America's Minivan Segment on Track for Worst Year Since 2009 - the Depths of the Recession

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
americas minivan segment on track for worst year since 2009 the depths of the

Eight 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.

Despite 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.

MinivanJuly 2017July 2016% Change2017 YTD2016 YTD% ChangeToyota Sienna11,10011,734-5.4%67,25879,959-15.9%Honda Odyssey10,13411,228-9.7%58,29075,889-23.2%Chrysler Pacifica8,2887,8984.9%67,88618,941258%Dodge Grand Caravan7,50310,071-25.5%87,37083,9814.0%Kia Sedona1,7105,037-66.1%16,73829,157-42.6%Chrysler Town & Country263,324-99.2%52855,134-99.0%Nissan Quest12712-98.3%4,9339,519-48.2%Mazda 5217-88.2%9346-97.4%Total38,77550,021-22.5%303,012352,926-14.1%

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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  • Guitar man Guitar man on Aug 22, 2017

    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.

  • Giltibo Giltibo on Aug 23, 2017

    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)

  • Johnds Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.
  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.
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  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.