Minivan Segment Swaggers Back To Life

Everyone is familiar with the minivan stigma: The cliché that minivans are for the unhip, banal and suburban unwashed masses. Nothing really says “soccer mom” any more than the words “Sienna,” “Town & Country,” “Grand Caravan” or “Odyssey.” 

The social stigma of being branded uncool a bit too early in one’s adult life has driven potential minivan shoppers toward crossovers in the past, and it’s a reason why General Motors and Ford abandoned the segment altogether. 

Hypercharged crossover sales — and before that, SUVs — hollowed out what was once a vibrant minivan market. We’ve lost 14 minivan nameplates since 2002. 

But there are some signs of life. Total minivan sales are up 3.4% for the year, but that’s compared against total industrywide sales gains of 17% year-to-date. 

When you look at market share, minivans have lost nearly half a percentage point of total share, down to just 4.0% of the total U.S. fleet for 2010. While that may seem bad, it’s especially worrisome when you compare it with the strength of the minivan market in 2002, when the segment comprised about 6.3% of the American market. 

A lot of this decline has to do with big automakers like GM, Ford, Nissan and Hyundai leaving the market, reducing the market to six nameplates. Ninety-one percent of the minivan market is now represented by the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan. As we reported Wednesday, Nissan will bring back the Quest in early 2011. 

The recently redesigned Sienna saw its sales grow 72% in June, backed by a spirited marketing campaign of a rapping middle-class family. Total sales are up 12% for the year, giving the Sienna a 19% share of the minivan market. As the only new minivan on the market, you’d think the Sienna would perform better, but Toyota’s ongoing safety record may be affecting the vehicle’s performance. 

The Odyssey’s sales fell 37% in June and 7% so far this year, but its overall sales are still within spitting distance of the new Sienna. The Odyssey is one of the oldest minivans on the market and will also be replaced by an all-new model in August. The Odyssey is typically the best-selling minivan in the country, but so far this year it has fallen a distant second to the Town & Country. 

Chrysler is seeing a resurgence in the segment it created. The automaker’s Grand Caravan and Town & Country twins represent the lion’s share of the industry. Chrysler collectively accounts for about half the minivan market, 49.1%, which is more than 10% higher compared with 2009. However, the company would not reveal how much of these sales were to fleets, such as rental car companies. 

With the Sienna’s sales climbing quickly in the recent months, we believe Toyota’s recall stigma isn’t sticking to all models. Honda’s redesigned Odyssey comes at a perfect time as sales begin to wane. Chrysler won’t be left behind, either; the automaker has announced extensive updates, which include new engines, for both vans later this year. 

The rapid updates among the three major automakers remind us of the full-size pickup truck category: ultracompetitive but capable of supporting only a few nameplates. 

The real question remains if the minivan segment can support also-rans like the Kia Sedona and Volkswagen Routan, or returning entries like the upcoming Quest.



Would be interesting to see Chrysler sales by region because where I live, I don't see as many of those as I see Odysseys and Siennas.


Here in Central OH, all we see are Hondas since they are built up the road in Marysville. Barley see any Siennas. Chryslers are everywhere as well. I have had a hard time seeing the stigma to minivans. They are more fuel efficient, more cargo space, and can carry more people.


BillP, the minivans aren't more fuel efficient than many of the crossovers on the segment. I looked at the Siennas at my local dealership and the best mileage any of them rated was 22. My friend's Outlander gets 24. And I am sure the Flex matches or beats the 22.

The Outlander is hardly comparable to a minivan. Even the Flex has a lot less space. Only the GM quartet is even close to minivan-level interior volume and vans are still roomier. And much less expensive than the big crossovers.


I meant Outlook. Sorry for the typo.



The 4-cylinder Senna gets 26 mpg on the hwy. The FWD Sienna gets 24 mpg on the hwy. If your dealership only has AWD models of the Sienna, then that's going to be the best mileage.


"The social stigma of being branded uncool a bit too early in one’s adult life has driven potential minivan shoppers toward crossovers in the past..."

People who are already buying minivans or crossovers or SUVs for their KIDS have no "coolness" to redeem, just self-denial. You're cool to your kids and friends, why care what is hip to anyone else?


It's really unfortunate, I've lived in Japan basically for the last 10 years (military) and there really isn't the stigma there. They are just too practical. I've returned to the states and now own a 06 Sienna love it I just wish they would design a Hybrid I want better gas mileage to go along with my $50 fill ups.

@jim You may be in luck, Toyota will supposedly produce a hybrid Sienna in one year's time.


LMAO all of the Japanese vans look the same


My Friday Evening ride count of minivans:
10 Chryslers
6 Hondas
11 Toyotas
1 Nissan
3 Chevys


Just came back from a road trip in our '11 Sienna. The run-flats are not that great when you have a flat; what's WORSE is that nobody (in the Chicago area that we called) carried one on hand so we had to "limp" home with a regular tire.

Otherwise this thing is tolerable, no big gripes about it so far after 7100 miles...


About the MPG, we averaged about 22 mpg @ 75mph (V6 AWD)... Since it had more total cargo room than a Suburban, I am not complaining about the MPG's.


You should of bought an ODY. We've owned Chrysler, Toyota, Ford, Honda and GM minivans. It's so obvious that Honda makes the best minivan. We're on our third one and with five kids we know a good minivan when we drive one.

It is the wonderful opinion the things which are mentioned and used here are numerous. Need to be appreciated by everyone. Would be interesting to see Chrysler sales by region because where I live, I don't see as many of those as I see Odysseys and Honda.

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There are some great topics to discuss in there. I’ll be sure to check back! I appreciate the concern which is been used here. It is the wonderful opinion the things which are mentioned and used here are numerous.

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