Judging by minivan sales, the segment has crashed over the past decade. But don't tell that to dealers who sell them.
Volume, shmolume, retailers say. Many consumers buy loaded, higher-end models, so minivans deliver good margins. And minivan buyers often become a dealership's loyal customers -- even more than in the minivan's heyday more than a decade ago, says Brian Heney, director of operations for the nine-store Kelly Automotive Group in Danvers, Mass.
"Customers used to come in with a lot of shopping options on which minivan they might buy," says Heney, whose stores sell the Chrysler Town & Country, Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest. "Now they might be choosing between just two. They know what they're looking for and they pay for it.
"It's a good transaction and a loyal customer," Heney says. "You start loading up a Town & Country and they sell for $45,000. We like selling them."
That may explain why some automakers are quietly suiting up for battle in what many perceive as a deflated old segment from the era of Britney Spears and Pokemon.
Chrysler revealed in May that it will consolidate its segment-leading minivan offerings under the Chrysler brand, dropping the Dodge Grand Caravan. The move will steer minivan enthusiasts to a more luxurious product: The Dodge version starts at $21,590, including shipping, but the Chrysler version starts at more than $10,000 higher. Chrysler also said it will introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the Town & Country in 2016.