Honda Odyssey: The minivan with its own vacuum

Minivan

Honda Motor Co. showed off its updated Odyssey minivan Tuesday evening ahead of the New York International Auto Show. 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 cleaner integrated into the cargo area, will likely be 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.

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

Tami Giammarco, lead engineer on the van's interior, said the vacuum 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 said.

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. US minivan sales totaled 540,188 last year.

Still, sales outpaced the industry average last year, and should grow even more this year when Ford Motor Co. rolls out its first minivan since 2006, the Transit Connect Wagon. And if 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 US, behind the Toyota Sienna and the Dodge Caravan. Excluding sales to fleet buyers such as rental car companies, Honda is No. 1, said Mike Acavitti, senior vice president of marketing for American Honda.

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