Minivan Market Share Plunged During America's Pandemic-induced Second-quarter Auto Sales Collapse

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
minivan market share plunged during americas pandemic induced second quarter auto

“How bad is it? And how bad is it going to be?”

Those were our questions five months ago when describing the American minivan category’s paltry 408,982 sales in calendar year 2019. At that time, the rate of decline experienced by the segment suggested that, “America won’t even acquire 300,000 minivans next year.”

Enter novel coronavirus and, consequently, a second-quarter in which auto sales in the United States tumbled by a third. For perspective, that’s 1.5 million fewer sales between April and June of 2020 than during the equivalent period one year earlier.

Meanwhile, as quarantines and lockdowns and isolations and shutdowns caused new vehicle demand to shrink, the previously beloved minivan segment saw its share of the U.S. market absolutely crater.

1.5 percent.

One. Point. Five. Per. Cent.

Only 15 out of every 1,000 new vehicles sold in the second-quarter of 2020 were vans: Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravans, Honda Odysseys, Kia Sedonas, or Toyota Siennas. That was down nearly a full percentage point from Q1; down more than a full percentage point year-over-year.

Put another way, that disastrous loss of market share was caused by a 61-percent year-over-year drop in van sales, a decline equal to nearly 70,000 lost sales.

There were contributing factors beyond COVID-19’s onslaught. The Dodge Grand Caravan, America’s top-selling van at both this time last year and in 2020’s opening quarter, ended production to make way for the eventual Chrysler Voyager. Toyota unveiled its fourth-generation Toyota Sienna – a hybrid-only effort – and began winding down the third-gen van that achieved real success over the course of a decade. Due in part to these two transitions, the Dodge/Toyota duo combined to shed some 48,000 of the segment’s 70,000 lost sales.

Yet regardless of specific vehicular implications, the buyers simply disappeared. They disappeared at a faster rate than they’ve been disappearing – and yes, they’ve been disappearing for a while. And they disappeared nearly twice as fast as they did across the rest of the market.

Pouring symbolic salt into the wound, the Ford Explorer on its own narrowly pipped the entire minivan segment in 2020’s second-quarter. One year earlier, as the new Explorer struggled to wind up and minivan sales were only approaching the outer rim of the toilet bowl, minivan volume was nearly three times stronger than Ford Explorer volume.

Now, the category produces just 1.5 percent of the overall industry’s sales, roughly in line with:

  • Toyota Tacoma: 1.7 percent
  • Subaru Forester: 1.6 percent
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee: 1.6 percent
  • Honda Accord: 1.4 percent
  • Toyota Corolla: 1.4 percent

For every Pacifica, Grand Caravan, Odyssey, Sedona, or Sienna sold in America in 2020’s second-quarter, American car shoppers drove home in 1.9 Toyota RAV4s (how bad do you feel for the people who only get one-tenth of a RAV4?). BMW, despite sliding more rapidly than the industry at large, is now outselling America’s minivan segment. So is Mazda, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz.

Minivan market share is now just half what it was in 2016. Combining the changing tastes of America’s pro-crossover shoppers with the disastrous impact of the pandemic, 300,000 minivan units in 2021 seems like an expectation gone too far. At this rate, Americans might not drive home in 250,000 minivans in 2020.

Can an SUV-ified Kia Sedona, a hybrid/AWD Toyota Sienna, and a Chrysler Voyager swing the pendulum back in 2021?

[Images: Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Kia]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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2 of 19 comments
  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jul 23, 2020

    The stylists are "sedaning" the minivan to death. (Because of longer product cycles, it is taking longer to kill.) They (evil stylists) are gunning for trucks next. [Sounds crazy, I know.]

  • Avnut Avnut on Jul 27, 2020

    Minivan sales are down, but checking Carvana (on 7/27/20) for them, under Toyota Sienna, there are 36 for sale with 26 pending for sale. For Honda Odyssey, there are 50 for sale with 47 pending for sale. For Kia Sedona, there are 15 for sale with 13 pending for sale. For Dodge Grand Caravan, there are 177 for sale with 89 pending for sale. For Chrysler Pacifica, there are 57 for sale with 50 pending for sale. People may not want them new, they do seem to like them used though. Myself, give me a minivan any day over some CUV/SUV, unless I truly need a "truck".

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion:
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?