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Honda is said to be preparing a successor to its Odyssey in Japan, with an all-new body and hybrid powertrain designed to reinvigorate the long-lived people-mover range globally.
According to Japanese website BestCarWeb, a replacement for the current fifth-generation Odyssey is expected to be revealed before the end of next year, complete with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, among other technical innovations.
The article also includes a (translated) quote attributed to Honda executives addressing their Japanese dealer body recently, confirming that the company will "…launch a high-end minivan to replace the Odyssey from next fall to winter".
It had been widely anticipated for some time that the existing Odyssey, launched in 2013, would likely be the final one for Japan (and – by default – Australia, as ours is one of the few markets it is exported to). This is because the Sayama plant that builds the Odyssey will shut down after 58 years in March next year.
But with sales of the recently-facelifted Odyssey Series II rallying in Japan – averaging some 1700 units per month – the Honda dealer network is said to have been demanding a like-for-like replacement. Hence the announcement from Honda Motor executives.
Straight away, this latest development raises an interesting question. Will the next, Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) Odyssey merge with its bigger and bolder North American (NA) namesake?
Since the series’ second generation in 1999, the badge has been applied to two distinct people movers within Honda’s global portfolio – or three, if you also count the China-market Honda Elysium that’s currently derived from the JDM Odyssey but only built in left-hand-drive (LHD); all reflect differing market needs.
However, though wider, longer, roomier and more powerful thanks to a V6 petrol engine, the LHD-only NA Odyssey is also due for a redesign soon, having been on sale in its current form since 2017, prompting some pundits to speculate that two Odysseys will become one, just as the original was back in 1994.
Does this mean the future Odyssey will be manufactured in another one of Honda’s plants in Japan for the JDM (and Australia), or be sourced from the Lincoln, Alabama factory in the United States (or even China for that matter) for global consumption?
We’ll have to wait and see about that.
Finally, what does this mean for Australia? According to Honda Australia director Stephen Collins, the Odyssey’s local future is out of his hands at the moment, and so it is too early to tell whether the series will live on locally past 2022.
“Odyssey has been an awesome vehicle for us,” he said. “And our desire is to absolutely keep it. (But) the decision to keep it is based on global decisions.
“It’s a vehicle that, firstly, is close to our heart and, secondly, has been a market leader in that people mover space, particularly the private space. We’ll talk more about the Odyssey at a later date. It’s an important vehicle in our range and we’ll do what we can to keep it.”
Mr Collins did say that Honda will have access to ample stock of the recently facelifted Odyssey to see it through to the end of next year or beyond if necessary.
As Honda is fond of reminding us, the Odyssey has carved a niche within the people-mover segment over its 26-year run, enjoying a higher proportion of private (and so often more profitable) sales compared to historically more fleet-focused rivals like the Carnival and now-defunct Toyota Tarago.
With Toyota currently hamstrung in the people-mover race with the ambitiously-priced, divisively-designed HiAce commercial-vehicle-based Granvia and the futuristic Hyundai Staria only now making its way to dealerships, the strikingly designed new Carnival launched earlier this year is totally dominating a segment that is up almost 50 per cent year-on-year.
So far in 2021, the Kia rules with a 60 per cent share, followed a long-way back by the Odyssey and van-derived Volkswagen Multivan and bargain-basement LDV G10 duo, with 12.2, 10.7 and 9.5 per cent respectively.
Such comparatively robust market conditions suggests that the Odyssey is not over for Honda Australia just yet.