Buyers Take a Sienna Siesta, but Toyota Isn't Losing Sleep

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
buyers take a sienna siesta but toyota isnt losing sleep

Twenty-one years after Toyota replaced the alluring Previa with a new, more conventional people mover, the Sienna minivan finds itself falling out of favor among American buyers. SUVs and crossovers now provide virile consumers with a smorgasbord of front-and all-wheel drive, cargo-friendly alternatives, while competition from newer rivals serves to further erode the Sienna’s standing. What to do?

Nothing, at least for now. Much like the brand’s ancient Tundra pickup, Toyota’s Sienna, last redesigned for the 2011 model year, will soldier on relatively unchanged for another couple of years. Toyota isn’t worried.

Speaking to Automotive News, Toyota’s North American CEO, Jim Lentz, suggested his company is fine with letting the Sienna wither on the vine until a replacement trundles along. The target date for that new vehicle is the 2021 model year, when the minivan adopts Toyota’s TNGA architecture.

Despite being the only minivan on the market with available all-wheel drive, buyers looked elsewhere for a ride in 2018. Sienna sales fell 21 percent last year as consumers gravitated towards the Honda Odyssey and Fiat Chrysler’s stable Chrysler Pacifica and perennially popular Dodge Grand Caravan. The model’s buying base last year amounted to roughly half of its 2006 sales tally.

While Toyota could boost the Sienna’s appeal with a hood piled high with cash, Lentz doesn’t see much of a reason to waste the company’s dough.

“When it gets late in its life cycle, you’ve got to decide — typically, we will prop up a vehicle late in its life cycle with incentives,” he said. “But you’ve got to look at the segment that you’re in. And in some cases, that doesn’t make good business sense to do, and I think that’s what’s happening with Sienna.”

The Sienna’s home — Indiana’s Princeton assembly plant — already houses a profitable model that has no trouble finding buyers: the Highlander. With sales up 13 percent in 2018, Toyota’s Highlander outsold the Sienna almost three to one.

“I can build another vehicle in that same plant right now, so don’t chase volume just by throwing big incentive dollars,” Lentz said. “Wait for the fresh new product to come, because there have been some big incentives thrown [by competitors] against that segment.”

[Image: Toyota]

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  • Chetter Chetter on Jan 29, 2019

    Old, dated and best served as an NYC taxi now a days. The Pacifica blows it away.

    • Gtem Gtem on Jan 29, 2019

      Reliability on the new Pacificas (statistically) has been a bit of a horror show. I really like how they look and drive, but it scared me right into the older body style Chrysler van, that should tell you something.

  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Jan 29, 2019

    I just wish a Sienna hybrid AWD was available, maybe it will be in 2021. I plan on keeping this one longer than the '12 though. The road noise was bothersome after comparing it to our other cars ,especially on longer trips.This has been solved for 18.The heated steering wheel is a big deal too. It drives me nuts not being able to use gloved fingers on a touch screen. Another bonus is the SD card video input. For little kids, the ability to load a bunch of MP4 converted movies on an SD card is much more convenient than switching DVDs individually too.

    • Richard Chen Richard Chen on Jan 29, 2019

      Guessing that the TNGA Sienna will have the hybrid+AWD combo as the Highlander Hybrid does: not available separately. The Highlander's battery sits under the second row seats, a Sienna Hybrid would have to use space under the 2nd row. I have a 2004 Sienna, finally hit 150K miles yesterday.

  • Pig_Iron You can buy a focus sedan right in the USA. It's called a maverick. 😒
  • Pig_Iron Brown bag a ploughman's lunch. 💼
  • Pig_Iron I thought IBOC was supposed to bring about a renaissance in terrestrial radio? Too bad the FCC went with a proprietary standard. I listen to AM every day because it offers superior geopolitical current affairs news and analysis, and because it offers non-English language programming also. EVs and less choice make driving drudgery. 😔
  • Irvingklaws Gas station coffee (which is usually pretty good these days) and a small bag of chips/nuts/pretzels to help stay alert. Sometimes bring a Gatorade because it doesn't seem to make me need to use the restroom as much as water or soda. Maybe stop McD's or BK for something to-go if I actually get hungry. Nothing fancy. I'll eat better when I get where I'm going 🙂
  • Legacygt There is nothing "trapezoidish" about that grill.