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Bye-Bye Minivans, Sales Slump While CUVs Surge

Friday, 22 Mar 2013 | 8:28 AM ET
Bye-Bye Minivan
Thursday, 21 Mar 2013 | 4:47 PM ET
Sales for minivans are down 10 percent this year, reports CNBC's Phil LeBeau.

It may be an exaggeration to say the minivan is dead, but make no mistake it has been dispatched to the land of niche vehicles. Need proof? Back in 2000, Americans bought 1.37 million minivans and they made up 7.9 percent of all auto sales. Today, the minivan is just 3 percent of total auto sales in the U.S.—and just over 500,000 were sold last year.

"Over the last decade we've really noticed the big change," said John Kranjovich, sales manager at Fair Oaks Ford in Naperville, Illinois. "Minivans back in the day were for soccer moms, everyone had to have one. As time has gone on, there are so many more options out there."

These days crossovers and sport wagons have become the vehicle of choice for many in suburban America.

More Options, More Choices

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This year, CUV and sport wagon sales are booming, up 15.2 percent. That's almost double the pace of overall industry sales which are up 8.4 percent. Some of that is because redesigned models like the Chevy Equinox and Ford Escape are up more than 20 percent this year.

Last year, almost 3 million CUVs were sold.

A Ford Escape CUV
Source: Ford
A Ford Escape CUV

Ron Hoering of Naperville, Illinois recently bought an Escape. Did he and his wife even consider buying a minivan? No.

"When we looked, we thought this was a great fit for us. We're a small SUV and a sedan family, that's how we run," said Hoering. "It has the ability to haul cargo, you can got to Home Depot, throw a plasma big screen in the back, whatever you gotta do."

There are also far more choices for CUVs and sport wagons than for minivans. Last month there were 60 different crossovers and sport wagons for sale in the U.S. compared to just 7 minivan models.

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"I think that really the whole wagon concept has really evolved and a lot of the designs are sleeker," said Jessica Caldwell withEdmunds.com. "They still are essentially wagons at the end of the day, but designers have really taken the liberty to make them look a lot cooler."

Minivan Mom Stigma Still Exist?

Since the mid-90's when minivans were at their height of popularity many who needed cargo and space bristled at the idea of driving a minivan. It has come to be known as the minivan stigma. And it's still very much alive.

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"That stigma is out there and people will tend to shy away if they don't have an absolute need for a minivan," said Caldwell.

Does it keep people in the market for a new vehicle from buying a minivan? Maybe.

John Hoering said for him and his wife, buying a crossover instead of a car was an easy choice. "My wife loves it because it gives her a higher point of view."

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—By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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