Could soccer mom-mobiles become hip again? Well, they’re not likely to displace the SUV, but after years of decline, there’s some new momentum in the minivan market.
Hoping to respond to the successful launch of the new Chrysler Pacifica, Honda will roll out its next-generation Odyssey minivan at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, the maker hinting it will add more connectivity, entertainment and safety features, along with new powertrains.
FCA designers attempted to create a new look that broke from the traditional minivan shape with the new Pacifica. Exactly what Honda has in store isn’t clear. But the maker revealed a series of sketches, including several created by the children of its Odyssey development team.
“We wanted to have a bit of fun by sharing some of the drawings from children of the Odyssey team members, since they were inspirational in shaping the family-friendly direction of the all-new Odyssey,” said Chad Harrison, chief engineer at Honda R&D America and the development leader of the new Odyssey.
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The minivan market is a mere shadow of its peak, two decades ago, when Americans bought nearly 2 million of the people-movers annually. This year, sales will barely approach 500,000, according to industry data.
Meanwhile, only a handful of manufacturers still play in the segment, notably Honda, Nissan, Toyota and FCA. And the Detroit maker notably launched a makeover of only one of its minivan models, the Pacifica.
Nonetheless, industry analysts say the segment still has some life left, and Honda’s top American executive, John Mendel, recently suggested to TheDetroitBureau.com, that new product will be critical to rebuilding interest in minivans.
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Honda itself has risen from after-thought to dominant player in the segment, routinely vying for sales leadership with FCA. Odyssey has gained ground by offering a mix of distinctive design, reliability and features such as the industry’s first built-in vacuum cleaner.
Precisely what’s to come with the sixth-generation Honda Odyssey, the automaker isn’t saying, but it’s a safe bet, according to industry observers, that the new van will adopt a more aggressive design likely to pick up some SUV or CUV cues. That said, the trademark sliding doors and flexible interior package won’t be going away.
There should be an even more extensive array of features, especially digital technology. Honda is hinting of more “advanced connectivity, entertainment and safety” features. Safety is a big selling point for family buyers, and Honda is expected to add even more capabilities to the all-in-one package it offers already.
The goal is to offer “the ultimate in family-friendly versatility and comfort,” the company said in a statement.
(To see more about TDB’s first drive in the new Chrysler Pacifica, Click Here.)
The new Honda Odyssey will make its debut during the first media preview day at the North American International Auto Show on Jan. 9.
Tags: Odyssey minivan, Odyssey versus Pacifica, TheDetroitBureau.com., auto news, chrysler pacifica, honda detroit auto show, honda news, minivan segment, minivan wars, new Honda Odyssey, new Honda minivan, new minivans, north american international auto show, paul a. eisenstein, thedetroitbureau