U.S. Minivan Sales Will Rise To A Nine-Year High In 2016, FCA Market Share At 45 Percent

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
u s minivan sales will rise to a nine year high in 2016 fca market share at 45

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]

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.

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  • APaGttH APaGttH on Sep 16, 2016

    Worth noting in 2005 that Ford, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Saturn, Mercury, and Mazda, were all selling minivans. With the exception of left over Mazdas, all of the others listed above have been out of the game for years. 600K units is pretty impressive.

  • La834 La834 on Sep 16, 2016

    Are commercially-oriented minivans like the Transit Connect included in these sales figures? I ask because before they became available, I frequently saw standard passenger minivans doing light-commercial duty, but don't think they were excluded in those 2005 sales figures.

  • Readallover I always found it hilarious that my parents`friends who paid up for the luxury and exclusivity of a M-B were shocked and disappointed when they went to Europe and found their car was significantly cheaper AND widely used as cabs over there.
  • Laszlo I own a 1969 falcon futura 4 door hardtop, original inline 6 and c4 transmission and it still runs to this day.
  • BklynPete So let's get this straight: Ford hyped up the Bronco for 3 years, yet couldn't launch it to match the crazy initial demand. They released it with numerous QC issues, made hay for its greedy dealers, and burned customers in the process. After all that, they lose money on warranties. The vehicles turn out to be a worse ownership experience than the Jeep Wrangler, which hasn't been a paragon of reliability for 50 years. The same was true of the Aviator, Explorer, several F-150 variants, and other recent product launches. The Maverick is the only thing they got right. Yet this company that's been at it for 120 years. Just Brilliant. Jim Farley's non-PR speak: "You don't get to call me an idiot. I get to call myself an idiot first."Farley truly seems hapless, like the characters his late cousin played. Bill Ford is a nice guy but more than a bit slow on the uptake too. They have not had anything resembling a quality CEO since Alan Mulally turned the keys over to Mark Fields - the mulleted glamor boy who got canned after 3 years when the PowerShi(f)t transaxles exploded. He more recently helped run Hertz into the ground with bad QC and a faulty database that had them arresting customers. Ford is starting to resemble Chrysler in the mid-Seventies Sales Bank era. Well, at least VW has cash and envies Ford's distribution reach and potential profitability.
  • Mike Beranek This guy called and wants his business model back.
  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.