The Fall Of The Minivan

The Fall Of The Minivan


The minivan is a vehicle
that too many screams domesticity. It calls to mind images of
suburbs, family life and youth soccer teams. For much of its history,
it has been praised for its practicality and yet maligned
as so deeply uncool. Even Kevin Hart had something to say
about the minivan in his comedy special. I’m a grown little man. If your husband or your
boyfriend drives a minivan. Leave him alone. Any man a jobs, a minivan
does not care about life. But the minivan once helped save
Chrysler from total ruin in the 1980s. The unveiling of the first
Chrysler minivans in 1984 is still considered a landmark moment in
the history of the automotive industry. But the minivan is now relegated
to a small portion of the automotive market, despite seeming like
the sum of everything. Most people want in a car. If you were to look at it
from said automakers point of view, a product planning point of view, you
would ask consumers, what do you want? And they would give you a
list of things like roomy, spacious cargo, good fuel economy, and even
sliding doors might come up in that. And what would it be? It would be a minivan, but nobody
wants to buy one because they all want SUV is now. It’s
such an image problem. But my God, the moment someone drives
on to say, wow, this is really practical, I really like it. Meanwhile, buyers scoop up sport
utility vehicles and crossovers at an increasing rate. And automakers are
faced with the choice of whether they ought to keep
selling these multipurpose vehicles or throw in the towel in favor
of more popular and more profitable models. The origins of the minivan are. Believe it or not, the
subject of sometimes fierce debate. Some would say the first minivan
was the Volkswagen bus, which the German automaker began selling
in the 1960s. Others may point to even earlier examples
such as the Stout Scarab, a car from the 1930s. But the minivan, as customers typically
know it, is traced back to the 1984 model year when Chrysler
rolled out its Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models. The story is that Lee Iacocca,
who had previously been famous for shepherding the Ford Mustang into
existence, had left Ford for Chrysler in the early 1980s. At the time, Chrysler was struggling
just a few years earlier. Congress approved the Chrysler Loan
Guarantee Act of 1979, securing one point five billion
dollars for the automaker. Chrysler needed a hit and it
got one under Iacocca is leadership. Chrysler developed the K car platform,
a kind of simple skeleton which the company used as the base
for a wide range of cars. This is common practice
in the auto industry. But this particular platform was so
adaptable it allowed Chrysler to simplify product development and cut
costs to an unprecedented degree. It was a major turn for
the company, and its first minivans were one of the many vehicles
Chrysler built on this platform. Coca had been part of a team at
Ford that had been working on a small family van concept to compete with
station wagons, which were quite popular at that time. When Iacocca decamped to Chrysler, he
took the idea of the minivan with him and the caravan and
Voyager models were released soon after. This is one of the most
important new concepts in American family motoring to come along in decades. The Chrysler Corporation’s new T wagon,
the Plymouth Voyager and the Dodge Caravan. The idea was to combine the
spaciousness and practicality of a cargo van with the driving
dynamics of a car. It could take sharp turns and
fit into a conventional garage. The generous interior space was made
possible by the front wheel drive powertrain on
Chrysler’s K platform. The van went on sale in January of
1984 and by the middle of the month, Chrysler’s truck sales were
already soaring 160 percent over the same period in
the previous year. Dodge Caravan. One vehicle that takes the place
of an economy car, sporty car station wagon and Van Dodge
Caravan is a transportation revolution. Other automakers rushed to
get in on the action. Toyota repurposed one of its
vans for the U.S. market and Detroit competitors Ford
and General Motors released their own smaller vans in
the years that followed. To lure away customers, for better
or worse, the minivan became a kind of cultural icon, a symbol of
the suburbs in much the same way the station wagon had once
epitomized American family life. It really became the replacement for
the station wagon and for what family is. You know, prior to that, took
as a you know, as a vehicle of choice for a rather, they were
moving around the city and doing sporting events or what have
you to take vacations. So it quickly became the
vehicle of choice for families. Minivans grew from about 4 percent of
new car sales in the early 1990s to a peak of around
7 percent in the early 2000s. But they fell from there. And automakers who once scrambled to
catch up to Chrysler’s hit vehicle began dropping out
of the race. Car buyers today won’t see a single
sliding door on a car based vehicle from either Ford or GM. Besides Fiat Chrysler, the only
other automakers selling minivans to Americans are Asian manufacturers. Toyota has the Sienna. Honda sells the Odyssey. And Keya makes the Sedona in 2018. Fiat Chrysler led the segment. The Dodge Caravan sold 150 1927
units, up 21 percent from the previous year. The Chrysler Pacifica
held steady, selling one hundred eighteen thousand three hundred
twenty two units. Honda’s odyssey took third place with
about one hundred six thousand sales, a six percent increase
over the previous year. But both the Toyota, Sienna and
Kia Sedona dropped more than 20 percent in sales, selling roughly
88000 and 18000 units respectively. That whole view of the soccer
mom mobile are really affecting the image of the minivan. It became such an icon for families
that anyone that was starting a family, you know, who didn’t want to be
seen as as the you know, the stereotypical American family was
looking for something else. Enter the SUV in raw numbers. The true family car has for a
long time been the sport utility vehicle and its car like cousin. The crossover. Whereas the total
minivan segment accounted for only about 3 percent of new
vehicle sales in 2018. Compact, midsize and large SUV were
a combined 35 percent of the market. That same year. But these vehicles are not just
hurting minivan sales and they are arguably doing more damage to
other segments such as sedans, crossovers, SUV and pickup trucks make
up almost 70 percent of the car market today. They have been climbing in sales since
the early 2000s, just as the minivan was beginning to peak. So with the pendulum swinging
wildly towards sport utility vehicles. What kind of future
does the minivan have? Could there be a revival? Probably not. Say industry watchers, the
minivans problem is that it is often seen as unfashionable as
it is practical, and its practicality may be the
root of its problem. The boxy shape, the sliding door,
and the sometimes surprisingly high gas mileage might be useful, but
to many buyers they seem the automotive equivalent of
orthopedic shoes. Crossovers in sport utilities are
arguably less practical, but they convey sporty ness and a rugged
lifestyle many people aspire to. The SUV is winning because it
is seen as sportier, right? Even has word sport in
its name for SUV. But it doesn’t lend itself as much
to a people mover in the same manner, which kind of lets
you steer away from that. You know, say soccer mom use that
term, but the same time is really the default one that
everyone goes with. But it’s odd because
it’s the most practical. Other than a large truck, a minivan
is going to get you basically everything you need. However, there still
seems to be a large enough slice of minivan buyers that encourage a
few brands to stay in the game. In 2016, Chrysler unveiled its
Pacifica model, an update to the minivan it had pioneered
four decades earlier. It was a considerable change from
the town and country minivan that had come before it. Chrysler marketed
the Pacifica as a sleeker, more refined vehicle than its
predecessor and competitors. Customers can still opt for luxury
features such as leather seats and an appearance package that blacks
out the entire vehicle. Giving it an
almost intimidating look. Honda was the first to offer
a built in vacuum cleaner and competitors have followed suit. But despite these innovations, the mini
vans best chance at a future in the U.S. might be in fleets. Fleet sales for rentals, taxicabs
and ridesharing companies already make up a considerable
portion of sales. If we fast forward a little bit
further into the future and we start to get into it, Ptolemy and ride
sharing, you know, there are other good that can be an interesting play for
a box on a wheels kind of design. Or you can do a lot
with at interior, especially if you don’t have a driver and you’re using
that space, you know, rather its workspace, potentially a sleep space,
kitchen on wheels, party and wheels, whatever it might be. I think there’s a lot of
options that potentially could see that shape come back. Notably, Google’s autonomous driving
project, Whammo gave the Pacifica one of its biggest single
lifts in years when it ordered 62000 of the minivans for its
own planned fleet of self-driving vehicles. Ultimately, there is only so
much automakers can do to spruce up the humble haulers image,
change the minivan too much and it ceases to be a minivan. Instead, it becomes
just another crossover.

100 comments

  1. Its cost of ownership, shrinking birth rate and availability of parking not to mention that so many lack 4×4 in harsh climates the suv is a better sell.

  2. Man, I remember my first minivan I bought because it was the cheapest thing on the lot I could cash buy.

    No regrets! For $2200 it lasted for seven years (an Odyssey) and after it died I bought another minivan. Minivans are so underrated and I love them. The speed, room, they’re comfortable, couple of your friends need a ride — I got you. Especially the Odyssey as it handles like a car with tight steering yet gives plenty of leg room. Now that I have children the van has adapted to my new needs from my single days.

    Minivans really are the jack of all trades vehicle, and at a good price.

  3. I am a practical man. I love my practical mini-van. I buy what is good for me, and not worry about the image. After all, it is me myself who enjoys the spaciousness, the nice ride comfort, the luxuries afforded by the mini-van, so why would I care what people think about it?

  4. I use to hate them till I had kids. When your kids are toddlers etc. it’s so easy to get them in and out and store things. We also own BMW. Which we use on the weekends or when we want to go in style. My kids are 6 now. Next year we will sell it and get my wife a new X5. I used to make fun of people with mini vans. Till I owned one it changed my mind. But at least I have cool cars not just a minivan..

  5. No one really notices the Dodge Caravan in my garage when it’s parked next to the KTM 1290 SuperDuke and a Ural sidecar rig.

  6. Bigger, more efficient, and drives better than VW bus and station wagon…but I don't know of any designed to last 20 years / 450,000 miles, so practical may not be the right term

  7. Went to South East Asia the people there are crazy for minivan, a luxurious one. Toyota Alphard for example drove by chauffeur replacing S-Class and such as top executives cars.

  8. The station wagons and minivans had their time, long live… …THE TRUCKSTERS. OOPS I MENT CROSSOVERS. 🤔😜🤪🥴😂🤯

  9. When I got pregnant with twins, my husband said we had to get a minivan. He assumed I would drive it. Nope, his idea makes it his car. He's been driving it for 11 years and he's tired of driving the soccer mom car but the Honda engine just won't die and we can't justify getting a different car until it dies on us. This clip is spot on

  10. I had a 2010 Sienna limited….it felt like I was driving a Mercedes.
    Now have a 2017 Sequoia….and it has way less bells and whistles than the Sienna.

  11. Still the Dodge Caravan is the most affordable and useful vehicle I have owned, 3 generations and still loving it, very practical for moving, long distance ride, durability, and many others like wheel-chair van conversion company uses them a lot , could"nt imagine life without it.

  12. No break in and safe for a bicycle in a minivan, more space and convenient too as its floor is much lower than a SUV. Small commercial cargo van can drive in a city and park in a tiny garage too. Not bad looking I mean Nissan NV200 Compact version but only 2 seats

  13. Americans don’t marry or have kids. There is nothing like a minivan for comfort & convenience to a family. Hope the new Pacifica Hybrid will boost the minivan segment. Toyota, Honda, Nissan & Kia all working on hybrids.

  14. The Mini-Van is actually a very popular in Asia. It’s only unpopular in America where consumers are spoiled for choice.

  15. I have owned 2 different mini vans. (Ford Aerostar and Winstar) They are the most versatile vehicles I have ever owned. I drive a crossover now and its not as roomy or versatile.. It does get way better mileage… But its hard to compare a large displacement v6 against a very small displacement 4 cylinder turbo. I carried everything from people to a 14 foot fishing boat IN my van… Not as many people fit in the Escape… the boat needs a trailer… I dont care much about what is in fashion.. I very much care what's best for my family… would I buy another Minivan….. You bet.

  16. As countries role out more stringent climate policies I wouldn’t be surprised to see large SUVs die and minivans make a comeback. I know trump wants to role back emissions standards, but eventually it won’t be possible to make an suv that meet efficiency standards.

  17. I think I’ll keep my Chevy Silverado that’s a good enough family Vehicle
    Unlike a minivan or a crossover I can pull a decent size trailer haul stuff in the bed and have enough seating for me my wife and my kid

  18. The SUV craze led to the downfall of the minivan. Who wants to be seen as a soccer mom or soccer dad when you can have a sporty SUV and be seen as the outdoorsy, adventurous type? Even though most SUV buyers are indoorsy and have office jobs..

  19. I dont get how minivans can be that embarrasing, they serve a purpose, an SUV is just an offroader that is too delicate to offroad with

  20. I owned a !984, 1998 and a 2006 Chrysler Minivans. I traded the last one for an SUV.
    and I regret it every trip to Home Depot. Sto n Go seats are the last great automobile innovation.

  21. Minivans have more room for 7 to 8 adults than cramped 3 row crossovers and SUVs. Also more cargo room when seats are folded or removed than SUVs or 3 row crossovers. Also most of them are reliable with a naturally aspirated V6 engine and a conventional automatic transmission. No turbos or superchargers to worry about failing, and no CVT, except for the 2011-2017 Nissan Quest. Also no worrying about your careless kid or passenger dinging the car door on someone's car with the sliding doors. Minivans aren't dead yet, since the 2020 Chrysler Voyager is coming.

  22. I believe it was Voltaire who observed that SUVs are neither sporty, nor utilitarian nor (given their handling dynamics) vehicles.

  23. Karen, a 35 yer old Soccer Milf just married Chad, a 48 yr old Lawyer with Midlife Crisis Just Bought her a Brand new Cayenne Turbo. And her 2011 caravan is now sitting in a Junk yard

  24. I have a solution. Instead of calling it a "mini van", call it a "sport van".
    People who drive those "Sport Utility Vehicle" aren't necessarily sporty either. Once they step out of the car, you'll see they don't look too sporty with those fat belly flapping around up and down with every step. 😀

  25. Nah, real news (and math) suggest minivans are just fine.
    The word SUV ranges from sub-compact with unpainted plastic panels all the way to monster truck with hatch, of course the "market share" looks "impressive" comparing to minivans which is a much a more strictly defined vehicle type.

    If you really think carefully you would know that 10% market share is plenty healthy for minivan to live comfortably, Besides, minivans share engineering cost with popular three row SUV,s
    For car makers, minivan really is a sub-group SUVs, a very healthy and important one that is. Anyone who can actually manage numbers can understand minivan is just fine as is.
    Unless Toyota or Honda suddenly pull off from the minivan market than it's real panic time, but we all know it ain't gonna happen any time soon.

  26. There are no more “minivans”; what Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chrysler call “minivans” are what we’re in the 80s & 90s considered to be full sized vans … The only true minivans are the Mazda 5 & the Kia Rondo. I refuse to purchase these huge vans, it feels like I’m driving an RV.

  27. Duh!! Every carmaker used to make station wagons. Now, who makes station wagons? The mini-van (and now the SUV) is/are the new station wagon. What's the huge mystery?

  28. All these automakers, they all have nice minivans elsewhere in the world, they just won’t bring it over to North America. M-B V class with diesel, Toyota Sienta, hell even friggin GM has an everybody wants one van in China.

  29. Well summarized at 1:35 mark. Automakers opting for the “more profitable SUVs”. That’s exactly what they are. Having driven a 2019 Odyssey after a GL550, I can easily say that the minivan can do everything a large SUV can and then some. It makes total sense and I really don’t get the “uncool” part. A cool car in my opinion should have no more than 2 seats, and rear wheel drive.

  30. My parents bought a 2000 Ford Windstar minivan and in 2006 needed a new transmission while we were in Yosemite, a very expensive repair. That POS minivan crapped out for good around 2010-2011, barely lasted 10 years! Not even 100,000 miles.

  31. People still want the minivan — but they want it for the $25,000 it's worth, not the $32,000 selections they find on dealer lots.

  32. Yes I'd purchase a minivan anytime, all those that opt for SUV's & cross over will wish they had chose differently once gas prices spike.
    Most won't beable to afford to put gas in it!

  33. Crossover are dumb. Typical grandma raised station wagon. You can get the 3rd row but who gonna sit back there with no leg room. Plus if you use the 3rd row where you gonna put your luggage? Your standard 4cyl compact crossovers not cutting 30mpg so what and even if it does that 4cyl is so underpowered. Get a minivan you get all the space to haul the whole family and luggages and spare room to share, all for same gas mileage. Yet minivan rides much smoother. I have my 4runner and my f150 to haul and enjoy my outdoor toys so what.

  34. Americans- I'm not going to drive what everyone else is driving, I'm going to be different and drive what everyone else is driving.

  35. I realized that minivan has more sense than todays suv – roomier, handles better, better mpg and perfect for kids . Only difference of todays suv – awd, can tow, and lots more choices

  36. I'm retired & have been driving minivans since 1984 & I wouldn't want any other vehicle. My 2014 T&C Chrysler Minvan has Stow&Go seating & I'm able to keep everything safely locked. I'm able to haul people, furniture, lumber goods, groceries & animals without any issues.
    I love my minivan & will always drive one due to the convenience, comfort & handling. It has plenty of power & is quiet when cruising on the freeway.
    Cheers.

  37. I usually drive 2 door sports cars and i would never dream of getting a minivan BUT needless to say they are very comfy great for music and conversation with alot of different people just there only practical use is larger families and groups and thats about it

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