By on August 22, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited - Image: ChryslerEight years ago, American consumers, businesses, and governments acquired only 10.4 million new vehicles.

Sound like a lot? The U.S. auto industry generated an average of 16 million new vehicle sales in the five years leading up to 2009; 16.3 million annually over the last half-decade.

With the overall market’s collapse, it’s not surprising to hear that very few minivans were sold. Claiming only 4.3 percent of the industry’s volume, minivans collected only 448,000 sales.

At the current rate of decline through 2017’s first seven months, this year won’t be quite that bad. But it’s on track to be almost that bad, and the worst year since.

USA minivan sales chart 2008-2017 - Image: © The Truth About CarsDespite the insertion into the segment of a new Honda Odyssey this summer, July 2017 minivan sales nevertheless slid 23 percent, year-over-year. The Odyssey joined July’s top-selling Toyota Sienna, the year-to-date leading Dodge Grand Caravan, the plunging Kia Sedona, and a trio of discontinued nameplates in reporting fewer sales in July 2017 than in July 2016. On the whole, even with a 5-percent Chrysler Pacifica uptick, the segment lost more than 11,000 sales.

The good news for the remaining five nameplates is the quintet’s 100-percent market share. Rewind to 2009 and those five minivan brands owned 86 percent of the market. Collectively, they’re on pace to end this year 5-percent higher than in 2009.

But what an awful measuring stick. 2009 was the worst year for U.S. auto sales in decades.

Minivan July 2017 July 2016 % Change 2017 YTD 2016 YTD % Change
Toyota Sienna 11,100 11,734 -5.4% 67,258 79,959 -15.9%
Honda Odyssey 10,134 11,228 -9.7% 58,290 75,889 -23.2%
Chrysler Pacifica 8,288 7,898 4.9% 67,886 18,941 258%
Dodge Grand Caravan 7,503 10,071 -25.5% 87,370 83,981 4.0%
Kia Sedona 1,710 5,037 -66.1% 16,738 29,157 -42.6%
Chrysler Town & Country 26 3,324 -99.2% 528 55,134 -99.0%
Nissan Quest 12 712 -98.3% 4,933 9,519 -48.2%
Mazda 5 2 17 -88.2% 9 346 -97.4%
Total 38,775 50,021 -22.5% 303,012 352,926 -14.1%

In 2017, with the aging Toyota Sienna losing 16 percent of its volume, year-over-year, the leading minivan seller (FCA) down 1 percent, the new Odyssey’s slow start and consequent 23-percent year-to-date drop, the Kia Sedona’s 43-percent dive, and the disappearance of niche products from Nissan and Mazda, U.S. minivan market share is down from 4.9 percent a decade ago (and 3.8 percent a half-decade ago) to just 3.1 percent.

For perspective, the Ford F-Series owns 5.1 percent of the market, up from 4.5 percent five years ago and 3.9 percent a decade ago. Subarus now outsell minivans by a 19-percent margin. A decade ago minivans outsold Subaru by more than 3-to-1.

Will there be recovery by the end of 2017, spurred by improved inventory of the new 2018 Odyssey, or will Americans truly purchase and lease fewer than 480,000 minivans in 2017? Further incentivization would obviously help.

According to J.D. Power retail sales data, minivans left dealers in July at an average transaction price of $33,300, boosted by a $3,439 average per-vehicle discount. That incentive level was 14-percent below the industry average.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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23 Comments on “America’s Minivan Segment on Track for Worst Year Since 2009 – the Depths of the Recession...”

  • avatar

    I am going to go out on a limb and say that the Kia Sedona does not get redesigned. I will also go out there on said limb and say that it should. Since the Dodge will be going away I think that during the Kia redesign it should go low rent and occupy the basement price point for minivans. It is obvious that you cannot compete sales wise with the other three.
    Wonder who bought those 2 Mazda 5’s anyway?

    • 0 avatar

      There was “brand new” base black on black 2015 Mazda 5 at the local Ford/Mazda dealer as of July, but it’s not there any longer. So some sucker in Maine probably accounted for 50% of the 5’s July 2017 sales.

    • 0 avatar

      “Since the Dodge will be going away….” It’s more like rumors of the Grand Caravan’s impending demise have been greatly exaggerated! Honestly, I wouldn’t bet on the GC going away anytime soon – it’s still selling, and at least for now, ahead of last year Y-T-D. FCA always claims certain aging models will be ended but is loathe to do so while they are still selling reasonably well. Canada seems to still be a bright spot for the GC.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      We’ll see: the Kia Carnival/Sedona is more of a global product unlike the other surviving 4 minivans. Heck,at one point one version had a 4th (!) row. People in other parts of the world want SUV/CUVs, though, which isn’t a good sign.

      Comparably sized CUV/SUV sales stateside continue to grow, passing 3 million last year:

    • 0 avatar

      Already been a refresh for the KDM and in all likelihood will see another generation (quite popular in SKorea and other overseas markets -like Australia where it is the best selling minivan).

      Also unlikely that Kia will take the cut-rate approach as the top trim Sedona is pretty popular and there are limo-upgrades for the Sedona in the KDM.

      Just need to cut weight for the next gen (to improve fuel economy) and maybe add a hybrid variant.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I suppose this could be collateral damage from the great recession. From what I read, the next generation is: forming households later, getting married later or not at all, vagrant in lifestyle, do not own cars anyway.

    Now, I don’t agree with all of the points but the getting married later and putting off kids or just having fewer could be a major reason for the downturn in sales. Two kids or less you can survive without a van, 3 or more it is pretty much a necessity especially if one or two are still riding in a stroller.
    I do know that the days in inventory on the used lot (if priced correctly) a Toyota, Honda, or Chrysler do not sit for very long.

  • avatar

    My theory as a pretty recent minivan buyer: Manufacturers WANT this. They are — either subtly or overtly — hoping for this trend to continue to they can focus more on crossovers and SUVs, which is already happening.

    Despite all of its many advantages, buyers seem to be rejecting minivans across the board. This is mostly image driven, as well all know, but we “grownups” couldn’t give two f*cks about image. See also: Guys driving a Miata in 1991 despite its “chick car” status at the time.

    Back on topic: At a given price point or range, we found that the same brand’s crossover is typically better equipped and better built than the van. We saw this (very slightly) in the Odyssey vs Pilot a few years ago, and it was much more pronounced in the Sienna vs Highlander cross-shopping that we did. I can understand that certain compromises have to be made to build such a large vehicle, and that I resigned myself to not expecting a brand’s van to be built exactly the same as its bread & butter sedans and crossovers.

    Further, all the vans seemed like they had been very narrowly focus grouped. At risk of losing my job here at Google, it was as if the vans all came from a think tank of 30-40 year old women (like my wife, who initially loved our van but now hates it). For no additional cost, a little suspension, chassis, and transmission tuning could broaden their appeal to more people — but to my original point, manufacturers don’t want this because if people are choosing the better-driving, much smaller crossovers for similar money, then there’s no problem. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or downward spiral or whatever cliché you prefer here.

    • 0 avatar

      And while less monofocused crossovers have been chipping away at sales from the small end, ever more domesticated pickups have done the same from the other side. With NVs, Sprinters and Transits, all much more family friendly in wagon trim than the 70s era vans they replaced, joining in at the very large end. And perhaps Transit Connects as well, for smaller dual use vehicles.

      Minivans used to be marketed not solely as child mover pods, but rather as a more versatile vehicle. Large enough to hold the proverbial “full sheet” if needed, but also covered and suitable for 8-9 passengers. Now it seems any other possible use than taking three kids to school, is being downplayed.

      A perfectly comfortable crew cab pickup, has plenty of room for three kids. With even “greater than minivan” room for “stuff” under a tonneau or cap. And mostly even easier means of crossing over into other roles. Ditto for smaller families and the smaller “work vans.” While, at least anecdotally, it seems Mormon families are increasingly going whole hog, for NVs and such.

      • 0 avatar

        We just used ours to take 6 people for 8 hours (round trip) to see the eclipse in relative comfort, with DVDs and three rows of A/C, plus plenty of cargo and ~24 mpg. It’s a nice combination of traits in some situations.

        This weekend I’ll take all the seats out (in 3 minutes) and come home with 24+ bales of pine straw for my yard.

        When I build a new swingset this fall, I can get 10′ planks in the cabin with the tailgate shut. Or 8′ boards, also with the gate shut.

        Car camping with the Cub Scouts this fall, I can bring 7 boys with me. And my son and I can opt to sleep on an inflatable mattress inside the van if he decides he doesn’t want to do the tent thing.

        There are still a few things that vans can do, which can’t be easily replicated by a single other vehicle. But manufacturers would almost be suicidal to tout that versatility and lose any truck sales.

        • 0 avatar

          Which is exactly why we’re considering one…image be damned (my best friend really wants one for his family, but the wife steadfastly refuses on image alone). My daughter participates in dog shows (who knew walking a dog around a ring would require so much stuff!) and when the three of us go for a weekend match, with said pooch and all the gear, our poor ’14 Escape can’t handle it all, so we wind up borrowing my sister’s Explorer. But it’s getting old to keep having to ask to borrow the bigger vehicle. The thought of being able to fold the rear seat down (and potentially one of the middle seats) to house gear is very compelling. Toss in a built-in DVD player to occupy the kid to and from and it makes a strong case. We rented one two years ago when my son graduated pilot training for the AF, and we easily were able to pile the family in with great ease and comfort.

          But in the end, CUV/SUVs have better PR machines than do minivans. Because, “soccer mom.”

      • 0 avatar

        Maybe I’m the only one getting hung up on this, but even with the nominally huge amount of rear cab space, I still find the un-adjustable rear row of seats in most crewcabs (’07-’13 Tundras and Dodge Megacabs excepted) and lack of accessible in-cabin storage for bags and such to be a real demerit to crewcab trucks. As it sits, I still find myself preferring SUVs for this reason (or minivans if it is strictly a question of people hauling on paved roads).

        • 0 avatar

          I just fundamentally don’t like the whole idea of paying to drag empty air around with me (both in terms of wind resistance, as well as a mostly empty truck bed). At least 5 times on our roadtrip yesterday we needed something from the cargo area. And it’s nice to have it all climate controlled for food, electronics, etc.

          • 0 avatar

            In the future once we move to a house with a safe place to store a trailer, I do believe I will dispense with beater-pickup ownership, as enjoyable as it’s been. I’ve commuted most days this spring and summer in my regular cab Ranger. Once I got used to the bolt upright seating, inoperable A/C, bouncy ride, and road noise, it really isn’t so bad. I know that sounds pretty odd to say, but I truly did get used to it. Now getting in my ’96 4Runner which I used to regard as a pretty stiff-legged ox cart of an SUV feels like a pretty refined and quiet ride!

    • 0 avatar

      This is a good theory. I would also add that nobody gets excited about buying a minivan (you .01% don’t count). It is a lot easier to milk customers for more profit or up sell when somebody actively wants the product. I would also imagine there is more profit in the alternatives.

      Minivans provide practical parents perusing the lot where you can then sell them on the much more exciting truck, suv, crossover for only X more dollars a month.

  • avatar

    Minivans are going the same way as wagons in the U.S. – south, and they will continue to do so. Wagons are generally shunned in the U.S. by Boomers who were schlepped around in them as kids and now refuse to buy them. Minivans are suffering the same sort of fate by the generation which was schlepped around in them as kids – those folks are now buying vehicles, and they are not buying minivans. Wagons will eventually make a comeback in the U.S., but it will take 15-20 more years; minivans will take many more years than that.

    • 0 avatar

      I spent age 4 through 14 with an ’81 Civic wagon in the family. What do I drive now? A wagon (even though I have no kids, just a dog).

      I like wagons. It’s too bad so many other people don’t see the versatility in them. Excited for the TourX and the facelifted Golf wagon. Makes me sad to see all of the slow, boring Rogues, RAV-4s, CR-Vs, et cetera lumbering around.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      What ? Wagons with big silly wheels are taking over everything.

  • avatar

    One of my daughters who has 1 and 3 yr old kids has a Chrysler minivan and loves it. It’s so perfect for what she needs.
    My other daughter wouldn’t be caught dead driving one, nothing but CUVs for her, not nearly so useful.

  • avatar

    I had a 2006 Sienna for 10 years and bought a 16 Sienna last year. I looked at other options, especially the 4runner. I really liked the 4runner’s looks, history of durability, and the fact it is still made in Japan. But from a travel and comfort standpoint, the Sienna won out. The front passenger in the 4runner (or Tacoma) has the same issues my Avalon has: the seats are too close to the floor to get comfortable on trips. Plus the Sienna rides better than both the Avalon and the 4runner and the mileage is comparable. Once everything was added up, I bought the Sienna.

    On the day we moved my son into his dorm, we were able to move everything in the van. Which was nice since it was pouring the rain for the entire trip.

    Ironically, if I were to trade the van, I would really think hard about a Dodge Challenger RT with 6-speed manual. Any metric you would like to use for comparison (reliability, build quality, gas mileage, ride, usefulness,etc), the van would win. But, dammit, sometimes you just want what you want.

  • avatar
    Guitar man

    The figures show a remarkably steady sales rate for these pretty specialist vehicles really.

    They sell half a million of these things every year. I wouldn’t have thought that the Department of Corrections, harvest work contractors and childcare centres would create that much demand.

  • avatar

    Honda will build what sells. Oddy not selling? They’ll build more Pilots, MDXes or Ridgelines! (All Honda plant lines are flexible – The Lincoln, AL plant builds all 4 models – and the Pilot still has low stocks)

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