The minivan once saved Chrysler — now it's near the end of the road

The end of the minivan
The end of the minivan

The minivan is a car that screams family.

It calls to mind images of suburbs, family life and youth soccer teams. For much of its history it has been praised for its practicality, and yet maligned as so deeply uncool.

The minivan's place in history is far loftier than it's humble existence today. It was one of Chrysler's most successful product debuts and helped save the automaker from total ruin in the 1980s. The unveiling of the first Chrysler minivans in 1984 is still considered a landmark moment in the history of the automotive industry.

But the minivan is now relegated to a small portion of the market, despite seeming like the sum of everything most people want in a car. With buyers now scooping up sport utility vehicles and crossovers at an increasing rate, automakers are faced with the choice of whether to keep selling these multipurpose vehicles or ditching them in favor of more popular and more profitable models.

Minivans grew from about 4% of the new car sales to a peak of around 7% in the early 2000s. But they fell from there, and automakers who once scrambled to catch up to Chrysler's hit vehicle began dropping out of the race.

Car buyers today won't see a new minivan in the U.S. from either Ford or GM. The automakers stopped making them in the 2000s. Ford instead makes the Transit Connect — a smaller van for families that Ford says is definitely not a minivan.

With the pendulum swinging wildly toward SUVs, what's the future for the minivan? Watch this video to discover how the minivan went from an automotive superstar to nearing extinction.