By on May 12, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: Honda

U.S. minivan volume has decreased in nine consecutive months as the American minivan category lost 70,000 sales since August 2016, year-over-year.

As a result of the steady decline in a minivan segment that essentially features only five vans, 2017 is set to be the lowest-volume year for the category since 2009. At the rate achieved through the first one-third of 2017, Americans will purchase and lease only 452,000 minivans in 2017, just 2.6 percent of the overall market and only slightly more minivans than Americans purchased and leased when the overall industry collapsed to the lowest level in 27 years.

Or perhaps not. Fresh product is the carnauba wax bath balm for the soccer mom segment’s tired flesh. And a new 2018 Honda Odyssey is due at dealers in the coming weeks. (We’ll have a review of it next week.)

Is a new Odyssey the answer for America’s minivan woes?

Honda believes so.

“We think the market is fairly stable at around half a million and our share of that, at around 125,000, is pretty well spoken for,” American Honda product planner Jay Joseph told Wards Auto.

America’s minivan category has averaged slightly more than 540,000 annual sales over the last half-decade.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: FCA

But Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ transition away from the Chrysler Town & Country into the Chrysler Pacifica has resulted in a serious degradation in volume, albeit not an unanticipated one given the Pacifica’s somewhat premium positioning in the market. Chrysler brand minivan sales are down 18 percent so far this year. The Pacifica was America’s leading minivan in April, however, a month in which Chrysler brand minivan sales rose 65 percent.

Meanwhile at Chrysler’s Dodge partner, Grand Caravan sales have decreased by a modest 1 percent after rebounding from a dreadful 2015 (caused by a plant shutdown to retool for the Pacifica) last year. Year-to-date, the futureless Grand Caravan is the leading minivan nameplate. Combined, FCA owns 52 percent of America’s shrinking minivan segment, up from 47 percent of a bigger pie last year.

2018 Toyota Sienna Limited - Image: Toyota

Refreshed inside for 2015, underhood for 2017, and again updated for the forthcoming 2018 model year, the Toyota Sienna was America’s best-selling individual minivan nameplate in each of the last two years. But the third-generation Sienna, originally launched in 2010, is no spring chicken. Sienna sales are down by a fifth so far this year.

The third-generation Kia Sedona has lost some of its fresh-faced appearance now, having been on the market for nearly three years. Sedona volume is down 28 percent in early 2017, placing the fifth-ranked minivan on track for a three-year low of barely more than 30,000 sales.

With the Mazda 5 dead and the Nissan Quest extinguished from retail duty, this leaves the Honda Odyssey to pick up the slack. But suffering from old age, with the Pilot and Ridgeline and Acura MDX stealing capacity, Odyssey sales are down 31 percent compared with 2016. Odyssey sales last year fell to a five-year low.

Undeniably more talented than the outgoing model, the 2018 Honda Odyssey will still face decreased demand for minivans on the whole in the latter half of this year. The minivan segment contracted over the last decade — gone are mainstream competitors from General Motors and Ford, among others — and the more recent decline in demand occurs as Americans move in ever greater numbers to SUVs and crossovers. While the industry has slowed down in early 2017, losing sales in each of the last four months, SUV/crossover volume is up 8 percent.

It may not matter how good the new Odyssey is — 2017 will not likely be a good year for the minivan segment. But will 2017 be the end of the category’s downfall?

The minivan category’s share of the U.S. auto industry is now below 3 percent, falling by more than half since 2006.

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 @timcaincars.

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37 Comments on “2017 Is Set to Be The Worst Year For Minivans Since The Depths Of Recession, Unless The New Honda Odyssey Makes Hay...”


  • avatar
    gearhead77

    We leased a 2017 Sienna SE last month. This replaced our ’14 Odyssey, which replaced an ’08 Mazda 5 (which we still have). The minivan is the best for family usage, I won’t entertain any other vehicle. Maybe a wagon or hatch when the kids are older. But it’s hard to beat the van (not so mini anymore) as a jack of all trades vehicle.

    We don’t hunt, fish or camp, nor do we tow anything. 4 dedicated snow tires will get us through a majority of the winter conditions of western PA.

    Sliding doors and powered liftgates are great with little ones. Low step in and configurable seating are a big plus for traveling with grandparents or other adults and being able to take “stuff”.

    We were going to wait for the new Odyssey, but we decided to give Toyota our money this time. In three years, we’ll determine which one we’ll go with again, though even for an aged platform, the Toyota is more refined than our Odyssey was. The SE with the Premium package has everything we could want, except for some odd content choices by Toyota ( e.g the rear quarter windows pop-out on the SE, but they are powered on the XLE or Limited vans)

    My wife loves her vans, so until she tires of one or the kids are gone, there will always be one in our garage.

    • 0 avatar
      Rjedro

      I drive a 2000 Odyssey and my wife has a 2002. They still drive and look great with over 200k miles.
      Could it be that they made them so well that they don’t need such frequent replacing?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You’ve got the middle years of the second generation, when Chrysler was supreme and Honda was trying to muscle into that market. They were well built the same way the early Lexus models were, for the same reason. The biggest recalls were for 2003, 2004 and 2005 models, straddling the second and third generation.

      • 0 avatar
        jh26036

        How many transmissions so far?

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    What is it with Toyota and the electric razor inspired grill?

    That indent scallop thing on the Odyssey is odd. I don’t like the chrome band around the side windows on the previous model. It reminds me of a hearse.

  • avatar
    FOG

    Them are some UGLY minivans.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    With average vehicle age increasing, I wonder if that that disporportionately eats into repeat minivan sales. I imagine that buyers who want a van to haul kids dispose of them soon after the kids are gone. Our van is 6 years old. If we can keep it running another 3 years, we’ll only have two kids that can’t drive– at that point, why pony up for another one?

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      “…why pony up for another one?”

      I used to think the same thing. When I bought my Sienna in 2006, I had 4 kids who didn’t drive. When it came time to trade it in last year, I only had one kid left who couldn’t drive. But these vans offered everything I like in a vehicle: plenty of interior space, lots of head room, easy entry/exit, good gas mileage for the size, ease of driving, and proven drive-train/dependability. You know, everything people say they want, unless it is in a van. When it comes to trade this one in 8-10 years, I may get another one, even though I wouldn’t “need” one. Hard to beat on a trip.

      A friend of mine asked why I bought another van since I only have one kid left around to haul. I asked him why he bought a four door pickup when he doesn’t have any kids nor does he haul anything. “I just like the room” he said. Me, too.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      We are in the same boat. My sons are 13 and 15 so it won’t be too long and we won’t need to haul around a bunch of kids. My wife wants to replace the Sienna with a mid-sized CUV, just like most of her friends.
      The 4 door full sized pickup will stay until I don’t need to haul a bunch of kids either. I might just downsize to a Colorado crew.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I don’t know why they don’t bring the awesome vans they have in Japan over here.

    I’d buy the crap out of a Toyota Voxy or Noah.
    Of course I’d want a V6… and I’d want it loaded up… but I wouldn’t want to pay what it costs. But they should still bring them anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      SpinnyD

      True that, When I was in Japan in 2003 Toyota was selling the Estima Hybrid, They have 4-5 Hybrid Vans now.I never have understood why they haven’t brought those over. Maybe with the new Pacifica Hybrid they will give it serious thought now.

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        @SpinnyD, I think the reason that Toyota doesn’t bring the Hybrid vans is that Toyota number crunchers think the sales price would cut out too much of the market. Chrysler rather cleverly got around those economics by taking advantage of falling battery prices and sticking in a large enough battery to qualify for the maximum federal $7500 tax credit. The Sto’n’go wells in the Chrysler allowed for retention of traditional van passenger and cargo room. Personally, I’d rather have a van that is a little lighter with half the battery capacity and one sto’n’go well, but I’m no doubt a minority, and the reduced tax break makes such a compromise uneconomical.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I think the best looking award of the current crop must go to the Pacifica. It’s smootly styled, and has a reasonable front end on it.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      No clue what a “reasonable” front end means. The Pacifica is very stylish but the front end is too massive for me to park easily. The Sedona is still my fav from the front.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Does it seem odd to anyone else how small the actual viewing area is in the rear quarter window of the Odyssey at the top of the top of the article? It seems very small compared to how huge that rear quarter is.

    • 0 avatar
      jeoff

      I am guessing that the tint makes it hard to see how much actual viewing area there is –you can really only see the window opening that is on the other side of the car, which is small because it is further away. With that said, I think the bottom part of the window is really just for hiding the mechanism for the middle track for the sliding door.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Buick should really bring over their Chinese van – sure it probably wouldn’t sell too much, but it would be a good way to round out their lineup at minimal cost. Core products like the envision should be built in North America.

  • avatar
    chris724

    My wife has driven minivans for the last 14 years. We just traded her rusty ’06 Town & Country for a shiny new Kia Sorento. So I guess I’ve contributed to this trend, even though I swore I never would. My wife sure is happy, though.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    We own a 2006 and the two models of Odysseys that have now come after it look horrible to me; same with the Sienna. I seen no compelling reason to buy another as long as this one is working. I do like the new Pacifica and may pick that up in the future but more likely I’ll just hold on to the 06 and get something different (assuming it continues to work, nearing 150k now).

    Even after the kids are gone I may have an old van around. Carry’s 4×8 and up to 12’ lumber, sofas, etc even if it’s raining, what else can do that?

  • avatar
    carguy

    This is to be expected. The minivan used to provide the space of an SUV but with sedan fuel economy and ride quality.

    Now that CUVs offer space, comfort and economy, there are not many compelling reason remaining to buy a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Yes, there is: You can get a minivan for the space and economy SUVs claim but actually don’t have, once you apply the term “usable”. SUVs are comfortable once you get in, but minivans are much easier to enter and exit, at least until you notice how much lower the new Odyssey and Pacifica are. All they need is AWD and a bit more clearance, and they’ll turn minivans into “sport-wagons”.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I can tell you the Odyssey isn’t going to save the segment. That’s a whole lot of ugly. We have a 2012 AWD Sienna Limited and wil likely upgrade to a 15/16 limited prem,if I can find one used, as people tend to hold onto these.
    We have little kids and sliding doors and true 3rd row comfort for short trips w/ elderly parents w/ low step is the main allure. I’d like to think I’m saving the suburban KC area from door dings with my purchase.

    Although fuel mileage is only 18mpg combined ,its been dead nuts reliable and unstoppable in deep snow on crossover SUV tires. I like that its an old fashioned full time awd system from Highlander.Road noise is atrocious but supposedly improved with 15 and on model.

    We traded on Enclave and haven’t looked back. However, we are a 3 car family , so I understand those who might want something sexier.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      We bought a 16 XLE FWD and I can tell you it is a lot quieter than the 14 I drove a few years ago. I like buying the end run of a model. For Siennas, 16 models get the newer interior (same as 17) but is the last year for the proven and reliable 3.5/6-speed combo.

    • 0 avatar
      dash riprock

      We test drove a new Sienna in 2014, at my insistence because my wife never wanted a minivan. Really surprised at how harsh the engine and drive train was. Could not put up a real argument when she said “no way no never”.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        I thought the same thing about the ’14 Sienna when we drove it then. That’s why we went with the Odyssey. The improvements to the Sienna for ’17 on the engine and transmission plus the SE package make it much better all around. We drove an XLE and it just felt too soft compared to the SE.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Minivan market left a note on the segment door….

    “Gone Bellydraggin”

  • avatar
    Prado

    Color me impressed. That nasty belt line kink from the previous version, is now nicely integrated into a cohesive, yet unique, side profile, with the addition of that downward sloping sheet metal crease below it.

  • avatar
    grandprix

    We have owned mini vans for the last 20 years and currently own a 2005 Mazda MPV. Space inside our garage is at a premium & the MPV was the best fit last time. The best size van for us was a 1995 Plymouth Voyager short wheel base. Hauled everything we ever needed to and fit our life perfectly. Wish we could find another van in similar size.

  • avatar
    RS

    Pacifica volumes are doing ok considering there isn’t much of a discount on them. That is to be expected since its relatively new. It is also expected that they will discount it more in the future and release different configurations (and pricing) to replace the lower end Dodge Grand Caravans. Sales should pick up as they do. The Pacifica is a pretty nice van. Hybrid sales should also pickup too.

    The new Odyssey will have the same issue that the Pacifica has had – there won’t be much of a discount on the new models and sales numbers will be affected.

    Also, Honda uses virtually the same 9 speed transmission on some models as the Pacifica and some Odyssey customers may cross shop the Pacifica. Honda will still get their sales, but it may not set volume in the segment on fire.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve_S

      It must depend on location because I am seeing large discounts on the Pacifica (non hybrid) in the Mid-Atlantic

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      There are discounts to be had. I bought my wife a Pacifica in February for $6500 off sticker. Granted it was a Limited trim with most of the boxes checked, but that was still a hefty chunk off. Didn’t even have to negotiate to get that price either, just used USAA’s branded TrueCar portal.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    Have a Sienna. There just isn’t a choice for families with three young kids. Once you put in car seats, you can’t easily flip down seats.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      And once the kids grow up, minivans are often replaced with an SUV or CUV.

      I expect both my daughter and daughter-in-law to trade their minivans for an SUV or CUV, probably by next year, as their kids will get their own drivers licenses and need wheels of their own, living where they do.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    There’s no way I’d buy this – or any other Honda – until they get rid of the gawd-awful, slow-booting, Garmin-based, lawyer-screened, nanny-mindset infotainment system, and put the replacement system on retained accessory power. Owning one is enough to make me swear off Honda products until they do something about that abysmal design.

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