2018 Honda Odyssey: Why Minivans Are Still a Hard Sell

I consider myself fortunate because I hate chocolate and love minivans.

After spending a week in the redesigned 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite minivan, I found that I’m in the minority among my girlfriends — and not just when it comes to Dove bars and other sweets.

seger concertMy odyssey in the Odyssey took me from the Bob Seger concert at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan to a trip to my girlfriend Debi’s house in Mount Clemens to drop off a vanload of bulky baby equipment in a “grandma swap.”

rubber ducksDespite my efforts, I had trouble convincing my girlfriends to reconsider their own rides, including a Ford Transit Connect minivan, an Acura RDX SUV and a Ford Freestyle wagon, and take a second look at this worthwhile top-of-the-line minivan.

Granted, they were a narrow demographic slice of the market. But despite the major advances in this segment in the past couple of years, I found that minivans are still a hard sell to some women with deep pockets and the need for a vehicle with lots of space.

My argument was that the 2018 Odyssey performed beautifully in a variety of settings and tasks, thanks to its excellent acceleration and family-friendly features, including a built-in vacuum cleaner in my Elite model. The Magic Slide second-row seats, which adjust laterally, and backward and forward, let you reconfigure the cavernous cabin just about any way you like.

honda vac copy
The Odyssey Elite comes with a standard vacuum.

The safety features should reassure any parent or grandparent. The Honda Sensing package is standard on Odyssey EX and higher trim levels and includes advanced technologies such as forward-collision warning and collision-mitigation braking.

A new 3.5-liter V6 engine in the 2018 Odyssey provides a 32-horsepower boost over the outgoing engine. My Elite model had the optional 10-speed automatic transmission, a groundbreaking feature that’s designed to improve fuel economy. The EPA says the Odyssey Elite returns 19 mpg in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway.

My friend Debi and her husband Ken carefully studied the Odyssey because even though they are retired empty-nesters, they frequently travel with two other couples and are shopping for a vehicle big enough to fit everyone and their gear. They also have two grandsons and another grand-baby on the way. They were sold on the Odyssey until I showed them the Elite’s window sticker: $47,610, including a $940 destination charge.

Odyssey nameplate copy.jpg
The 2018 Honda Odyssey gets lots of worthwhile updates.

It didn’t seem to matter that they could get into a base Odyssey for $30,930, including shipping. Even though the Odyssey would be perfect for them, it veered too much into luxury territory and they could not overcome their sticker shock.

I figured I’d have better luck with another friend, a hair stylist in an upscale salon who uses her 2017 Ford Transit Connect to shop for antiques on the weekends.

She describes the Transit Connect as the “anti-minivan,” a vehicle that’s a flexible workhorse but doesn’t immediately label her as stodgy or a soccer mom. The Odyssey, despite the upgrades, is still too “old school” for her.

In a final attempt to win over my girlfriends, I showed it to an interior decorator friend who half-jokingly calls herself an “image architect” and drives a 2016 RDX, the compact SUV sold by Honda’s premium Acura brand. She hauls around a lot of stuff, mostly design samples, and needs a bigger vehicle. But she likes the RDX because it gives her a “techy, progressive image.”

I couldn’t even get her to sit in the Odyssey.

“My image gets set the minute I pull into a client’s driveway,” she said. “A year ago, I really wanted a Subaru Outback (wagon). I asked one of my wealthy clients what she’d think if I pulled up in one. She said, ‘I’d think you’re affordable.’”

She added: “I don’t want to look ‘affordable.’ And driving around in a minivan would be even worse.”

I gave up the keys to my test vehicle thinking that while Honda did a fantastic job with the Odyssey, it faces a major marketing challenge when it comes to conquering sticker shock and a decades-old image problem that the minivan just can’t seem to shake.

One thought on “2018 Honda Odyssey: Why Minivans Are Still a Hard Sell

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  1. Anita: I am glad that you are a fan of minivans. We have had at least one in our family since about 1985, and they do come in handy. At one point, way back when, we had two Chevy Astros, the older of which I was elected to drive. I finally got rid of it because we couldn’t justify the cost of getting the air conditioning fixed. Judy currently drives a Dodge Grand Caravan with about 102,000 miles on the clock, and she won’t part with it. She salivates whenever she sees a new Pacifica, and I have to admit it would be a Vehicle of Maximum Utility, which is nice. No more babbling on my part today. Just Hello and I hope you are doing well.

    Bob Deady

    Like

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