Just 12 years ago, minivans made up 8.5% of the overall vehicle market here in the US. Since that time, a string of SUVs and then later CUVs have cut into those vehicles with the magical sliding doors. In the last couple years, GM and Ford have abandoned the minivan segment all-together and concentrated on crossovers like the Buick Enclave and the Ford Flex. In 2006, minivan production fell below 1 million units for the first time in 15 years, and this year is looking much, much worse. The proliferation of CUVs in the past year and the end of the Uplander and Freestar have contributed to minivan sales shrinking an astonishing 22% in 2007.

At first glance, Chrysler's pending launch of the new Town & Country and Caravan appears to be as poorly timed as Toyota's introduction of the all-new Tundra. Both products would have sold in higher numbers only a few years back, when buyers were less afraid of purchasing a vehicle with less than perfect fuel economy. On the other hand, with improved styling (only so much you can do with a minivan), an even better interior, and more flexibility, Chrysler's new minivans may just help turn the tide.

[Source: Detroit News]