Midsize Vans—A Slight Revival?

Midsize vans are one of four segments (including sub-compacts, midsize conventional cars and compact crossovers) that posted year-over-year gains of more than 22% in August, based on J.D. Power’s (retail and fleet sales) transaction data.* In August, midsize van sales climbed 22.5% from a year ago and year-to-date sales were up by nearly one-fifth (+19.5%) from a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis.**

In a comparison of retail transaction data during the past 3 months (June-August 2012 and 2011), midsize vans averaged a week longer on dealer lots before being sold—54 days—than in the same time frame of 2011 (47 days). However, that was about half as long as during the first months of the recession in 2009, when midsize vans averaged 97 days on dealer lots before being sold.***

Fiat-Chrysler Group Remains a Dominant Midsize Van Player

Among automakers, Fiat-Chrysler Group remains the dominant player in the midsize van segment. In August, the best-sellers were, respectively: Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country and Toyota Sienna. Chrysler Group’s two entries garnered more than half of the midsize van deliveries in August.

It’s still good news for Chrysler through the first 8 months of 2012. Grand Caravan and Town & Country captured 45.8% of segment deliveries (based on total sales figures) this year, up from 43.9% a year ago. However, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna were the second- and third-best-selling midsize vans in the first 8 months of both years.

A relatively new entry this year, Fiat-Chrysler’s Ram C/V (Cargo Van), which launched last September, helped add a small boost of 4,900 unit sales to Fiat-Chrysler totals.

Demand Climbs for Redesigned Nissan Quest

At the same time, sales of the Kia Sedona declined significantly from last year, and the Volkswagen Routan captured a smaller share of sales this year than in 2011. However, Nissan’s redesigned Quest nearly doubled sales from a year ago. This model also ranks highest in its segment in J.D. Power’s 2012 Initial Quality Study (IQS) and in the 2012 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.

Why are midsize vans selling so well? There may be a number of reasons. Power Information Network® (PIN) demographic data indicates that midsize van buyers and lessees this year benefitted from easier credit and lower average interest rates, in addition to higher customer cash rebates.

Some key midsize van buyer demographics include:

• The average customer age is 47—the same as last year.

• Half of the buyers and lessees are between the ages of 36 years old and 55 years of age (49.6% vs. 50.6%).

• Well over one-half (59.1%) of midsize van purchasers traded in their current vehicle, up from last year’s 56.7% of buyers.

• The average age of a trade-in for a midsize van was 5.9 years, which is slightly older than in 2011 when the average trade-in was 5.5 years old.

• The average consumer-facing transaction price for a midsize van this year was $915 lower than in the same period a year ago—$28,725 vs. $29,640 in 2011.

Tyson Jominy

Conclusion: Year-to-date market share (based on total sales) edged up slightly to 3.87% from 3.70% a year ago, but midsize vans are still below earlier peak years. As recently as 2007, midsize vans controlled a 5.3% share of the market. At the dawn of the sport utility vehicle (SUV) craze in 1995, midsize vans captured 8.5% of total industry sales, a figure comparable to today’s midsize CUV share. There are fewer brands offering models in the midsize van segment today, but as this year’s sales increase illustrates, there is still consumer demand for these efficient, convenient family vehicles.—Tyson Jominy, director, consulting and analytics, Power Information Network (PIN), contributed to this post

*Note: All sales figures and percentages of change are based on total sales (retail and fleet deliveries), unless specified. Data and analysis are from PIN and LMC Automotive. J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive have a strategic alliance to share data and produce sales forecasts based on J.D. Power’s real-time transaction data collected by PIN, with analysis and intelligence from LMC Automotive.

**There were 27 selling days in August 2012 vs. 26 in August 2011.

***The retail turn rate refers to the average number of days that a vehicle remains on dealer lots before selling.

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