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Minivan Mystique

This vehicle is not just for soccer moms anymore.

A recent commercial for the Chevrolet Venture Warner Bros. Edition minivan features giggling kids with headphones on watching cartoons while Mom and Dad smile — blissfully oblivious to Daffy Duck and friends. While Hawaii minivan owners can’t drive cross-country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, more entertainment features are a definite trend.

Cutter Ford Isuzu Sales Manager Larry Davis says, “Everybody’s kind of getting into that mode. More people want more entertainment in their vehicle these days.” Davis’ dealership sells the Ford Windstar, the top-selling minivan in Hawaii for 2000 and 2001.

Minivans can range in price from about $19,000 to $37,000. According to the marketing firm R. L. Polk Co., last year a total of 8,452 minivans were sold in Hawaii, based on new car registrations. Topping the list were the Ford Windstar with 1,532 new registrations, followed by the Dodge Caravan with 1,275 and the Toyota Sienna with 984. Ford and Dodge still top the list of year-to-date registrations as of July 2001, but the Honda Odyssey had passed Toyota for the third spot. As of July, 474 Odysseys had been registered compared to 404 Siennas. And the Odyssey may be No. 3 simply because of scarcity.

Car Fancy: The 2002 Sedona's selling well according to Aloha Kia's Bill Van Den Hurk.

Consumer Reports and Web site Money.com have both selected the Odyssey as the best minivan. Stories of waiting lists for the vehicle have abounded nationwide. An August article on the Boston Globe’s Web site Boston.com notes, “Anticipating continued huge demand for the Odyssey, Honda is building a new plant, in Lincoln, Ala., in which to manufacture the van – up to 120,000 a year at that plant, due to open in November. At full production – about a year from now – they expect to be producing 200,000 Odysseys per year. But that is still short of the anticipated demand for the 250,000 annually.”

Automobile-selling Web site Carpoint says that the makers of minivans are trying to attract new buyers. According to Carpoint, “Minivan sales peaked in the 1999 model year with 1.5 million sold, accounting for nearly 9 percent of the total vehicle sales in the U.S. But analysts note that as the American population ages, minivan sales growth will be hampered because there will be fewer young family households.”

The new kid on the block at low price point for 2002 is the Kia Sedona. Says Autoweb.com, “In 2002, Kia, the self-nominated “little Korean car company that could,” is hoping for another minivan revolution in the form of the Sedona, a powerful, feature-laden model with pricing far lower than the gargantuan players in the niche.” Prices for the Sedona start at $18,995. So far, Aloha Kia has seen the demand first-hand. “We can’t keep them in stock,” says Bill Van Den Hurk, owner of Aloha Kia. “The ones we’ve been getting, we sell them as fast as they come in.”

The Windstar’s continued strong Hawaii showing doesn’t surprise Davis. “The reason why they’re very, very popular here: Hawaii is a very family-oriented community and you couple that with the fact that it has the highest safety rating. They kind of go hand in hand, because you are carrying around your loved ones on a daily basis,” he says. As of press time, the dealership (one of three Ford dealerships on Oahu) had sold 53 Windstars for 2001, but with the events of Sept. 11, Davis was predicting a decrease in sales for the rest of the year. He says, “We’re just going to have to deal with it and see how the public responds. It’s going to be tough. I don’t care what business you’re in.”

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