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The moral of a certain African tale is: no matter whether you're the lion or the gazelle, when you get up every morning you better be ready to run. That counts for rams, as well. One of Chrysler LLC's most profitable divisions is getting run down in a historically dominant specialty: minivans. The Dodge Caravan (and Grand Caravan), specifically, is in danger of losing its best selling minivan title to the Honda Odyssey.

The Detroit Free Press reports that year-to-date, Dodge has sold 154,824 Caravans, which is a 21.4-percent decline from last year. Part of that has been explained with the arrival of a new model and the elimination of the cheaper, short wheelbase version. Honda meanwhile has sold 158,139 Odysseys so far this year, which is only a 2.3-percent decline from last year. Honda also has a new version of the Odyseey this year, introduced in August, and has outsold Dodge for the past six months -- which means the new model picked up where the old one left its marker.

Follow the jump for more.

[Source: Detroit Free Press]

  • 2008 Honda Odyssey Touring.
  • 2008 Honda Odyssey Touring interior.

They have both used incentives to get metal moving: Honda more than $1,500 per vehicle, Dodge more than $2,700. One should also note that if you added sales of the Chrysler Town & Country to Dodge's total, the combined sales of the two sister vehicles would easily beat out the Odyssey's numbers.

Dodge and its dealers, however, aren't worried. A J.D. Power analyst said that the Caravan is still gathering sales steam, and hasn't had the necessary availability to keep up with demand. Dealers expect the Dodge Journey to replace the lost sales of the short wheelbase Caravan -- although we don't know how that would count toward minivan sales... With 21 days left in the year, 24 years of market leadership is on the line for Dodge. If you have a big red Boost Sales button in there somewhere, Dodge, now is the time to press it.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      They are ugly and overpriced, it was only a matter of time until US buyers looked elsewhere.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I am wondering if there aren't some demographic issues here; maybe the Dodge typically sells to people who have been more vulnerable to recent economic problems....
      • 7 Years Ago
      Wally makes a good point, although not in a very clear way. Even though many of you have owned multiple Chrysler mini-vans without many problems, statistically speaking that means nothing. Evidence by anecdote is not scientific. You would have to have owned more than 30 or 100 minivans to be even close to statistically significant. Statistically speaking, Chrysler minivans have more problems than asian-brand minivans, and that's a fact.

      Also, to switch topics, at the recent auto show I sat in several minivans because I think minivans are useful even though I have no need for one. The Toyota/Honda/Hyundai were decent and felt nice. Of course I wasn't driving. I sat in the new Dodge and felt cheap. Everything was hard to the touch and felt like rejected rubbermaid stuff. If Cerberus is serious about bringing Chrysler back, the first thing they should do is fire all the accountants who nickel and dimed the interior to death. Take the nickels and dimes from areas we can't see, not the area we always see.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Asian vans are better! No they are not! Having worked for a dealer that sells Dodge, Honda and Kia, I can attest that every single manufacturer has issues with there vehicles. If you think one is better then you are believing the hype. Every service dept. is busy and not just for maintenance. But when it does come to maintenance the imports are much more expensive. Take Kia's timing belt at 60k. The bill will cost you at least $700!
        • 7 Years Ago
        The nickel-n-dime'ing is everywhere. Toyota Highlanders are cheap also in base trim, but are better in premium trim. Unfortunately for Chrysler, they're cheap in all trims. After all is said and done with price/cost of this and that, I would pay for value in reliability and craftsmanship. I have to sit and drive it, I'd rather feel good in it and then just "oh well, it's just a car" because I don't think it's just a car, it's an extension of you...
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dodge has long lost the retail sales crown to the Odyssey since 40%-50% of total Caravan sales to fleets even the new version.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Exactly. The dealer in the ad says that retail value is $29,953, so if we are calculating at full retail, the van has depreciated from $33,605 to 29,953, or only about $3650.

      Now if we are calculating from TRANSACTION prices, we need to start at the actual original selling price (like VP, I was also thinking about $25K), down to the price for which it ultimately sells. If it was purchased for $25K and sells for $21,995, it has only depreciated about $3K.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've driven the Dodge minivans as rentals and having done so understand why all my friends drive Korean and Japanese vans. There is less difference in cost than you'd expect and the Asian vans simply drive nicer and are more reliable. It's sad the domestics choose not to compete, but that's the way it is.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Not to worry about the big 3 outselling anyone again. They are now partially or mostly owned by the government which if it had to play by normal rules of the business sector, it would be bankrupt in 2 femptoseconds.
      Remember the Yugo? You will soon be driving the Pelosivan if you stay with the domestic crowd.
      • 7 Years Ago
      You are counting depreciation off of MSRP. I will bet my behind that the first owner of that minivan did not pay anything more than 25K. We have dodge dealers here in GA advertising loaded caravan's for 20K or less.
      • 7 Years Ago
      chrysler lost the minivan battle in terms of quality almost a decade ago.
      They lost the minivan battle in terms of profit likely around 5 years ago.
      They probably lost it in terms of revenue in the last several years.

      This is just an inevitability.
        • 7 Years Ago
        sorry, need to clarify that "profit" above means profit per vehicle.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The only big issue with Dodge is that it doesn't look nice. For some weird reason Dodge simply recycled '94 design.

      However, it still offers the best bang for a buck. You can get a new Dodge for $24K vs. $36K for a similarly equipped Honda. Yeah, it will lose 50% of its value in 4 years, which translates into $12K loss. Now, if the same loss was added to Honda it will be only 30%, but in terms of $$$ it's the same amount.

      Personally, if 4-year old Honda holds it's value so nicely, I still feel it is stupid to choose a 4-year-old minivan over similarly priced brand-new one.
      • 7 Years Ago
      To hear some of you folks whine, it's amazing that Chrysler & Dodge has sold over 13,000,000 vans since introduction.

      From most accounts on here, they must have replaced at least 12,000,000 transmissions and yet people still buy them.

      • 7 Years Ago
      My parents had 3 Caravans/Voyagers. The first one was an '85 with the Mitsu 2.4 liter engine. It was bulletproof and lasted 215k miles. The press dogged that van about how bad the engine was but it was very reliable - probably just to spite them.

      They then moved up to a '96 Caravan (the ovalfied one). That soured their opinions greatly as headgaskets, tranny problems, wheel bearings, elec gremlins, crappy headlights (the headlights were so poorly designed and dimly lit they made it a danger to drive at night...Chrysler fixed this in 1997 but never recalled them to do the right thing and make them safer - parents had to pay out of pocket to find a wrecked 97 model and swap in the better lights / hardware). By 115k miles they were near toast on looking at one. Not to mention that they had a Chrysler New Yorker that was in the dealer 1/4 of year on average.

      But b/c resale values of Caravans were so low they bought a 2001 GCV (compared to a used 1998 Odyssey) thinking they got a great deal. Well they got another junker which chewed up 3 transmissions over just 50k miles (seems 1 year warranty is all a replacement is worth and will last). At 75k miles they dumped it at a big loss even though they bought it cheap used in the first place (tells you resale value is actually worth something - unless you own it till it dies). Funny thing was all the bad press from Honda tranny failures and how Honda exteded warranty to 100k miles - while Dodge did nothing for them (seems the defect rate was higher than Hondas...but no one cared b/c it was almost expected they'd fail).

      They bit the Bullet and bought a 04 Odyssey LX on clearance for 22k. It has 95k miles on it already (they drive like mad). It had one problem - the drivers side door would get stuck and they brought it to the dealer at 70k miles and they fixed it for free. Complete opposite of dealer experience they got with all their vans. Even the sales reps preying on the service waiting rooms.

      For those who buy for bargains...you get what you paid for and sometimes lucky with the diamond in the rough. However thinking resale on a vehicle is nothing important is something pretty ignorant to consider. B/c you'll eventually sell it and it'll be even more worthless.
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