Surprise! SUVs Are Up, Minivans Are Down

What the station wagon was to baby boomers has now transferred to Gen Xers and the ubiquitous minivan. While SUVs and trucks continue taking a bigger chunk of North American sales, the lowly minivan is on the skids. And you thought it was only happening to sedans? Nobody wants the “soccer mom” identification, just like earlier generations blanched at the 1950s “mom mobile” look stations wagons held, according to the Wall Street Journal.

So what’s taking over? In most instances it’s the SUV. Many have room for seven passengers or more. That’s minivan territory. And their rugged looks combined with a raised profile combined with knobby tires are more appealing for moms seeking a different style. Currently, only four companies manufacture minivans for the US. Toyota, Kia Motors, Honda and Fiat Chrysler—the original minivan producer, still make them. Over half of all minivan sales come from Chrysler and Dodge. But while Fiat Chrysler minivan sales increased 11% in 2018, they’re down by almost 20% in the first six months of 2019.

Minivan sales have tumbled 13% in the last two years and an additional 16% in just the last six months. It’s the worst six-month slide since the recession of 2009 says Wards Intelligence.

Overall sales in 2018 skidded to 482,000 units says marketing firm JD Power. While that number isn’t too bad, almost 40% of those sales were fleet. But it hasn’t always been this way.

Over 1 million minivans were sold in 2005, accounting for over six% of all US sales. But from that high, the continuing degradation of numbers has shifted manufacturer efforts to quelling the rising demand in SUVs. It’s an easy switch to make when SUV sales are as high as they are now. Globally SUV sales reached almost 30 million sold. That’s the largest segment of total vehicle sales. In 2018 volume grew by 6.8% or almost 2 million units. That’s huge!

America isn’t even the biggest market for SUVs. That title goes to China, with 10.35 million sold. America comes in second with 7.75 million sales, and Europe finding 5.42 million buyers. Germany and the UK each saw almost 1 million sales each.

As you can see the shift in manufacturing emphasis is a no-brainer for car companies. The question is will minivan sales level off, or will we see more losses? And what about SUVs? Have they reached their peak? In 2018 growth fell compared to 2016 and 2017. Have SUV sales stabilized or are they headed north or south?