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May 10, 2013

News & Features

New Odyssey adds built-in vacuum to draw more minivan moms

The Associated Press

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A vacuum cleaner is built into the trunk of the 2014 Honda Odyssey minivan. (Mary Altaffer / The Associated Press)

Stray Cheerios, beware. The new Honda Odyssey minivan is here — and it has a built-in vacuum cleaner.

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The 2014 Honda Odyssey. (Honda)

Honda showed off its updated Odyssey minivan at the New York auto show in March. The 2014 Odyssey — last redesigned in 2011 — has a richer, more chiseled look, chrome-trimmed fog lights and other premium features.

But HondaVAC, the hand-held vacuum integrated into the cargo area, has been its most talked-about feature. Honda says it's the first to offer this family-friendly tool, which it developed with heavy-duty vacuum maker Shop-Vac.

Honda's system includes nozzle accessories and a hose that can reach every corner of the vehicle. It doesn't need an outlet for recharging, and can work continuously when the motor is running — or for up to eight minutes when the van is turned off.

Odyssey details
  • Outside: Honda sharpened the Odyssey's looks with a more sculpted hood. It also improved the structure so that the van could get top marks in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new frontal crash test, which hits a fixed barrier at an angle. The Odyssey also has some new optional safety equipment, including forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems.
  • Inside: There are new materials and a new control center in the dashboard. Optional new features include keyless entry, push-button start and HondaLink, which connects to the driver's smartphone.
  • Under the hood: The 2014 Odyssey will offer the same engine as the current model: a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 248 horsepower and gets 22 mpg in combined city and highway driving. It has a six-speed automatic transmission.
  • Price: Not yet released. The 2013 Odyssey starts at $28,675.

Honda says the vacuum will be standard on the most expensive version of the Odyssey. It will announce availability on other versions later.

Tami Giammarco, lead engineer on the van's interior, says the idea came from the daughter of an engineer who saw how frustrated her father was when kids made a mess in his van. " 'Dad, you need a vacuum in here,' " she told her father, Giammarco says.

Minivan sales could use a jolt. They peaked at 1.4 million in 2000, but have fallen rapidly since as buyers shifted to popular crossover wagons like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. U.S. minivan sales totaled 540,188 last year.

Still, sales outpaced the industry average in 2012, and should grow even more this year when Ford rolls out its first minivan since 2006, the Transit Connect Wagon. And if Generation Y buyers in their late 20s and early 30s choose a minivan as they start families, business could boom.

Honda is eager to be part of the action. So far this year, the Odyssey is the third-best-selling minivan in the U.S., behind the Toyota Sienna and Dodge Caravan. Excluding sales to fleet buyers such as rental car companies, Honda is No. 1, says Mike Acavitti, senior vice president of marketing for American Honda.

Acavitti says the minivan segment should keep growing because of its utility, and he expects Honda's share of the market to rise with the revamped Odyssey. "There is no more flexible vehicle," he says.

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