LOS ANGELES - Because she and her husband already owned a Ford Aerostar, Dena Kerr didn't want another minivan. But the Lomita, Calif., family needed room for more than five people and their stuff.
They looked at the Dodge Durango but were disappointed in the lack of space for the third-row seat; cargo room was limited.
Resigned to getting another minivan for the space efficiency and gas mileage compared to sport-utilities, the Kerrs bought a Honda Odyssey in December. Kerr was so impressed by Odyssey's packaging, she didn't even blink at paying sticker price.
As the Chrysler group struggles to maintain minivan profits, the Odyssey has proved a nettlesome challenger. Odyssey sales are booming. Customers applaud its packaging and price. It has clearly eroded the Chrysler group's reputation for having best-in-class minivans.
Even though 90 percent of her driving is hauling around two daughters and their friends, Kerr was impressed with how the Odyssey's third-row seat stowed away and how easy the middle seats were to remove.
Despite the Odyssey's impressive cargo capacity, it's safe from weekend runs to Home Depot. Said Dena, 'I tell my husband there is no way he's putting manure in the back of that Odyssey.'
Dick Watson, general manager of Long Beach (Calif.) Honda, said: 'Compared with the Chryslers, the Odyssey is less expensive comparably equipped, while the Honda has a good repair record and resale value.'
Thad Malesh, director of market analysis and technology for J.D. Power and Associates in Agoura Hills, Calif., said the Odyssey is doing well because it has the right look, features and appeal.
A few numbers tell the story:
According to J.D. Power research, in the last six months the Odyssey sat on dealer lots just nine days before it sold. The Chrysler Town & Country averaged 36 days. The Chevrolet Venture and Dodge Caravan averaged 52 days each.
Honda sold 126,705 Odysseys in 2000, up 63 percent from 1999. Honda is building a plant in Alabama to assemble the Odyssey. Production starts in the fourth quarter.
The base sticker on the Odyssey is $24,340. The base sticker on the Dodge Grand Caravan is $24,930. Both prices include destination charges.