No one is uttering this prediction too loudly, but the poor old minivan may be priming for a comeback.
Four eager competitors — Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America — are bringing new-generation vans to market this year and early in 2011.
Some indicators suggest consumers are warming to the idea of buying a minivan.
Edmunds.com notes a spike in Web traffic for consumers researching minivans on its site. Typical recent months have seen 2 to 3 percent of consumers on the site checking out minivans. That jumped to almost 5 percent in April.
"There is definitely a peak in interest," says Ivan Drury, an Edmunds.com analyst. "Our assumption is that there has been some talk in public about new minivans coming, and consumers want to read about them."
At the same time, used-vehicle barometer LeaseTrader.com reports that its demand for minivans on its Web site rose 23 percent in April. LeaseTrader arranges lease-swaps for consumers who want to get out of one vehicle and into another before their lease is up.
John Sternal, the company's vice president of marketing, says consumers using the service in search of a minivan have been complaining that "crossovers are just too expensive and not practical enough."