The general belief that automobile manufacturers won’t find success in Canada’s mini-minivan category is supported, to a degree, by sales statistics. The market for these vehicles isn’t large, and even the overarching minivan segment is gradually shrinking as the industry expands.
The vast majority of automakers possess a vehicle of this sort in their global product range. The Toyota Verso, Ford Grand C-Max, and Volkswagen Touran are a few of the many.
Aside from maxivans like the Dodge Grand Caravan and Toyota Sienna, smaller, front-wheel-drive-only people carriers with three rows are rare here, and rarer south of the border. The Chevrolet Orlando and Kia Rondo aren’t sold in the United States, the Mazda 5 is marketed on both sides of the border.
Which mini-minivan do we like?
The 5 was Canada’s favourite mini-minivan in 2005 and 2006, when it had no competition, and again in 2007 and 2008. That was before the Rondo outsold it in 2009. Then Mazda took top spot once again in 2010.
Indeed, the Rondo was Canada’s favourite small MPV in 2009 and 2011, but then the Chevrolet Orlando took the crown in 2012.
Clearly, stable leadership isn’t something this segment has historically enjoyed. As though they’re sports cars, newness reigns supreme.
The Orlando has suffered a 51 % year-over-year decline in volume this year. Orlando sales fell consecutively, month after month, from October 2012 through May 2013. From October’s record high of 1044, Chevrolet Orlando volume slid to just 125 units in May, then rose to just 181 in June, its second worst month yet. GM says that current Orlando demand is in line with the market.
Meanwhile, Mazda has seen sales of the category’s historic leader, the sliding-doors 5, decline every year from 2009 onward. Canadian sales dropped 28% in 2009, 13% in 2010, 19% in 2011, and 13% in 2012. Through the first half of 2013, sales are down 43%. Only 1698 have been sold in Canada this year.
Kia Rondo making huge gains
The declines reported by the Orlando and Mazda clearly open the door for the Kia Rondo, sales of which have been consistent over the last 42 months. After rising from 7682 units in 2007 to 9906 and 9835 in 2008 and 2009, sales dropped 36% in 2010. Rondo volume has been steady since then. Year-over-year volume is down 5% in the first half of 2013, but that figure doesn’t tell the whole story.
After Rondo availability dropped to nothing in the first quarter–sales were down 50%–second quarter sales were up 24%. Indeed, thanks to the introduction of the 2014 Rondo, June volume more than doubled to 945 units.
To understand what 945 units means, we need context, and the context provided by the Dodge Grand Caravan is skewed by its unmatched segment domination. The Grand Caravan outsold the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Nissan Quest, and Kia Sedona combined last month. The Rondo, however, came within 180 units of the third-best-selling minivan, the Odyssey. Mazda sold 233 5s; Chevrolet sold 181 Orlandos. Canada’s 20th-best-selling car in June, the Toyota Matrix, sold 1121 copies, one for every five Honda Civics.
Will Canadians ever return to vans?
Ten vans, including the Rondo, 5, and Orlando, found 46,116 buyers in the first half of 2013, a 10% drop. The three small alternatives owned 12% of the minivan market, down from 17% in the first half of 2012 as their collective volume slid 36%.
Even if the Rondo experiences greater growth, it likely won’t be enough to make up for the lost sales at Chevrolet and Mazda. That won’t be a problem for Kia Canada, but it’s a problem for buyers who are hoping other automakers might join the party. The evidence says demand, while never high, is quickly disappearing.
Then again, if the newest vehicle in the class is always the best seller, perhaps automakers should be clamouring to be the next new trendsetter in the mini-MPV category.
More likely, they’ll bow down to the strength of Canada’s all-conquering minivan, the Grand Caravan, not to mention crossovers which offer all-wheel-drive, like the three-row Dodge Journey or best-selling two-row Ford Escape.