Is The Minivan About To Make A Comeback?
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Honda giving it’s Odyssey minivan a sportier look and more technology, with a total redo for the 2011 model year.
The current Odyssey is a strong performer. Edmunds.com says since 2007, one in five minivans sold has been an Odyssey.
Honda adding new features like an optional cooler in the front, extra storage for electronics, and flexible second row seating.
We have the ability to sit three child seats in the second row, and two in the third row, with five latch positions,” says Odyssey chief engineer Art St. Cyr. “We’ve also introduced wide mode seating, where the outboard seats in the second row–the captains chairs–actually move out three inches.”
(This silent video of the 2011 Odyssey provided by Honda.)
The Odyssey will have a price range from 28-43 thousand dollars, which Edmunds.com says makes it more expensive than a comparably priced Toyota Sienna minivan. The Sienna has also been redone, and is seen as the Odyssey’s main competitor.
Honda has added an “Elite Trim” to it’s high end “Touring” model, which features a significantly upgraded entertainment system.
“Our top of the line in our Touring Elite grade features a 650 watt stereo with 12 speakers” said St. Cyr, in an interview with WWJ AutoBeat Reporter Jeff Gilbert. “We have 5.1 channel surround sound capability in there. It features a 16.2 inch wide entertainment center screen.”
St. Cyr says the higher end trims of the Odyssey have historically been in high demand.
“Seventy per cent of our sales right now are actually in our upper trim levels.”
(Honda’s Art St. Cyr interviewed on Jeff Gilbert’s Wordwide Automotive Report)
In addition to the new Odyssey and Sienna, Chrysler is expected to unveil updated versions of the Town and Country and Dodge Caravan later this year, and Nissan is working on an updated Quest minivan.
The minivan market has been falling since 1995, with General Motors and Ford dropping out of the competition entirely.
GM has hinted that it may take another look at minivans in the future, but Ford’s President of the America’s Mark Field’s says minivans aren’t on their radar.
“No plans to get back into the pure minivan business.”
Ford has a number of crossover products, and is bringing out a small car with three rows of seats and a sliding door, like a minivan. It’s called the C-Max in Europe. Ford hasn’t yet said what the vehicle would be called when it comes to the North American market in the coming years.
“You have so many resources, manpower and financial, you want to be able to focus it on things where you see opportunities, where you think you can have a competitive advantage, and where you think it builds the brand,” said Fields.
Ford sees the demographic trends moving buyers more into crossovers, but Honda sees a sizable number of younger people moving into child rearing age, and says that could mean a renewed interest in minivans.
“The strength of the minivan market historically has been the baby boomers. We’re seeing now that the baby boomers are moving out of the family life stage and the ‘Generation X” and “Generation Y” are moving into that life stage,” says Honda’s St. Cyr.”
St. Cyr says Honda’s research shows that younger adults are showing more interest in vehicles that can accommodate growing families.
“Both parents are spending more time raising their kids. The families are getting bigger. There’s more stay at home mom’s. There’s a lot more interest in raising the family.”