In a war against family crossovers, some minivans are still winning their in-showroom Canadian sales battles
Dodge Grand Caravan vs. Dodge Journey
The Dodge Grand Caravan is an aged wonder, with an ability to attract large numbers of Canadian buyers (especially daily rental fleets) because of its budget pricing and flexible interior layout. The Dodge Journey stepped in to the lineup in 2008. By 2011, when Journey sales had nearly doubled in two years, it appeared fairly obvious that Canada’s best-selling minivan was handing over its mantle. After all, Grand Caravan sales had plunged 35 percent between 2006 and 2009.
Winner: Dodge Grand Caravan
But the Journey’s momentum was soon lost, and FCA Canada continued to find a way to offload large numbers of Grand Caravans. In 2011, Grand Caravan volume wasn’t even twice as strong as Journey volume. But in 2017, Grand Caravan sales were more than three times stronger. And with Journey sales tanking in 2018, the Grand Caravan is now 8 times more popular.
Honda Odyssey vs. Honda Pilot
On the market since the mid 90s, and since the 1999 model year as a properly competitive van with sliding doors, the Honda Odyssey was renewed for 2018 on an improved platform. The Pilot joined the Honda fleet nearly a decade after the Odyssey. After losing some momentum during and following the recession, Odyssey sales in 2016 reached a decade high. In 2017, Pilot volume was more than twice as strong as it was in 2007.
Winner: Honda Odyssey
The Pilot’s long-term trendline is more impressive, but Honda Canada still sells more three-row minivans than three-row utility vehicles. Year-over-year, Odyssey sales are up 48 percent to 3,745 units, 70 percent stronger than sales of the Pilot, which are only slightly better than flat through 2018’s first four months.
Kia Sedona vs. Kia Sorento
There are three main minivan companies in Canada: Toyota, Honda, and the dominant Dodge/Chrysler juggernaut. Kia operates on the periphery with the Sedona, which nevertheless found 5,286 buyers in 2018, just its fourth 4K+ year since 2004. In fact, Sedona sales more than doubled between 2015 and 2017. The Sorento is on its own growth streak – 2017 was its third consecutive year of improvement.
Winner: Kia Sorento
There’s no contest. Kia has already sold 5,167 Sorentos in the first four months of 2018. At its current pace, Kia will struggle to sell that many Sedonas in the full 2018 calendar year. On the one hand, you have the brand’s bestseller; on the other, you have a van that’s completely overshadowed by a long-time dominant quartet.
Toyota Sienna vs. Toyota Highlander
The first Toyota Sienna debuted for the 1998 model year as a successor to the largely ignored Toyota Previa. Three years later, Toyota jumped deeper into the SUV pool with the Toyota Highlander. Despite the general anti-minivan sentiment of the Canadian market, Sienna volume grew in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015 before rising to a 13-year high in 2017. The Highlander’s growth is more eye-catching, as sales of the SUV have doubled since 2013.
Winner: Toyota Sienna
Yet while the Highlander’s recent improvements are far more impressive, the Sienna remains marginally more popular in Canada. Last year, the Sienna outsold the Highlander by a modest 211 units, a narrow 1-percent difference. In early 2018, Sienna sales are 15-percent stronger thanks to big improvements in March and April.
Chrysler Pacifica vs. Dodge Durango
The Dodge Grand Caravan isn’t the only Windsor-built FCA minivan. Much further upmarket, the Chrysler Pacifica attempts to funnel off some sales from its corporate showroom partner, the Dodge Durango. The latest Pacifica is a successor to the Town & Country rather than the first-gen Pacifica, which was a crossover itself.
Winner: Chrysler Pacifica
In 2017, the Dodge Durango was the victor, outselling the Pacifica by a slim 5-percent margin in what was the Durango’s fourth consecutive year of growth. In early 2018, however, Chrysler has sold 2,892 Pacificas (a 38-percent uptick) while Durango volume is flat at 2,262 units.
Nissan Quest vs. Nissan Pathfinder
The Nissan Quest has lived a strange and complicated life, suffering through more than one hiatus, an awkward relationship with Ford’s Mercury division, and repeated attempts by Nissan to be more unusual than necessary. The Nissan Pathfinder is anything but unusual: it’s a car-like tall wagon with a V6 engine, three rows of seats, a continuously variable transmission, and a lot of features for the money.
Winner: Nissan Pathfinder
Why don’t automakers take more risks? Consider this pair. Nissan’s attempt to break the mold with the Quest resulted in its eventual discontinuation. Only 2,417 Quests were sold between 2010 and 2015. Nissan’s attempt to pitch right across the plate resulted in the fourth-generation Pathfinder, which has been a remarkably consistent sales success for Nissan since 2013, routinely achieving nearly 10,000 Canadian sales. 2,338 Pathfinders have been sold already this year, roughly as many sales as Nissan produced over the course of the final Quest’s entire tenure.
Mazda 5 vs. Mazda CX-5
Whether it’s rising fuel costs, the urban space advantages of a smaller vehicle, or the fun-to-drive nature, the Mazda 5 surely had potential when it arrived in Canada in 2005. 13 years later, the Mazda 5 has been discontinued, and Mazda hopes buyers will stick with the brand because of the similarly-priced two-row CX-5 (the Mazda 5 was a three-row six-seater) or the much more costly CX-9.
Winner: Mazda CX-5
Mazda’s given up on the 5, which saw sales in Canada plummet 86 percent between its 2008 peak and 2016. 438 remaining 5s have been sold in the first four months of 2018. The Mazda CX-5, on the other hand, is on track for its sixth consecutive year of growth. The CX-5 is now Mazda Canada’s top seller, and the CX-5 attracts more than twice as many buyers as the 5 did at the mini-minivan’s peak.
Volkswagen Routan vs. Volkswagen Atlas
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That’s what Volkswagen did with the Routan, an under-the-skin twin of the Dodge Grand Caravan. Very little changed in the transition to Volkswagen duty. The Atlas is a decidedly North American vehicle too, designed and built in North America primarily for North American consumption.
Winner: Volkswagen Atlas
The Volkswagen Routan’s attempt to Americanize fell flat. 4,413 Routans were sold between its late 2008 launch and the time the final owners drove Routans home in 2013. The Atlas isn’t about to take over class-leading duties, but Volkswagen Canada sold 4,534 copies of the big SUV in its first eight months, more sales than the Routan did during its entire lifespan. Another 2,617 Atlases were sold in the first four months of 2018.
Through the first four months of 2018, minivans produced only 4.6 percent of all Canadian auto sales. That’s down – way down – from 5.2 percent five years ago; 7.4 percent a decade ago. Consumers have drifted away from minivans, which now produce half as many sales as they did in 2004, and instead are mass purchasers of SUVs, crossovers, and crew cab pickup trucks.
Yet inside some showrooms, minivans remain more popular than their utility vehicle counterparts. Through the end of April, here’s how minivans stack up against their greatest rivals: their siblings.