Though it doesn’t really mean what it seems to mean, word is that Honda’s Odyssey may outsell the Dodge Caravan, even though the Dodge is new and the Honda is old, old, old.
The sales figures quoted by the Detroit Free Press, which show 158,139 Odysseys sold through the end of November vs. 154,824 Caravans, a decline from the previous year of 12.3% and 21.4% respectively, are somewhat misleading, for two reasons.
First, the Dodge figures do not include the Chrysler Town & Country, a virtually identical vehicle. Much as Ford used to claim the F-150 was the top-selling truck because Chevy sales figures didn’t include the clone product with the GMC nameplate, the Chrysler product vans handily outsell the Honda.
But, second, the sales figures include the months when the old Caravan was for sale, as well as the transition period encompassing introduction of the new Caravan.
Nonetheless, the Honda’s are going out the door with incentives, sales having risen in both October and November after Honda put incentives of about $1,500 per van on it. Even so, Chrysler’s vans are still the incentive kings, with incentives in November averaging more than $2,700 per van. That, however, is leading to joy in Auburn Hills, Chrysler’s headquarters. That’s a decrease in incentives from almost $5,000 per van before the new model was introduced.
Moreover, though Dodge sales may be down, sales of the companion Chrysler Town and Country are up: 26% in October and 10% in November. The sales figures apparently reflect a consumer demand for the new minivans loaded with all of the unique optional features, rather than simply a bare-bones van. Chrysler is preparing to introduce a short-wheelbase companion to the Caravan under the Dodge nameplate, called the Journey, which may bolster Dodge’s sales levels. The short-wheelbase Dodge van has always been a popular product.
All in all, the figures are no cause for joy at Honda and are one of the few bright spots for Chrysler’s gazing into the crystal ball to see its future. Competition in the minivan market has virtually disappeared, as GM and Ford have dropped out and Toyota has let the Sienna languish. The strength in sales of the high-end models of the new vans from Chrysler does not bode well for Honda, which has clearly fallen behind in features. Honda’s product will, of course, sell to those who believe that having an import is the only fashionable way to go, but Chrysler’s got an answer for that buyer, too.
In January, Volkswagen will introduce a version of the new Chrysler van manufactured for them by Chrysler in the United States. The van will make its first appearance at the North American Auto show in Detroit.