U.S. minivan volume has decreased in nine consecutive months as the American minivan category lost 70,000 sales since August 2016, year-over-year.
As a result of the steady decline in aÂ minivan segment that essentially features only five vans, 2017 is set to be the lowest-volume year for the category since 2009. At the rate achieved through the first one-third of 2017, Americans will purchase and lease only 452,000 minivans in 2017, just 2.6 percent of the overall market and only slightly more minivans than Americans purchased and leased when the overall industry collapsed to the lowest level in 27 years.
Or perhaps not. Fresh product is the carnauba wax bath balm for the soccer mom segmentâ€™s tired flesh. And a new 2018 Honda OdysseyÂ is due at dealers in the coming weeks. (We’ll have a review of it next week.)
Is a new Odyssey the answer for Americaâ€™s minivan woes?
Honda believes so.
â€œWe think the market is fairly stable at around half a million and our share of that, at around 125,000, is pretty well spoken for,â€� American Honda product planner Jay Joseph told Wards Auto.
Americaâ€™s minivan category has averaged slightly more than 540,000 annual sales over the last half-decade.
But Fiat Chrysler Automobilesâ€™ transition away from the Chrysler Town Country into the Chrysler Pacifica has resulted in a serious degradation in volume, albeit not an unanticipated one given the Pacificaâ€™s somewhat premium positioning in the market. Chrysler brand minivan sales are down 18 percent so far this year. The Pacifica was Americaâ€™s leading minivan in April, however, a month in which Chrysler brand minivan sales rose 65 percent.
Meanwhile at Chryslerâ€™s Dodge partner, Grand Caravan sales have decreased by a modest 1 percent after rebounding from a dreadful 2015 (caused by a plant shutdown to retool for the Pacifica) last year. Year-to-date, the futureless Grand Caravan is the leading minivan nameplate. Combined, FCA owns 52 percent of Americaâ€™s shrinking minivan segment, up from 47 percent of a bigger pie last year.
Refreshed inside for 2015, underhood for 2017, and again updated for the forthcoming 2018 model year, the Toyota Sienna was Americaâ€™s best-selling individual minivan nameplate in each of the last two years. But the third-generation Sienna, originally launched in 2010, is no spring chicken. Sienna sales are down by a fifth so far this year.
The third-generation Kia Sedona has lost some of its fresh-faced appearance now, having been on the market for nearly three years. Sedona volume is down 28 percent in early 2017, placing the fifth-ranked minivan on track for a three-year low of barely more than 30,000 sales.
With the Mazda 5 dead and the Nissan Quest extinguished from retail duty, this leaves the Honda Odyssey to pick up the slack. But suffering from old age, with the Pilot and Ridgeline and Acura MDX stealing capacity, Odyssey sales are down 31 percent compared with 2016. Odyssey sales last year fell to a five-year low.
Undeniably more talented than the outgoing model, the 2018 Honda Odyssey will still face decreased demand for minivans on the whole in the latter half of this year. The minivan segment contracted over the last decade â€” gone are mainstream competitors from General Motors and Ford, among others â€” and the more recent decline in demand occurs as Americans move in ever greater numbers to SUVs and crossovers. While the industry has slowed down in early 2017, losing sales in each of the last four months, SUV/crossover volume is up 8 percent.
It may not matter how good the new Odyssey is â€” 2017 will not likely be a good year for the minivan segment. But will 2017 be the end of the categoryâ€™s downfall?
The minivan categoryâ€™s share of the U.S. auto industry is now below 3 percent, falling by more than half since 2006.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.