Minivans Sales Show Some Buoyancy in the U.S., but Only Because of Two Automakers

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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minivans sales show some buoyancy in the u s but only because of two automakers

You’d think the advent of dedicated electric vehicle platforms would breed a new era of flat-floored minivans, but most automakers just aren’t interested in going that route — internal combustion or otherwise. There’s no electric Chevrolet Venture on the horizon, nor will Ford resurrect the Aerostar in EV form and name it after a late ’60s muscle car.

Even in our clean, green future, SUVs reign.

The present, however, hasn’t abandoned the minivan, even if the segment is a shadow of its former self. March minivan sales in the U.S. topped that of last March, and year-to-date sales are up compared to 2017, despite the disappearance of two nameplates. Unlike SUVs and crossovers, however, there’s just not enough demand to put wind in every minivan model’s sales. It’s easy to imagine a near future where Fiat Chrysler and Honda own the segment.

Total minivan sales in the U.S. last month reached 48,325 vehicles, up from 45,923 in March of 2017. Of the minivans moved in March, Fiat Chrysler built 36.4 percent of them.

With discontinued models like the Nissan Quest and Chrysler Town & Country no longer exerting any pull in the segment, minivan volume rose 2.7 percent over the first three months of 2018.

The Chrysler Pacifica, which appeared on roads starting in mid-2016, saw a year-over-year sales increase of 40 percent in March. Year to date, the Pacifica nameplate attracted 30 percent more customers than the same period last year. Even the Dodge Grand Caravan saw an improvement in 2018, with March sales up 4 percent, year over year, and sales over the first three months of the year up 8 percent.

The Grand Caravan remains the best-selling minivan in the United States, and there’ll be buyers lining up for smokin’ deals until the (sad) day it vanishes from dealer lots.

Interestingly, the long-defunct Chrysler Town & Country remains on sales charts, but only barely. FCA sold one new Town & Country last month, and three over the course of the year.

The only other automaker to see increased demand for its minivan was Honda, which flaunted its next-generation 2018 Odyssey for what seems like forever. The glowing (and sometimes tropical) press apparently helped Honda get the word out, as Odyssey sales rose 27.8 percent in March, year over year, and 9.4 percent over the course of the first quarter of 2018.

In contrast, the Toyota Sienna, the segment’s fourth best-selling minivan, headed in the exact opposite direction. Sales sank 22.6 percent in March, with year-to-date sales down 9.2 percent. The news wasn’t good for the Kia Sedona, either. The only Korean minivan on the list ( ever so slightly refreshed for 2019, Kia tells us) saw March volume decline 45.3 percent. That’s no fluke, as year-to-date volume sits 40.9 percent lower than the same period last year.

Kia’s a strange bird, of course, and seems to delight in fielding models in segments long since abandoned by other brands. Maybe those new foglights will turn the tide.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Honda]

Steph Willems
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  • El scotto El scotto on Apr 13, 2018

    -eyes darting madly- In 1996 had reserved a Caddy in Orland form Avis. No Caddy's, nothing equivalent. I got a Chrysler Town and Country minivan instead. Two couples, all their luggage and two sets of golf clubs easily fit. Fast enough? Yes, for Orlando and Daytona roads. Acceptably Brogham-ed out, but with supple leather? Of course. John Shaft's Baby Momma would've been driving one.

  • CadiDrvr CadiDrvr on Apr 14, 2018

    Know this is anecdotal, but.... Was at a group conference last weekend, and everyone had a Chrysler Pacifica rental.

  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
  • Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.