No Thanks to the New Honda Odyssey, U.S. Minivan Sales Increased In August 2017 for Just the Second Time in a Year

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

It’s all about product, they say.

Product, product, product.

When in doubt, add product.

New product, they say, will reinvigorate the American midsize sedan categor y. New product, one might have imagined, would provide an ample boost to America’s minivan segment.

Yet in August 2017, only the third month on the market for Honda’s fifth-gen 2018 Odyssey, overall minivan sales increased for just the second time in a year despite another sales decline from that very same new product, the Honda Odyssey.

Yes, it was an old product — the oldest minivan in the segment, in fact — that boosted U.S. minivan sales in August 2017. The boost, mind you, was modest. Total minivan volume was up by less than 1 percent, a modest 318-unit year-over-year improvement, because the Dodge Grand Caravan’s massive 62-percent August improvement — worth more than 6,500 extra sales — was counteracted by losses at Chrysler, Kia, and Honda, plus the demise of the Mazda 5 and Nissan Quest.

Dodge Grand Caravan sales rose to the highest August level since 2004 and the highest any-month level since December 2007. Dealers had been encouraged earlier this summer to stock up on Grand Caravans in advance of a four-month-long Grand Caravan production shutdown.

With plentiful Grand Caravans in stock, Dodge clearly decided to push volume onto consumers and daily rental agencies early on in the shutdown. (FCA’s total fleet volume was down 23 percent in August and accounted for one-fifth of total FCA volume.)

MinivanAug. 2017Aug. 2016% Change2017 YTD2016 YTD% ChangeChrysler Pacifica7,6217,4592.2%75,50726,400186%Chrysler Town & Country171,811-99.1%54556,945-99.0%Dodge Grand Caravan17,10910,57261.8%104,47994,55310.5%Honda Odyssey8,7099,992-12.8%66,99985,881-22.0%Kia Sedona1,6135,147-68.7%18,35134,304-46.5%Mazda 5—16-100.0%9362-97.5%Nissan Quest2327-99.4%4,9359,846-49.9%Toyota Sienna10,85310,2825.6%78,11190,241-13.4%Total45,92445,6060.7%348,936398,532-12.4%

But slowing the minivan category down once again in August was the new Honda Odyssey, availability of which remains limited. The Odyssey is assembled at the same Alabama plant as the Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline, a plant that’s still responsible for some Acura MDX production. Heading into August, Honda dealers had just a 30-day supply of Odysseys — the industry had a 69-day stock of new vehicles, according to Automotive News. lists barely more than 9,000 Odysseys in stock now, not nearly enough to meet a typical month of demand for the Odyssey, which averaged more than 10,300 monthly sales during the final three years of the old van.

The Toyota Sienna reported a 6-percent August sales increase, bolstering the Grand Caravan’s move to raise the segment’s volume. The Chrysler Pacifica also reported an improvement, though total Chrysler-brand minivan sales slid 18 percent in August, year-over-year.

Minivans accounted for 3.1 percent of U.S. new vehicle volume in August 2017, up one-tenth of a percentage point compared with a year ago. Through the first-two-thirds of 2017, minivan market share is down from 3.4 percent in 2016 to 3.0 percent. Now on track for nearly 485,000 sales in 2017, the minivan category is no longer — at least not at the moment — on track for its worst year since 2009.

Minivans are now on track to fall to the lowest level since 2010.

[Images: Honda & 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.

Timothy Cain
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  • Klossfam Klossfam on Sep 05, 2017

    A semi-reliable, cheap box on wheels, highly mfr funded appliance aka the Dodge Grand Caravan drove the number in reality...with a little help from the Pacifica and Sienna...still a drop in the bucket vs the small CUVs and pickups people actually want...I will not argue that a minivan is still the most practical vehicle on the planet, however...

  • Kenn Kenn on Sep 05, 2017

    Looking at this article's lead photo again, the first word that came to mind: Monstrosity. Yes, it's "only" a minivan, but even so, when I consider buying any vehicle, I expect an assortment of adjectives to arise, but definitely not "monstrosity" ('not a big fan of "polarizing," either).

    • Conundrum Conundrum on Sep 05, 2017

      Got to your comment just as I was about to pen my criticism of that butt-ugly Odyssey. You almost saved me the trouble, but what the heck, let me double-down on what you said. A gargoylic monstrosity no matter how funny Cain thinks he is. Almost any professional non-Japanese stylist anywhere could have done a better job at lunch hour before getting back to serious work.

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