Rumors of the Death of Minivans Greatly Exaggerated

Stigmatized by a “soccer mom” image, scorned by hipper-than-thou “anti-minivan” buyers and challenged by hot-selling crossover utility vans, the minivan category has been buried by some auto analysts.

Stigmatized by a “soccer mom” image, scorned by hipper-than-thou “anti-minivan” buyers and challenged by hot-selling crossover utility vans, the minivan category has been buried by some auto analysts.

They've been buried by some several manufacturers, too — namely, Ford, GM and Mazda, which have discontinued their minivan offerings.

True, minivan sales fell 10% in 2006. But is the minivan really dead?

Not according to opinion polling by Autobytel, which indicated consumer appreciation for minivans' convenience and utility remains surprisingly strong, validating the continued category investment by Chrysler, Toyota and Honda, among others.

When asked if the minivan segment is dead or should be, 79% of respondents said no.

As for the anti-minivan” backlash, it's not exactly a wallop. Only 19% of respondents describe themselves as “anti minivan.”

Conventional wisdom is crossovers, that look like SUVs but drive like cars, are the family utility vehicles of the decade, much as minivans were in the 1980s and SUVs in the 1990s.

Most poll respondents (40%) agree CUVs are the definitive family utility vehicle for these times. Yet while only 4% named large SUVs as the family vehicle “du jour.” Meanwhile, 22% named minivans.

Autobytell says that suggests the family vehicle of the 1980s may have significantly more staying power than the vehicle type that supposedly replaced it.

Minivans may have an image problem. But the survey indicates roominess, convenience and utility — not styling — have always been minivans' strong suit. That helps explain why it is a 1-million unit segment.

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