KIA Insider

Voyager Returns as Minivan Sales Slump

CHELSEA, MI – Along with the Dodge Caravan, the Plymouth Voyager kicked off the modern minivan segment in the U.S. 35 years ago.

However, while it once comprised over a million sales annually, today the sector is suffering.

Volume last year tallied 556,295 and through May stood at 208,590 units, a 14.2% drop from the first five months of 2018, Wards Intelligence data shows.

Many debate why minivan sales are down. Some point to their price – which often can surpass $40,000 thanks to scads of amenities (leather seating, moonroofs, intercoms) – as the culprit.

To battle that perception, Chrysler announces it has dropped the price of its base-grade Pacifica minivan for the ’20 model year and will rename it, from Pacifica L to Voyager L, sans Pacifica.

Beyond the base Voyager L grade, there also are Voyager LX and fleet-focused Voyager LXi grades.

“We are trying to give our budget-(focused) consumer a very, very good option,” Karen Madill, brand manager-Pacifica for FCA North America, tells Wards here at FCA’s proving grounds during a recent media day.

The Voyager name returning likely is an effort to draw in older minivan buyers who remember the original. Besides families with small children, price-sensitive empty-nesters long have been a key minivan-buying contingent in the U.S.

“Thirty-five years ago, we invented the segment with the Voyager, and now it’s back,” Madill says when asked why the name is reappearing.

Differences between the Pacifica and Voyager LX, displayed here, include a slightly tweaked, minimally chromed grille and a less-blingy interior. Madill says it still offers a good slate of standard features. The list includes active noise cancellation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 7-in. (18-cm) touchscreen, third-row Stow ’n Go seating, rear-seat entertainment with a ceiling-mounted screen, plus available advanced safety technologies such as blindspot monitoring, rear-cross-path detection and rear park assist with stop.

Power sliding rear doors are not available on Voyager L and Voyager LX, but they will be optional on the Voyager LXi, which also has faux-leather seating vs. the Voyager L and Voyager LX’s cloth. All-wheel-drive isn’t available.

Exactly how much less the ’20 Voyager will be priced vs. the ’19 Pacifica L will be announced sometime this week.

The ’19 Pacifica L begins at $27,235 before incentives, per the build section for the vehicle on Chrysler.com.

That compares to a starting price of $27,200 for the ’19 Kia Sedona, generally considered to be one of the most budget-friendly choices among minivans in the U.S.

The Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are considered more premium minivans. The Odyssey starts at $30,190 for ’19, while the Sienna begins at $31,415.

Wherever the new Voyager comes in on pricing, it likely will be higher than $26,790, the starting price of the ’19 Dodge Grand Caravan.

Dodge has continued to sell the legacy model despite the Pacifica coming to market in 2016. Tim Kuniskis, Dodge brand chief, tells media here the marque will offer the Grand Caravan so long as customers, many of them fleets, continue to buy it.

Dodge sold 151,927 copies of the vehicle in the U.S. last year, up 21.4% from 2018. That made the Grand Caravan the No.1-selling minivan in the U.S. in 2018, with its volume outdoing the Pacifica’s (118,322), Wards Intelligence data shows.

However, the Grand Caravan, like all minivans, is slumping this year, with sales down 15.3% through May to 59,732.

The Sienna was off 12.8% from year-ago through May, and the Sedona slipped 18.1% in the period.

Deliveries of the 2-year-old Honda Odyssey were down 7.3%, while the almost 3-year-old Pacifica suffered the worst loss through May, falling 28.6%.

Despite the slowdown in the segment, Wards Intelligence forecasting partner LMC Automotive says all four main minivan nameplates (Odyssey, Pacifica, Sedona, Sienna) will live to see another generation; the Grand Caravan will be discontinued in 2021.

Source: www.wardsauto.com