automotive trends cycle in and out, and what's completely uncool now might fetch big bucks on bring a trailer next decade. many try, but nobody can entirely predict the features and styles that will get people's attention. when minivans hit the u.s. in the early 1980s, they quickly catapulted themselves to the top of the contender list for families. their reign as family haulers was ended by the suv/cuv onslaught that followed, but we're seeing signs that a return to popularity might be brewing.
that's what the wall street journal is tracking, anyway, pointing to a new generation of drivers who see the boxy minivan as an excellent compromise between utility and against-the-grain style. it's extreme to suggest that minivans could be ready for a return to serious popularity, but nevertheless, something real is happening with minivans.
the biggest-selling minivan in the u.s. in 2021 was the toyota sienna (pictured at top), which sold 107,990 units last year. that's more than twice as many as the 42,885 siennas toyota sold in 2020 (which, granted, was a strange year for auto sales) and ahead of the honda odyssey (below right) at 76,125. toyota seems to relish the sienna's new role as what it calls the “trend-setting sienna,” highlighting the ways the hybrid-only minivan is ready for outdoor activities with a 1500-watt inverter, a roof rack, and an available hitch to tow up to 3500 pounds.
minivans from other automakers are doing well, too. edmunds.com found that prices for three-year-old dodge grand caravans were up 64 percent last quarter, compared to the beginning of 2021. and the kia carnival (left above)—which the automaker consistently refers to as a multipurpose vehicle, or mpv, instead of a minivan—sold almost 25,000 units last year, despite production challenges. the previous kia minivan, the sedona, sold 13,190 units in 2020.
despite these increases in minivan popularity, don't expect them to overtake suvs any time soon. according to the kelley blue book brand watch consumer perception survey for the first quarter of 2022, it remains true that minivan shoppers make up only a small portion of car shoppers. while 66 percent of non-luxury-vehicle shoppers considered an suv and 35 percent looked into pickup trucks in the first three months of this year, only five percent considered a minivan. the good news? that's an increase from the 4 percent who shopped for a minivan at the end of 2021. so, progress.