By on April 12, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica S Appearance Package, Image: FCA

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.

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: Honda

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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53 Comments on “Minivans Sales Show Some Buoyancy in the U.S., but Only Because of Two Automakers...”


  • avatar
    ernest

    Someone needs to recheck their Math. Here, let me help.

    Dodge Grand Caravan- 16,292 units
    Chrysler Pacifica- 13,086

    Total March ’18 Minivan sales, (US) 48,325

    FCA market share: 60.787%

    Helluva difference between 61% and 36%

    *As a side note, Honda delivered 9873 minivans. Bottom line here, FCA outsold all comers in this segment combined. Like they have every month since… well, since the K-Car was still around.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      sounds like O’ Stephen forgot to include the Pacifica.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      Traditionally FCA minivans have filled the lower 1/3 of the minivan market read cheapskate bottom end. Toyota Sienna tends to stake out the middle ground while Honda Odyssey stakes out overlap in the mid to higher end market.

      It has become uncool to own one and the shift has been to more expensive and less practical SUV’s/CUV’s.

      I’d much rather own a minivan over a CUV.

      • 0 avatar
        KrisZ

        Sure, when people are buying 15 year old technology Camrys and Corollas, it’s proof they the market has spoken and Toyota must be providing a superior product.

        When FCA is clearly outselling the “superior” brands, it’s the cheapskates and bottom of the barrel curtomers being fooled into buying an inferior product.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @KrisZ – Where did I use the term “superior”? or talked about people being “fooled?
          Just from a pricing perspective the Caravan/GrandCaravan has staked out the lower end of the pricing range. Sienna tends to sit in the middle with Honda mid to higher end of the price scale.
          I owned a GrandCaravan. It clearly fell into the lower price range.Since you mentioned “inferior product”, it was a piece of sh!t that was getting repairs several times per year with virtually zero residual value.

          • 0 avatar
            KrisZ

            As you have shown it is mplied, you don’t have to say it.

            This trend of Toyota and Honda cannot ever be at fault is prominent in every category. A transmission blows up, it’s a Honda and is still way more reliable than a domestic.
            Toyota recalls millions of vehicles, it’s a sign of them caring about the customer.

            This double standard just goes on and on.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @KrisZ – you have valid points relating to the perception of FCA minivans or any domestic product when compared to the Japanese. Regardless of that, my initial comment still stands in relation to pricing and target demographics.

            Toyota or Honda for example can be at fault and often are. I don’t fall into the group that believes that Japan Inc. vehicles are superior across the board.

            My 2010 F150 has seen less trips to the dealer for repairs than my ex’s Sienna.Excluding normal wear and tear items : 1 repair as opposed to 3 on the Sienna over 7.5 years. If you add “wear and tear items both vehicles have had brakes done. In a similar timeline the Grand Caravan we owned had at least 2 recall or warranty repairs per year and went through 3 sets of brakes and rotors. That would be 17 repairs as opposed to 4 on the Sienna.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          “Sure, when people are buying established technology Camrys and Corollas, it’s proof they the market has spoken and Toyota must be providing a superior product.”

          There, fixed that for you.

          • 0 avatar
            KrisZ

            Not too long ago there was a vehicle called a Cavalier. Back in the 90s and early 2000s it was what Corolla is today. It was pretty much refreshed and stayed the same for a long time. Guess why the fanboys of the time heavily criticized this vehicle for? Old design, despite being proven and quite reliable.

            Now that the same is happening with some of the Toyota models, it’s all cool because they’re so proven and reliable. One can only laugh at such blind following.

      • 0 avatar
        Jermelle Thompson

        It was cool to own a minivan at some point in time? Yeesh…don’t remember that.

        Maybe it was more practical to own a minivan & that was more socially acceptable. Now that there’s an SUV in every size & for every budget, why get a minivan? If you intend to use most of the seating & available cargo space, then definitely get one – you deserve it – less headaches in the long-run.

        I keep asking why hasn’t FCA resurrected the sport tourer body style (old Pacifica) as the Dodge Journey continues to march on as well. And so has the Ford Flex. Both gets seating for 6-8 & has descent cargo space.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Automotive journalists continue to forget that Dodge / Chrysler (Fiat has little to do with it) has always and continues to dominate the minivan market.

      Seriously, many of them believe Toyota and Honda sell more. They consider FCA a minor player. It’s quite amazing.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A zillion minivans are sold every year. They are just called “three row crossovers” now, and are less practical than they used to be. Or should be.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Three rows crossovers often have a better towing capacity than regular minivans.

      If they’d man up and put proper sliding doors on one of those crossovers, I’d want one!

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        That’s part of the “GREAT AMERICAN ANTI-TOWING CONSPIRACY (TM)”.

        It is ironic when vehicles on the same platform one as a minivan and one as a crossover and the crossover is rated higher in towing.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        The number of people who actually use the towing capacity of their SUVs or trucks is pretty small. Then again, how many Jeep owners ever leave the pavement?

  • avatar
    dima

    SUV or CUV, the practicality of minivans cannot be beaten.

  • avatar
    Jason Lombard

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time in airports and rental car lots over the past few weeks, and I’m calling “fleet” on the rise in Pacifica sales. Orlando, LAX, Las Vegas, and Baltimore each have staggering numbers of them lined up across the rental lots. In fact, I rented one for my team in Orlando, my first experience with the new Chrysler family hauler. There are worse places to spend a week than in a Pacifica. It felt very much like a Town & Country 2.0 (for good and bad).

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I must say…that Pacifica looks bad-a** in all black.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Not kidding: I just saw one at the soccer fields yesterday, it was fantastic. I don’t normally care for the 1980’s AMG look, or 2010’s murdered out-look cars, but that was sharp.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Minivan became luxury item. It used to cost price of the sedan. Now, it is 5-7K more. People simply can’t afford them. When you have 3-4 kids and you own credit card bill that reaches Montreal, what minivan?

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Have you seen the price of a base Grand Caravan or Pacifica around you? Their real transaction price starts around 20k and does the job fine.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        We looked seriously at new Pacifica Hybrid Limiteds when we were in the shopping process that resulted in our used LX570. The dealer was setting prices to make sure that, after the federal tax credit and a small WA state sales tax credit, the Hybrid Limited was just a bit cheaper than a regular Limited. Because the tax credits are significantly more than the difference in MSRP, that meant there wasn’t much of a discount available on the Hybrid. There was more discount available on the regular Limited, but we weren’t interested. (My wife is anti-van, but very pro-plug-in, and only the prospect of plug-in operation got her to look at a van.)

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        this is true. But there a lot of people who wouldn’t buy a Dodge. for those, Sienna can’t come in less than 28K

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Are you kidding? Minivans are CHEAP compared to the typical 3-row CUVs that all the yummy Mommys want instead.

      People aren’t choosing sedans instead of either one.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        We are in the market soon for a germbag hauler and I just can’t see how I can justify a 3 row cross over when I can get into a Pacifica for 2/3 the price and way more cargo room, plus a lower floor height. It’s not that we are poor but we are way past trying to impress other people.

        But I do encourage people to NOT look at Chryslers because that keeps the price low for me. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      The Ghost of Buckshot Jones

      MSRP on a Caravan or Pacifica to start sits at around $25k, that’s before incentives and dealers looking to move them. The average new car transaction price in the US is $37.8k. They aren’t expensive. What are you getting with 8 passenger capability for anywhere close to 25-26k new?

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Take me. I will not buy Dodge or Chrysler. Then how much my van costs now? Thanks

        • 0 avatar
          TwoBelugas

          “Take me. I will not buy Dodge or Chrysler. Then how much my van costs now? Thanks”

          Is that how you buy a house or other big ticket items? “I don’t want a basic ranch style house. How much my house costs now? Thanks”

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Eh, (many) people don’t seem to be having trouble buying loaded 3-row crossovers.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      You can buy a nicely equipped new Grand Caravan for under $18k or a Pacifica under $20k. Hardly an expensive new vehicle.

  • avatar
    cliff731

    I’ve not been impressed with the newest Honda Odyssey minivan… the styling is a huge turn off. Definitely done by a “committee”… and one with no concept of proper aesthetics or design. It comes off looking very awkward and ill proportioned in trying to maintain past “Honda Odyssey” styling themes and yet take the same to the next level. The side window “dip” between the “B-post” and the “C-post” is horrid! What on earth were they thinking?

  • avatar
    Trucky McTruckface

    So what happens when the Grand Caravan finally goes out of production? You know, like it was supposed to a year ago, but hasn’t because it’s still the segment best seller? Are those buyers all going to flip the inherently more expensive Pacifica?

    Also, that beltline dip on the Odyssey is stupid, even stupider than it was on the last generation model. When Honda finds a tasteless styling gimmick, the sure do hate to give it up.

    • 0 avatar
      gmichaelj

      ” Are those buyers all going to flip the inherently more expensive Pacifica?”

      No, they are abandoning that market segment and moving “up market” to “A Class” buyers. Or something: I’m sure they covered it in an analyst conference call. Nobody wants to be the “value leader”: Wall Street (Canary Wharf) wont reward that thinking.

    • 0 avatar
      jeoff

      By that time the Pacifica will be 5 or more years old—with the tooling costs paid for could they just sell decontented ones at a profit?—maybe even slap on a different plastic up front and call them “Grand Caravans”?

      • 0 avatar
        JEFFSHADOW

        As I have predicted since early 2016, the new Dodge version of the Pacifica will be Monaco. Today’s buyers have no whiff of an idea what a Monaco (or Monaco Wagon?) used to be. Just like enough Pacifica buyers don’t remember the first generation that was gone by 2008.
        Our new Pacifica is a fine “UnVan”, like 7-UP!

        • 0 avatar
          KrisZ

          As long as they keep an affordable version of this minivan in the market, they can keep making the current Grand Caravan generation for the next several years and call it whatever they like.

          They are a lot of young families that cannot afford a $30-$40k people mover, so having an affordable version is only a good thing for the consumers. More choices in the market should always be welcomed.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    My 2011 AWD Sienna had a howling rear diff and the upshifts started to get slippy at 150k miles…which was disappointing. But living on a dirt road with two or three months of mud season, a skiing habit, and frequent kid hauling duties, it’s hard to beat the AWD minivan. So I got another one (leftover 2017). Plan is to run it to 99,000 miles or paid off (whichever is last), then see if we’re still minivan people or if we can revert to an Outback. Despite my love/hate relationships with power sliding doors, the packaging of a minivan kicks the ever-living snot out of SUV/CUV in the packaging department.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    I’d never buy one but I’m forced to admit that a murdered out, black Pacifica is petty damn awesome looking.

  • avatar
    mechimike

    There can be only one Ultimate Family Hauler:

    The Suburban.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Touting a Suburban in an article bemoaning the excessive cost of minivans vs. other family haulers?

      Now THAT is precious.

    • 0 avatar
      a5ehren

      Garbage interior unless you spend $$$ and a flinty ride? No thanks, unless I suddenly got really, really stupid and bought a boat.

      Not to mention the starting price is above all but the absolute tip-top of these vans’ ranges.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      A well equipped minivan is a much better family vehicle in use than is a Suburban unless you actually tow a heavy trailer behind it (which few people do).

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I also find the Pacifica to be an attractive design. I almost bought one last year. I was particularly interested in the plug-in hybrid but the model kept getting delayed, reportedly for teething issues, so I gave up and got something else completely different (a Giulia… I know, I am all over the place and a corporate marketing guy’s nightmare).

    I am curious how the hybrid is doing in terms of sales. Anyone know? It would suit my needs really well.

    As for the Sienna, I live in Northern Michigan and the AWD Siennas bring dear money as used cars. I understand that manufacturers would rather push buyers to higher-margin SUVs and CUVs but it does seem that leaving the AWD minivan market to Toyota alone is a big oversight on Chrysler’s part.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Honda Odyssey kills 16-yr old:
    https://cin.ci/2qpVWwg

    Major recall coming?

  • avatar
    a5ehren

    Hopefully the Sienna continues to tank so I can grab a good deal on an XLE later this year.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    -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.

  • avatar
    CadiDrvr

    Know this is anecdotal, but….

    Was at a group conference last weekend, and everyone had a Chrysler Pacifica rental.

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