Back in the 1980s, Dodge released a new kind of vehicle that would alter the entire landscape of the auto industry for decades to come. They created the minivan. This car shot up in popularity among the “soccer mom” demographic, mothers who were constantly driving the kids around. The minivan offered comfort, impressive storage capacity, and up to 8 seats in some larger models. However, in recent years, this segment of the auto industry is shrinking. Sales have fallen and the demand is down. Some of this shrinkage is due to the meteoric rise in popularity of the SUV and similar crossovers, but perhaps more crucial to the decline of the minivan is the stigma it made itself. Motorists no longer want to be associated with the minivan. It is disdained and frowned upon by much of society. Oftentimes, you can hear consumers of the product only purchasing it out of necessity. Their family was growing and they needed a bigger car. No one really wants the minivan anymore. In 2013, minivan sales fell 4% to about 532,000 units.
Automakers have noticed this shift in trend, and have adjusted accordingly. Fiat Chrysler just offed their last Dodge minivan, the Grand Caravan. For the time Chrysler is still manufacturing the Town and Country, but with shifts in current trends, that could soon be gone as well.
Foreign manufacturers seem to be the only players still competing in this segment of the industry. Besides the Town and Country, the only minivans left come from Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, and Mazda. Sales with these models are falling as well, and with gas prices on the rise, we may soon see these sales lost to the more fuel efficient crossovers.
So what is killing the minivan? Is it the more stylish SUVs, or the more fuel efficient crossover? While that question is up for debate, a more important question to the industry is how to save the industry. Minivans make more money per unit than small cars, so it would be very beneficial to keep these models in their lineup.
Chrysler believes a more fuel efficient model is the answer to its problems. The company is looking to release a hybrid version of the Town and Country, which is expected to attain around 75 miles per gallon. Chrysler also cites shifting demographics to future success of its minivan. The millennials are now starting families, and it appears that usage of these vehicles may receive a boost as their families grow.
Whether or not Chrysler will see a resurgence in its minivan sales only time will tell, but what we do know is that something needs to change, otherwise we may have seen the last of the minivan.
– Zac Durkin