Minivan Sales Down By Half Over Last Decade, But All Is Well?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
minivan sales down by half over last decade but all is well

Minivan sales in America fell 8 percent to only 513,000 units in 2015, less than half the number of MPVs sold in the United States a decade ago. Yet the number of sales produced by the three biggest players, across four nameplates, are more than healthy enough to suggest Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is wise to reinvest in their Windsor, Ontario, plant and the all-new Pacifica van.

Of course, the degree of wisdom employed by FCA as the automaker goes about reinventing its van is up for debate. Switching from Town & Country to Pacifica? Leaving the Dodge Grand Caravan to lumber along in previous-gen form? Neglecting all-wheel-drive in a gaga-for-SUVs market? There are upsides and downsides to each of these decisions.

But FCA’s decision to stick with a segment from which Ford, General Motors, Hyundai and Mazda fled is a wise one. The minivan market is much, much smaller than it was a decade ago. But if half a million people in America want to buy a minivan every year, the automakers which historically controlled the sector will want to own as large a chunk of that market as possible.

It’s certainly a strategy that’s working for Toyota, which generated more Sienna sales in America in 2015 than at any point in the previous seven years. It’s a strategy that’s working for Honda: over the last five years, Honda sold 10,000 more Odysseys than Pilots.

The worst perspective on minivans comes from a look at the category’s market share over the last decade. Not since 2004, when minivan market share increased from 6.4 percent the year before to 6.6 percent, has the segment’s share of the industry’s total volume increased.

Just three years later, in 2007, minivan market share was down to 5.2 percent. Three years after that, in 2010, minivan market share was down to 4.1 percent. In 2015? Minivans contributed just 2.9 percent of the industry’s record-setting volume, as total volume slipped to a four-year low.

However, 2015 was in some regards an exception. FCA’s Windsor plant shutdown early in the year caused a severe slump in Grand Caravan/Town & Country sales. Through the first seven months of the year, sales of the FCA minivan duo were down 45 percent, a loss of 73,000 sales.

Yet even without the FCA tandem’s decline, it’s unlikely the minivan segment would have picked up market share. Had Grand Caravan/Town & Country sales held level in 2015 rather than falling 30 percent over the course of the year, minivan market share would have totalled 3.4 percent, equal with 2013 and 2014, if not better.

Instead, seven minivan nameplates generated only 513,000 sales while 10 three-row crossovers (Enclave, Traverse, Durango, Explorer, Flex, Acadia, Pilot, CX-9, Pathfinder, Highlander) collectively topped the 1 million-unit mark.

For the minivan category as a whole, that sounds like a huge problem. For individual nameplates, however, it’s far less troublesome.

The competition long ago disappeared and took with them their potential sales. Thus, while Toyota owned less than 15 percent of the minivan market in 2005, that figure climbed to 27 percent in 2015. Sienna volume is 15 percent lower now than it was then, but Sienna sales are steadily rising, climbing in six consecutive years and growing far faster than the industry average in 2015.

Honda owned 16 percent of the minivan market in 2005; 25 percent in 2015. Again, Odyssey sales are lower now than they were then, but Honda has held Odyssey volume steady over the last four years at more than 126,000 annual sales despite alleged decreasing interest in the category and pressure from value-priced Grand Caravans.

Even Chrysler, which produced the two best-selling vans in the segment a decade ago, owned “just” 37 percent of the minivan market in 2005. In 2014? 49 percent. Yet again, sales are much lower now than they were then, but prior to the turmoil of 2015, sales of the Town & Country hit a seven-year high in 2014, enough to make the Pre-Pacifica America’s third-best-selling three-row vehicle.

The minivan market has cratered over the last decade, and sales of the top models have fallen, too. But amidst discussion of a segment that’s lost more than half its volume in a decade, it’s important to take note of the fact that combined sales of the Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, and Sienna rose 15 percent in 2015, year-over-year, as the industry produced 6 percent growth. Indeed, the two top-selling models in 2015 weren’t down 54 percent since 2005, as the segment was, but just 21 percent.

A 21 percent loss clearly wouldn’t be an ideal number if the trendline was pointing in the wrong direction. But for the manufacturers who stuck with the category, the trend suggests there should consistently be at least half a million sales over which to fight.

If there were still 14 nameplates fighting over half the number of sales in 2015, Chrysler wouldn’t likely be singing the new Pacifica’s tune. But in late 2016, we’ll be in a world of Pacificas, Grand Caravans, Odysseys, Sedonas, Quests, and Siennas.

Six vans. At least half a million sales. There are still plenty of buyers to go around.

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

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  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jan 26, 2016

    KIA reentered the minivan market after some lackluster performance and it seems they and their sister brand have already reclaimed some nice marketshare. I might expect Nissan to withdraw the Quest which would leave us with four major mfgs as Mazda5 was discontinued in the USDM for MY16.

  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Jan 27, 2016

    Minivan driver here. I've got an 08 Mazda 5 Grand Touring and a 14 Odyssey EX-L. We've decided we are leasers of minivans, as buying a used van just isn't appealing for many reasons. The FCA vans don't seem to age well and the Honda/Toyota vans carry price premium I don't believe is justified, especially for Honda and it's "glass transmission". I don't like the way the 6spd auto works in the Honda either, so we won't be buying one used when the lease is up. The Mazda does a decent job, but it's a people OR stuff conundrum for anything longer than a day trip with two kids. Plus, the Mazda is noisy and very stiff riding compared to the Honda (especially the Toyota or FCA vans) and there's not a ton of power. 300hp minivans aren't really needed, but 170 in the Mazda would have been nice, 200 even better. Skyactiv diesel torque would have been great, but... Our twins are 5, we've got at least another 3 vans in our leasing future. My plan right now is to try the Toyota or Chrysler when the current Odyssey lease is up. Perhaps the Kia, but not the Quest, as we don't like the CVT or styling. I was in a Nissan lease before the Odyssey, so I could have gotten as decent deal on the Quest. But besides the well-done interior, it didn't offer much else. To me, the minivan is the best tool for family movement or the multi-tasking that comes with family. The third row is usable and accessible mostly to young ones right now, but once the car seats are out, the kids can go back there, leaving the second row for adults. The rear seats fold into the floor, allowing plenty of room for stuff if needed, without using a roofbox. We don't do outdoors or off-road, so an SUV is a waste to me. 4 wheel winter tires work out well where I live. And it got a solid 23 mpg at 80+ on a long highway trip recently, nearly 26 on the trip out at more sedate speeds while following the in-laws. We are practical people, not trendy. The minivan works for us. And if Ford came out with a redone Aerostar, I'd probably buy one. I had a 93 shorty I used for work and it was great at putting on the miles. The inherent smoothness and balance of a RWD platform cannot be ignored, basic Ranger underpinnings notwithstanding.

  • ToolGuy CXXVIII comments?!?
  • ToolGuy I did truck things with my truck this past week, twenty-odd miles from home (farther than usual). Recall that the interior bed space of my (modified) truck is 98" x 74". On the ride home yesterday the bed carried a 20 foot extension ladder (10 feet long, flagged 14 inches past the rear bumper), two other ladders, a smallish air compressor, a largish shop vac, three large bins, some materials, some scrap, and a slew of tool cases/bags. It was pretty full, is what I'm saying.The range of the Cybertruck would have been just fine. Nothing I carried had any substantial weight to it, in truck terms. The frunk would have been extremely useful (lock the tool cases there, out of the way of the Bed Stuff, away from prying eyes and grasping fingers -- you say I can charge my cordless tools there? bonus). Stainless steel plus no paint is a plus.Apparently the Cybertruck bed will be 78" long (but over 96" with the tailgate folded down) and 60-65" wide. And then Tesla promises "100 cubic feet of exterior, lockable storage — including the under-bed, frunk and sail pillars." Underbed storage requires the bed to be clear of other stuff, but bottom line everything would have fit, especially when we consider the second row of seats (tools and some materials out of the weather).Some days I was hauling mostly air on one leg of the trip. There were several store runs involved, some for 8-foot stock. One day I bummed a ride in a Roush Mustang. Three separate times other drivers tried to run into my truck (stainless steel panels, yes please). The fuel savings would be large enough for me to notice and to care.TL;DR: This truck would work for me, as a truck. Sample size = 1.
  • Art Vandelay Dodge should bring this back. They could sell it as the classic classic classic model
  • Surferjoe Still have a 2013 RDX, naturally aspirated V6, just can't get behind a 4 banger turbo.Also gloriously absent, ESS, lane departure warnings, etc.
  • ToolGuy Is it a genuine Top Hand? Oh, I forgot, I don't care. 🙂