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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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]

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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.

  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
  • Chris P Bacon I've always liked the looks of the Clubman, especially the original model. But like a few others here, I've had the Countryman as a rental, and for the price point, I couldn't see spending my own money on one. Maybe with a stick it would be a little more fun, but that 3 cylinder engine just couldn't provide the kick I expected.
  • EBFlex Recall number 13 for the 2020 Explorer and the 2020 MKExplorer.
  • CEastwood Every time something like this is mentioned it almost never happens because the auto maker is afraid of it taking sales away from an existing model - the Tacoma in this instance . It's why VW never brought the Scirrocco and Polo stateside fearful of losing Golf sales .
  • Bca65698966 V6 Accord owner here. The VTEC crossover is definitely a thing, especially after I got a performance tune for the car. The loss of VTEC will probably result in a slower vehicle overall for one reason: power under the curve. While the peak horsepower may remain the same, the amount of horsepower and torque up to that peak may be less overall. The beauty of variable cam lift is not only the ability to gain more power at upper rpm’s on the “big cam”, but the ability to gain torque down low on the “small cam”. Low rpm torque gets the vehicle moving and then big horsepower at upper rpm’s gains speed. Having only one cam profile is now introducing a compromise versus the VTEC setup. I guess it’s possible that with direct injection they are able to keep the low rpm torque there (I’ve read that DI helps with low rpm torque) but I’m skeptical it will match a well tuned variable lift setup.
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