The Return of the Minivan; Automakers Wager Big Segment is Poised to Grow
Automakers, from Ford Motor Co. to Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., are spending millions on the minivan sector, which they say is poised for growth, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.Not that SUVs and so-called crossover utility vehicles like the PT Cruiser have fallen out of favor. SUVs alone sold 2.97 million units last year, compared with minivans, which sold 1.06 million units, according to Ward's, an auto industry research firm.And minivans still account for just a sliver of the $400 billion U.S. automotive market -- 6 percent, according to AutoPacific Group, another automotive industry research firm.By comparison, passenger cars command the lion's share with 48 percent. SUVs and pickup trucks hold 26 percent and 20 percent, respectively.While there are 50 types of SUVs on the market, there are only 15 lines of minivans, the Journal Constitution noted. Still, last year's minivan sales were up 12 percent from 1993 figures, and analysts say there's a growing appetite.So why the rekindled love affair? For one thing, Generation Xers -- the roughly 50 million Americans born between 1963 and 1978 -- are having children of their own and trading in their SUVs for minivans, albeit grudgingly,automakers say, the Journal Constitution reported.Their empty-nest baby boomer parents are snapping them up, too, the Journal Constitution said. The appeal to the senior set, customers say, is that minivans are low enough to easily enter and exit, but high enough to allow a bird's-eye view of the road."Traditionally, the stigma has been that the minivan was a 'must-have' for utility purposes, not a 'wanna have,'" said Brian O'Malley, the Nissan executive who heads marketing effortsfor the Quest line.