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Minivans losing many fans amid quest for new image
By RICHARD WILLIAMSON
Scripps Howard News Service
April 01, 2004

The minivan seems to be like some actor who gets typecast in a hip family sitcom and then can't find a meaningful role when fashions change.

Imagine "Eight is Enough" star **** Van Patten as the bad cop on "NYPD Blue."

In its early years, the minivan came to be known as a status symbol for upwardly mobile families derided by demographers as "yuppies." The minivan attracted critics from career-oriented, 30-something singles who began glancing furtively at their own biological clocks.

Two decades later, the minivan revolution that Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca launched in a desperate effort to save the company has been swept aside by the sport utility juggernaut that has its own crowd of sneering critics.

This year there are signs that the minivan decline that some automotive experts predicted years ago may be actually coming to pass.

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Mini-vans are and always will be very practical and very boring vehicles. But if you think about it most sport utes are useless when it comes to transporting larger families, cost an absurd amount of money, drink gas like gluttons and cost more to insure and repair. Plus they have average performance, except for a few examples and are generally getting real ugly these days. Yes the Suburban and Expedition will tote the whole crew along but they cost a second mortgage to own and operate. Which brings us back to the mini-van. For less than 30 large you can land a GM or Dodge extended length model with lots of frills and all wheel drive. So they get better mileage, are lighter and smaller, less to insure and will carry up to 8 people. Guess people can't get past their old sport ute syndrome!
 

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I don't think the new Sienna is losing any customers though. Those things sell like CRAZY!
 

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The minivan is a product of the family home environment and will continue to still command an audience as long as hauling kids around town continues. It is easy to drive, easier on gas (than most sport utes) and is flexible to be a people hauler as well as furniture hauler.
Chrysler had the foresight and the balls to bring out a completely different vehicle as they were trying to avoid chapter 11. GM, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-all of these companies were caught flat footed by the acceptance of Caravans.
There was an initial surge of buyers in the 80's, 90's and 00's of people who needed such a small van but were already had something. Now, the market is pretty saturated and the number of customers has stabilized.
So, what will be next? A cross over or the SUV? Or maybe a slightly heavier duty mini-van?
With OPEC rumbling, the SUV market will be hit a little (esp the bigger ones). All those people begging for a V-8 are going to be singing a different tune when the price of a gallon goes up. Then, maybe the mini's will be back in fashion.
Me? I'm looking for a small wagon with fwd that is very utilitarian. Something that is good on gas and can be driven around town and loaded up with whatever. My 89 Caravan is nearing its end-and I'd buy another if I could find another 89 in very good shape.
 
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