Granted, it took a global supply chain disaster to make this happen, but a day has come to the American auto industry that I’ve long wanted — but never thought would happen. The minivan is officially back in fashion.
Sales of the Toyota Sienna, the top-selling minivan in the United States in 2021, more than doubled from 2020, according to Edmunds. Sienna played with the Chrysler Pacifica last year for the top spot, although supplies of the latter were limited by chip shortages. There are only five minivan choices these days in the US market, which also include the Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, and Kia Carnival.
Of course, a big part of reversing the fate of minivans has been the microchip shortages which have been huge disasters for many sport utility vehicles that have gradually but inexorably replaced minivans in spirit and the hearts of American families. This phenomenon appears to continue to gain momentum as the global auto industry chip supply debacle drags on.
The average price of new minivans as a category rose 43% nationally in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same quarter in 2017, the highest percentage gain of any vehicle category, according to Edmunds . Prices for three-year-old Dodge Grand Caravans rose 64% in the quarter from the prior quarter, to more than $25,000, the report reported. The Wall Street Journal.
Another factor is that minivans have become one of the most opportunistic categories in the electric vehicle revolution. Sienna is only available in hybrid form, and Chrysler offers Pacifica in hybrid form with prices starting at around $47,000, about $10,000 more than the entry price of its internal combustion form.
But what can happen is even more than these circumstances. Is it possible that long-disgruntled millennials are finally giving minivans the long look and serious consideration they deserved, well, as long as millennials gave minivans the proverbial bird?
As a multiple-time lessee of the former Chrysler Town & Country minivan at the time, I had a tremendous appreciation for the form of vehicle that Lee Iacocca originally introduced in the 1980s. His front-drive minivans front end were more fuel efficient than most truck-based SUVs, bulky for humans and cargo, providing a huge high-visibility “greenhouse” for front passengers, pioneering the convenience of sliding side doors. . And so on. They even drove relatively well.
But over the next few years, when I would recommend considering buying a minivan to my own millennial offspring and almost every other car-buying millennial, I would invariably get a polite rejection of the idea. . They just couldn’t fathom the idea of investing in some form of vehicle that many of their parents had taken them to school, to sports and music practices, to vacation destinations.
Now that many millennials and a growing number of Gen Z parents are apparently taking a serious look at new and used minivans, I’m not just grateful and self-satisfied, I’m a bit jealous. They take advantage of innovations in modern minivans that were just aspirational ones in the early product format, ranging from minor enhancements such as on-board vacuum cleaners to major upgrades such as “stow-and-go” seating. Most important of all, perhaps, was the availability of all-wheel drive.
So let’s not just retract the obituary of the American minivan. Let’s celebrate its robust new life!