The Minivan segment continued its decline, with sales down 15% compared to the same period in 2014 – the second largest fall after the Mid-sized segment. This does not necessarily mean that the US has fallen out of love with the segment it invented (no matter what Matra/Renault may claim). Sure, more and more people switch away from boring minivans away to SUVs, but this is also one of the “oldest” segments – full of cars either trying to hold on with a facelift (Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey) or cars on their way out (Chrysler T&C, Dodge Grand Caravan, Mazda5). In fact, once the new generation of the Fiat Chrysler Automotive minivan hits the market I would not bet against it dragging the segment sales up.
Pointing to a market leader is not straightforward in the Minivan segment. While the single best-selling model is the Toyota Sienna, the Chrysler T&C and Dodge Grand Caravan are so similar that oftentimes they are thought of as the same model (and may in fact be replaced by a single model) – if you do that, than their combined sales are still tops at 75,840. Still, with a year-on-year fall in sales of 47% it may not hold onto the lead for long, especially that the Sienna actually grew in sales by 15%, a great performance given that its recent facelift was of the “blink and you’ll miss it” variety.
In #3 is the Honda Odyssey, pretty much holding station. While normally I find nothing to say about Honda’s mainstream US models, the Odyssey is a personal favorite of mine – for the past two generations it’s been trying to make the minivan cool (ok, less dour) without trying to hard (think previous-gen Nissan Quest). This is actually also true of the car in #4, the Kia Sedona. Whereas the previous generation model was very old by the end of its lifetime and about as bland as they get, the new model has Kia’s confident new front and at least some effort of making the car more interesting from the side. It seems the consumers like this approach, as Kia sold almost five times as many Sedonas in H1 2015 than it did in the same period last year!
In #5 is another car I like, though this time the market does not seem to agree – the Mazda5. I’ve always been a fan of the small minivan, but clearly Mazda concluded that it’ll do much better selling SUVs to the family crowd as this will be the last Mazda5, at least for now. Pity. In sixth spot is the Nissan Quest, an outcast of the segment – too narrow and tall to really compete with the market leaders, not special enough to have the kind of special appeal that the Kia Soul has or Nissan Cuba had. But hey, at least it’s not the VW Routan – a Chrysler T&C-based model that was so unappealing that it never caught on in the market and was killed off for 2015.
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