Stellantis has pointed squarely on the semiconductor scarcity as the rationale for the approaching shift minimize at its Windsor, Ont., minivan plant in April.
However even earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic threw international provide chains into disarray, the marketplace for minivans had been shrinking, elevating questions on the way forward for the quintessential household hauler.
Regardless of the advantages of minivans, their enduring soccer mother picture is motive to be skeptical about their future, stated Sam Fiorani, vice-president of worldwide automobile forecasting at AutoForecast Options LLC (AFS).
“The potential for the minivan market going away utterly is there,” Fiorani stated. Though the section stays an necessary revenue centre for Stellantis, he stated, the corporate might nonetheless “stroll away.”
No different automobile can shuttle seven passengers in as environment friendly a package deal because the minivan, analysts say. But the section’s distinction as a family-first automobile has carried out little to counter flagging gross sales within the face of crossovers and SUVs that tick lots of the similar bins — with maybe barely extra panache.
“It’s simply by no means going to be the booming promote it as soon as was,” stated Cox Automotive Govt Analyst Michelle Krebs.
THE MINIVAN’S NEXT CHAPTER
The rise of the SUV and decline of the minivan is simply the subsequent chapter in automobile evolution, stated Robert Karwel, senior supervisor of the Energy Data Community at J.D. Energy Canada.
“Minivans did that to full-size station wagons and midsize station wagons ever since Chrysler popularized the section within the early ’80s,” he stated.
“The section itself isn’t going to go away. There’s nonetheless a core contingent of individuals whose wants are greatest met, or solely totally met, by a one-box van design.” Karwel stated he expects gross sales to stabilize at decrease ranges.
Stellantis’ Dodge and Chrysler manufacturers, which helped construct the minivan section, have for years led the best way in Canadian gross sales. In pre-pandemic 2019, the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan — which the corporate has since changed with the Chrysler Grand Caravan because the decrease finances choice for Canada — mixed for about 31,000 gross sales, in line with the Automotive Information Analysis & Information Heart in Detroit.
This roughly matches the mixed gross sales of the class’s different gamers: The Toyota Sienna totaled about 14,500 in 2019; Honda offered 9,500 Odysseys; and Kia moved 5,000 Sedonas throughout the curb.
The identical manufacturers offered a 3rd extra minivans, combining for just below 80,000 gross sales, in Canada in 2010.
Slowing minivan gross sales have a significant impression on Canada’s auto trade. Stellantis’ Windsor Meeting Plant has constructed the autos since they got here available on the market for the 1984 mannequin 12 months. A 3-shift operation for nearly 30 years, the plant eradicated the third shift in 2020, saying the transfer would higher match provide with demand.
Provide chain issues tied to COVID-19 have additional disrupted the Ontario plant. It spent a lot of 2021 idle due to the microchip scarcity, and Stellantis gave discover to union members Oct. 15 that it plans to eradicate the second shift subsequent spring. The automaker cited the chip scarcity and prolonged impacts of the pandemic as being liable for the approaching 1,800 job losses. AFS expects the ability to construct 129,000 minivans in 2021, down from 220,000 initially forecast. The location produced 186,965 minivans in 2020 and 311,669 in 2019, in line with the Automotive Information Analysis & Information Heart.
Stellantis wouldn’t touch upon any plans for Windsor Meeting or its future within the minivan section.
In British Columbia, Anthony Wiseman, common supervisor of Langley Chrysler, doesn’t see Stellantis abandoning the section. Regardless of the minivan’s picture, even skeptical patrons are sometimes fast converts once they see how they carry out.
“That section has lengthy been one of many core manufacturers and goes to proceed, from what I can see,” he stated.
Mirroring the broader market, nonetheless, Wiseman stated he has seen minivan gross sales dip lately. He pointed to increased costs and the attraction of SUVs as two causes.
At the moment, the Vancouver space dealership — a part of the 12-store Trotman Auto Group — is having bother protecting minivans on the lot. Wiseman stated in October he was offered out of Pacifica hybrids and had a single Grand Caravan.
Shortages have been commonplace in lots of classes, he stated, however minivans have been among the many hardest hit.
Wiseman is assured that if he had extra autos, minivan gross sales can be “drastically increased.”
“It’s arduous to know actually what the curiosity is and sale charges on these autos are while you don’t have the conventional stock,” he stated.
Stock issues prolong past the border. Krebs, who is predicated in Michigan, stated trade knowledge exhibits minivans have been the least out there autos in the US for months.
Like many different present challenges within the auto trade, it comes all the way down to a scarcity of chips, stated Fiorani of AFS.
“The minivan itself is a really worthwhile automobile,” he stated. “Nonetheless, with the chip scarcity, chips have been targeted on much more worthwhile autos.”
Brief- and long-term trade traits may additionally spell the top of the finances minivan, contributing to slumping gross sales.
To seek out success within the class, J.D. Energy’s Karwel stated, automakers are already adjusting how they market minivans, positioning them as a premium choice much like pickups or SUVs.
“They need to make the most of a few of that technique with minivans — load them with tech and options, elevate the value and make it a extra worthwhile enterprise mannequin,” he stated.
Costlier hybrids are one other avenue.
Stellantis launched the Pacifica plug-in hybrid for the 2017 mannequin 12 months, whereas the Toyota Sienna is on the market solely as a hybrid for the 2021 mannequin 12 months. The automaker is discovering early success with its hybrid shift, Krebs stated. In Canada, for instance, Sienna gross sales rose to 10,363 through the first 10 months of this 12 months, up from 6,535 in 2020.
The hybrid Pacifica has been a significant draw at Langley Chrysler, Wiseman stated, particularly when factoring in federal and provincial rebates. With the present momentum for electrical autos, whichever automaker goes totally electrical in minivans first will safe a brand new set of patrons, he predicts.
“That’s going to be a game-changer for whoever will get there with that full electrical choice and the place that takes them subsequent,” he stated.
With information from Greg Layson.