• Jan 2, 2007
In recent years, we know very few people with kids who have opted to buy domestic minivans as the primary family hauler. More often than not, we hear the Odyssey and Sienna names put forth, followed by an assortment of SUVs, domestic and otherwise. Some people have undoubtedly abandoned a domestic brand for one of the Japanese big guns. This isn't surprising, since the Odyssey and Sienna do the job very well.

Now comes word in Automotive News that fleet sales are keeping up the illusion that the domestics' position in this segment is merely calamitous and not utterly cataclysmic. Rick Kranz points out that from January through October '06, fleets accounted for 65-percent of Ford Freestar sales, 62-percent of Chevy Uplander sales, and over 40-percent of the DCX vans. And what of the Odyssey? Fleets account for 1 percent of sales. No wonder Ford and GM are all about the crossover nowadays. Their minivans are the stars in a Weekend at Bernies sequel in which they're playing the part of Bernie.

Ford's bailing out and pulling the ripcord labeled "FAIRLANE," while GM prepares its trio of new large crossovers -- the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave -- with hopes for 130,000 in combined sales, according to North American sales veep Mark LaNeve. Chrysler, which as the inventor of the minivan has a lot of prestige on the line, will stay in the fight and unveil its fully redesigned vans at the Detroit show next week.

The overall market for minivans has been shrinking for several years in a row, and many of the automakers point to that as justification for looking to crossovers. We doubt that Honda and Toyota execs are fretting, however, since the (real) people buying minivans are apparently choosing theirs. Chrysler knows what it's doing here, so we hope to see something good next week. The market may be shrinking, but there is still a market for the things. It just takes a high-quality product to compete.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]


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  • 21 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      15. Ummmmmm...No. Cars under fleet sales are often sold under invoice or at a loss to the manufacturer. BIG 3 cut back on their fleet sales because they were basically building cars to keep their workers working and prevent plants from idling. Look at most of the sales numbers and the 3 are falling because fleet sales are down. They don't want to sell to fleets because it cheapens the image, looses money and decreases resale value. Also most fleets get rid of their cars before the factory warranty expires.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I had to rent a chevy Uplander for over a month and took it cross country. Our van came with only 200 miles so it was brand new. The check brake light constantly went of and on for no reason. The van drove fine on the highway and had decent power. The backseat DC plug is very inaccesible. Overall, it's an ok rental, but I can't see ever wanting to own this compared to the competition.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Chrysler knows how to do a minivan. We've owned two and they're very nice products (if a bit disappointing in long term reliability). Ford has never really gotten the minivan market. GM wasted a lot of money making badge engineered variants of an old design (not a bad one till they tried to SUV the appearance) rather than one good refresh. Also, I think Nissan isn't doing that hot with the latest Quest, so it's not just the domestics flaming out.

      I worry about the automakers ceding whole segments of the market. No one knows the future perfectly. What did the market look like for big SUVs and Pickups when GM started developing their latest model?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Good luck to DCX - just had some ride time in a new Honda Odyssey. Boy, did they ever put a lot of thought into that thing! The ergonomics are quite good, the materials and fit and finish are excellent - didn't feel cheap at all. Let's see if the domestics can get on the stick, they've got some issues that Honda and Toyota don't, like UAW legacy costs - it'll be a challenge for them to fill the van chock-full of good stuff and be competitive, but I hope they can do it.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I just updated my site's list of most popular price comparisons, and even compared to six months ago mininvans are much less prominent than they were. For a long time minivan comparisons were among the most popular on my site, which didn't surprise me as mininvan purchases tend to be more driven by reason rather than emotion.

      The Odyssey-Sienna comparison was #1 by a wide margin for the first year and a half. But a couple of months ago it feel to second, and now it's fourth. Other minivan comparisons have nearly fallen off the list.

      Might be a fluke, but the implication is that minivans are fading fast. And right before DCX introduces a new one.

      The list:

      http://www.truedelta.com/popular.php
      • 8 Years Ago
      I'm with you, Robert, I've owned ten Chrysler minivans, going all the way back to the original one in 1984.

      problems? just one, on my 1991 Plymouth Grand Voyager. there was a glitch in the transmission software, but I managed to get to the dealer. it took twenty minutes to reprogram the computer, and I was on my way. I sold this one to some friends in Hawaii, and it is still going strong with over 300,000 miles.

      maybe some need to take a look at some of the "successes" of the competition.

      should we start with Nissan? they recalled ALL (yes, that's every one) that they built thru 1992, paid the owners full retail book, and destroyed all of them. must be that Japanese quality, right? can you name another manufacturer anywhere who ever did anything like this?

      how about Toyota? they had their silly Toyota Van in 1984, a quick, stopgap, mid-engine, ass-over-the-front wheel design that looked like a bad copy of an early-60's Econoline van. the short, 88-inch wheelbase was great for rollovers, too.

      that was replaced with the Previa in 1991, which had it's engine under the floor, on it's side, behind the passenger seat. the small timer's bible, Consumer Reports, said "they did not see a service issue with the engine placement". I can only imagine what their comments would be if a domestic company had done this.

      no need to mention Honda here, as they did not even field a minivan (of sorts) until the mid-90's. and let's not forget the Mazda MPV, either. another RWD failure.

      Chrysler (with the exception of Hyundai/Kia) is still the only minivan to offer two choices in wheelbase, and the availability of both four and six cylinder engines.

      without a doubt, their new design will be the benchmark for all the others to copy, as it has always been.

      and Chrysler, keep those fleet orders going! I would be greatly disappointed if I didn't find a discarded (loaded) Pampers under the seat of the next one I rent.

      Mike
      Jim Gilliland
      • 8 Years Ago
      Strange, my '95 Dodge Grand Caravan ES with the 3.8 has 191K miles and the motor and trans have never had anything other than a starter and water pump...I guess Chrysler only built a good minivan for me...or maybe it's because I service my vehicle as should be and don't abuse it!
      • 8 Years Ago
      I love my 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan....
      Odyssey was about $6 000 more than my van when I was shopping... So far I have about 25 000 miles on my dodge without any problem
      • 8 Years Ago
      it's interesting to note all the "glowing" reports for the Honda minivan. like all Honda products, there are NO options; you have to take it the way they package it. want a top line model without navigation? forget it!

      want leather in a mid line model? no way. how about a tow package, or a different audio system? move up to the more expensive model, and it may not even be available there, like the tow package. the domestics (and Toyota) offer a multitude of choices, but don't expect that on ANY Honda.

      as Craig pointed out, there is nothing mentioned about all the fleet sales Toyota has. if you are a manufacturer looking for volume, fleets are always the way to go. I don't have a clue why some think this is such a bad thing; I've certainly never wanted to be in the line marked "I want to pay too much for something".

      Chrysler has owned the minivan market since they created it in 1984, and that will not change. they still own about 60% of the market, and I anticipate it will increase when their new van comes out later this year.

      the minivan is still the best way to move people who have actual legs. sitting in the back of an SUV reminds me of being a kid, stuffed the back of a station wagon. sitting over the rear axle didn't make much sense then and even less now. FWD is the most efficient way to package any vehicle.

      Mike
      • 8 Years Ago
      I am on my second DCX van. They don't hold their value like a Honda, but they can be obtained for FAR less money. Also, the power liftgate is a $400 option, and is not available on the Honda unless you spring for the $35K+ Touring model. We have been very happy with the Dodges, and I am sure the new '08s will be very well done.

      The article doesn't mention the Toyota Sienna, which seems to be sold to fleets in large numbers as well. Wonder why? Honda doesn't do fleet sales of any of their cars. Toyota does (Corolla, Camry, Sienna, etc). Could it be that they want to make the domestics look bad, so they leave Toyota out and make comparisons to Honda?
      • 8 Years Ago
      knowing how i am crazy about my bmw e46 and cars in general, my aunt asked me for my input when she went minivan shopping recently. i was shocked, disgusted to learn that domestic mini vans including the flagship dodge caravan have rear windows that you CANNOT roll down? that is so pathetic. c'mon! this is 2007, and you are not able to make windows that roll down? i was flabbergasted, and confused that any consumer would tolerate that. by the way, honda odyssey drives incredibly. when i told the salesman, he mentioned that honda used the bmw 5 series handling as a benchmark --- honestly, as a car handling snob, that was what was in my mind, that it handles like a bmw sedan! amazing. however, my aunt eventually bought a toyota sienna for the overall comfort and interior quality, primarily the seats being more comfortable with its softer leather and cushiony support. even i told her to wait for the 2007 sienna with its 20 horsepower boost, she got the end of the year special from the dealer. my 2 cents...
      • 8 Years Ago
      And, in a move not announced generally, Ford has pulled the plug on the Freestar. Originally scheduled to end in April '07, Ford announced to dealers on December 26th that Freestar production has ended forever.
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