Minivans are much like the late, great Rodney Dangerfield: They get no respect. Commercials make fun of them and crossover buyers shun them.
Automotive News writer, John Teahen, Jr. recently had this to say about minivans,
"Minivans had their day, but that day is gone. Soccer moms loved them; they don't anymore. Chrysler and Dodge, the progenitors of the class, still sell a lot of minivans; so do Honda and Toyota.
For other brands, I suggest: If you're in it, get out. If you're not in it, stay out."
Manufacturers would probably be well advised to listen to those words. However, there are still well over 500,000 minivans to be sold annually and somebody has to make them. Honda and Toyota have recently elongated their refresh cycles on their minivans and Nissan is moving its minivan production from the USA back to Japan. All of this creates a perfect storm where three different manufacturers are releasing new models in the same model year, 2011.
I have already touched on the 2011 Toyota Sienna in a recent article about Toyota's future products. I won't repeat myself here, but I will add that some people believe that the 2011 Sienna will steal styling queues from the F3R Concept shown above. You can look at these spy photos of the 2011 Toyota Sienna and judge for yourself. There might be some influence in the front clip but overall it appears to be "steady as she goes" for Toyota. Look for techie toys like wide-view side monitor found on the 2010 Lexus RX and other active safety features. As anyone in the industry knows, minivan buyers eat up safety features like candy!
Less is known about the 2011 Honda Odyssey. It was going to have a diesel engine as an option but then Honda chickened out. The 2011 Odyssey will probably offer a hybrid system just like the next generation Sienna undoubtedly will. You can see some spy photos of the 2011 Honda Odyssey, but just like my prom night, you aren't going to see much. All manufacturers are headed towards six speed automatics. Better fuel economy to be sure, but not a thrill ride feature. Hopefully Honda does right by us and creates a shapely design. The current Honda Odyssey took on whale like styling that was a step backwards from the crisp lines of the previous generation Odyssey. I never grew to appreciate the blobby van and am looking forward to putting it behind us.
That brings us to the 2011 Nissan Quest, the biggest question mark out there in the minivan universe. Nissan swung for the fences with the current Quest and you could hear that whiff for miles. The Quest's centrally located instrument panel freaked out buyers and Nissan beat a hasty retreat. That was unfortunate because I gave big props to Nissan for taking a chance. Rather than leaving the game like Ford and General Motors, Nissan has decided to once again swing for the fences. Good for them! Nissan teased audiences with the Forum concept awhile ago and if that is anywhere near what the 2011 Nissan Quest is like, then I want in! The next Quest will be built in Japan and share mechanicals with the Japanese domestic market Elgrand. Hopefully the styling will be dramatically changed!