There’s been plenty of reporting about the death of the sedan, but they still sell in relatively large numbers. That certainly isn’t the case with minivans as just 364,000 units were sold in the United States last year.
Minivans used to be a staple of the automotive landscape and virtually every automaker offered at least one – even Mazda and Volkswagen. Some even offered several as Chrysler had the Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.
Like station wagons before, the winds of change hit minivans hard as consumers decided to embrace crossovers and SUVs. Citing CarGurus.com, the Associated Press notes minivan sales have fallen 966,000 units from their peak in 2000.
The declining sales saw a number of automakers exit the segment including Ford and General Motors. Now the market is largely dominated by just a handful of models including the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.
Despite the drastic drop in sales, minivans aren’t going away. FCA’s North American Head of Passenger Cars, Tim Kuniskis, told the AP “There is nothing else that can compete with a minivan” as “nothing touches it” from a people and cargo hauling perspective. It’s also worth mentioning that minivans are typically more fuel-efficient than the crossovers that have effectively replaced them.
Part of the reason minivans will solider on is there isn’t much competition. As Kuniskis explained, other segments might have sales of over a million units annually but they’re filled with 20 or more competitors. With just three main automakers fighting over 300,000+ sales, there’s enough to keep everyone happy.
Another factor keeping minivans around is they’re quiet cash cows. While they might not bring in $50,000 to $60,000 like full-size pickups, the AP says minivans have high profit margins and can easily cost more than $40,000. As Edmunds’ senior manager of industry insights, Jeremy Acevedo, joked “Balloons rain from the sky every time they sell an Odyssey.”
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Interestingly, minivans might have a bright future as millennials grew up with them and are now having children of their own. Minivans have also become popular test beds for autonomous vehicles as they offer plenty of space for ride-hailing applications.