U.S. Minivan Sales Will Rise To A Nine-Year High In 2016, FCA Market Share At 45 Percent
A long ways from the 1.1 million minivans sold in 2005, U.S. sales of sliding-door people carriers are on track to rise to a nine-year high of more than 600,000 units in calendar year 2016.
Through the first eight months of 2016, year-over-year minivan volume is up 19 percent in the United States, though an industry-wide slowdown stalled the minivan sector’s expansion in August.
More than a year after a plant shutdown in Windsor, Ontario, enabled retooling for a new generation of Chrysler MPV product — and severely cut into fleet sales — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles currently owns 45 percent of the American minivan market, up from 33 percent in the first eight months of 2015.
A portion of the credit for FCA’s resurgence belongs to the all-new Chrysler Pacifica, a direct Town & Country replacement that we’re testing this week. After forming only 25 percent of Chrysler brand sales at this stage of 2015, minivans are suddenly responsible for half of all volume at the fading Pentastar brand.
Through the end of August, overall U.S. minivan volume has risen by nearly 65,000 units thanks to improvements by lower-tier players — Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest — and nearly 68,000 additional sales from Chrysler and Dodge dealers.
Not unpredictably, U.S. sales of the Honda Odyssey are falling as Honda readies a replacement for 2017. Moreover, Odyssey volume is constrained somewhat by inventory. Heading into August, Honda dealers had just a 42-day supply of Odysseys according to Automotive News. The van is built at the same Alabama plant as the Honda Pilot, Acura MDX, and newly launched Honda Ridgeline.
After claiming top spot in the minivan sector in calendar year 2015, the Toyota Sienna has seen sales slide 4 percent in 2016, a modest decline of 3,805 units. Toyota is more than earning these sales back via sales of other family friendly vehicles. The Highlander, for instance, is up 7 percent, a gain of 7,660 sales. The Toyota RAV4 and Toyota 4Runner, meanwhile, outsell the Sienna by more than three to one.
We’re also witnessing the disappearance of the Mazda 5 from U.S. showrooms. Still on sale north of the border, the last few Mazda mini-MPVs are leaving Mazda lots now. The Mazda 5 accounts for more than 7,000 lost sales in the minivan sector in 2016’s first eight months.
In strict year-over-year terms, the rise of Chrysler/Dodge minivan sales after 2015’s sharp drop-off — sales were down 43 percent at this point last year — is the leading cause of the segment’s improvement. But the return of Chrysler/Dodge minivan dominance is not just noticeable in the context of 2015’s doldrums, but in a historical sense, as well.
If the current rate of growth is sustained through the final one-third of 2016, FCA’s minivan volume will surpass 2014’s output and soar ahead of the levels achieved at any point since 2007.
That rate of growth will be difficult to sustain, however. The Town & Country clear-out that boosted sales in the first-half of 2016 is coming to a close. The expansion of Grand Caravan market share from the early part of the year is stalling. And the Pacifica is not (yet) the deeply discounted minivan to which consumers have become acclimated inside Chrysler/Dodge showrooms. Grand Caravan pricing, before negotiations or extra discounts are even taken into consideration, begins roughly $5,000 south of the Pacifica’s entry point.
Nevertheless, the Pacifica is an alluring piece of family kit. Stylish, quiet, and with the eight-seat capacity Chrysler/Dodge vans have so long lacked, the Pacifica in many ways feels like a leap beyond the aging competition. It’s not perfect, and some of the conclusions that can be drawn from our minivan consumer clinic suggest Chrysler will not be able to compete at a lofty price point once the sheen wears off.
Regardless, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is undeniably important to the Chrysler brand. With the midsize 200 departing shortly and the Town & Country discontinued, there are only two models left in the Chrysler lineup: the Pacifica and the full-size 300 sedan. Through the first eight months of 2016, minivans have produced 50 percent of Chrysler brand sales; the 300 has contributed only 38,429 sales, or 23 percent of the brand’s total.
The overall FCA minivan strategy does not yet appear to be settled. “While I can confirm that there is a 17 MY Dodge Grand Caravan,” FCA spokesperson Angela Bianchi told TTAC earlier this month, “we don’t comment on future product plans beyond the current model year.” Bianchi did confirm that the Grand Caravan will be discontinued, but not when.
Year-to-date, the Grand Caravan accounts for 53 percent of FCA minivan sales in America and is on track for its best year since 2007.
[Images: FCA/Honda/Toyota/Kia/Nissan, © Timothy Cain/TTAC]
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