Buyers Take a Sienna Siesta, but Toyota Isn't 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.”
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