According to industry data, minivan sales shrank by 4 percent in 2013 compared to the prior year, to about 532,000. That's still enough volume that it can't completely write off what critics have dubbed "mom-mobiles," but it's a far cry from the nearly 1.4 million minivans sold at the segment's peak in 2000.
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Before the decision to withdraw the Caravan, the segment already boasted fewer names than in the mid-1990s, when it captured a peak 8.5 percent of the total U.S. automotive market. Chrysler also killed off the old Plymouth Voyager, and both General Motors and Ford have pulled out of the segment.
Other than the Town & Country, the only models now available are the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna, the Nissan Quest, the Kia Sedona and the Mazda5.
Odds are that when it cuts its current lineup in half, Chrysler will see a further decline in total sales, said David Sullivan, an analyst with consulting firm AutoPacific.
But the surviving Town & Country model just might reinvigorate the segment if the Detroit automaker delivers the sort of surprise-and-delight redesign it came up with for its original 1984 models.
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"They could come up with a new model that will awaken or redefine the segment," said Sullivan, who attended a daylong briefing on Fiat Chrysler's product plans earlier this week. "They are doing more research on this new minivan than I've seen in a long time. "
Good, new product has traditionally been a way to reinvigorate a weak product segment. But with just a few exceptions, the minivan market hasn't seen much innovation in recent years. Chrysler's No. 1 competitor, the Odyssey, added a built-in vacuum cleaner for its 2014 model, but that's a far cry from such once-revolutionary breakthroughs as sliding doors, foldaway seats and a dozen cup and juice box holders.