It’s all about product, they say.
Product, product, product.
When in doubt, add product.
New product, they say, will reinvigorateÂ the American midsize sedan category. New product, one might have imagined, would provide an ample boost to America’s minivan segment.
Yet in August 2017, only the third month on the market for Honda’s fifth-gen 2018 Odyssey, overall minivan sales increased for just the second time in a year despite another sales decline from that very same new product, the Honda Odyssey.
Yes, it was an old product â€” the oldest minivan in the segment, in fact â€” that boosted U.S. minivan sales in August 2017. The boost, mind you, was modest. Total minivan volume was up by less than 1 percent, a modest 318-unit year-over-year improvement, because the Dodge Grand Caravan’s massive 62-percent August improvement â€” worth more than 6,500 extra sales â€” was counteracted by losses at Chrysler, Kia, and Honda, plus the demise of the Mazda 5 and Nissan Quest.
Dodge Grand Caravan sales rose to the highest August level since 2004 and the highest any-month level since December 2007. Dealers had been encouraged earlier this summer to stock up on Grand Caravans in advance of a four-month-long Grand Caravan production shutdown.
With plentiful Grand Caravans in stock, Dodge clearly decided to push volume onto consumers and daily rental agencies early on in the shutdown. (FCA’s total fleet volume was down 23 percent in August and accounted for one-fifth of total FCA volume.)
But slowing the minivan category down once again in August was the new Honda Odyssey, availability of which remains limited. The Odyssey is assembled at the same Alabama plant as the Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline, a plant that’s still responsible for some Acura MDX production. Heading into August, Honda dealers had just a 30-day supply of Odysseys â€” the industry had a 69-day stock of new vehicles, according to Automotive News.
Cars.com lists barely more than 9,000 Odysseys in stock now, not nearly enough to meet a typical month of demand for the Odyssey, which averaged more than 10,300 monthly sales during the final three years of the old van.
The Toyota Sienna reported a 6-percent August sales increase, bolstering the Grand Caravan’s move to raise the segment’s volume. The Chrysler Pacifica also reported an improvement, though total Chrysler-brand minivan sales slid 18 percent in August, year-over-year.
Minivans accounted for 3.1 percent of U.S. new vehicle volume in August 2017, up one-tenth of a percentage point compared with a year ago. Through the first-two-thirds of 2017, minivan market share is down from 3.4 percent in 2016 to 3.0 percent. Now on track for nearly 485,000 sales in 2017, the minivan category is no longer â€” at least not at the moment â€” on track for its worst year since 2009.
Minivans are now on track to fall to the lowest level since 2010.
[Images: Honda Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.