece. There's a lovely DTS for sale near my work... does anyone have a year that the Northstar becomes buyable? I've heard both 2005 and 2007.
  • Parkave231 Looking forward to this deep dive, Corey. My '02 Deville was right on the cusp of when they "fixed" the head bolt issues, but I really don't know if mine was one of the improved ones. Still, it never gave me problems during ownership, aside from the stupid intake plenum duct issue, which was the one time I'll admit I bit off a little more than I could chew.Smooth engine, decent low-end torque for an OHC engine, and whisper quiet. I got great gas mileage out of it too. But how could GM ever screw up head issues on two V8s in a row?
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