The Minivan Is Not Dead Yet

Illustration for article titled The Minivan Is Not Dead Yet

This is The Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place every weekday morning. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?

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1st Gear: Chrysler's $2 Billion Injection

Illustration for article titled The Minivan Is Not Dead Yet

You know how you used to see manufacturers selling all sorts of minivans all the time and then they stopped selling all sorts of minivans all the time? Well, what happened is that they shifted over to crossovers instead.

Yep.

Well, Chrysler, the originator of the minivan, would like you to know that the minivan is not quite dead yet. Sergio Marchionne announced that Chrysler is currently investing $2 billion into its next generation minivan and the retooling of the Windsor Assembly Plant.

Expect the next Town & Country to debut at the 2016 Detroit Auto Show, just one year from now.

2nd Gear: Dem Gas Prices Thought

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A good thing about these lower gas prices is that people are driving more, which means that they are both using more gas while saving money. The prediction is that the price of crude oil will remain very low in 2015, which means that the average US household will save about $750 for the year.

That's a big chunk of change.

In fact, the US average right now is $2.117, which is the lowest in nearly six years. US refineries are taking advantage and running at full tilt in order to bank on the savings.

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3rd Gear: No GM Super Bowl Ads

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After running two ads during the Super Bowl last year, GM will not be running any advertising during the big game. They also sat out 2013 when then head of GM marketing Joel Ewanick said that they couldn't justify the expense.

There will be fewer automakers on board this year, with a number of the ones that have participated in years past bowing out. This is mainly because they just don't have models launching in a time frame where the Super Bowl would make sense.

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But don't worry, the ads for the big game are about 95 percent sold out.

4th Gear: More SUVs, Toyota. More!

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Demand for SUVs is rising (maybe because of those gas prices?), so Toyota is going to listen and just build more of them.

Instead of building more factories, which Akio Toyoda has put a freeze on until 2016, Toyota will instead just force more and more RAV-4s out of the same factories that they have before. Most importantly, SUVs are why Toyota has an edge on VW in the race to be the world's largest automaker. So if more SUVs means more sales, you bet your ass Toyota will make more SUVs.

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5th Gear: Another Test Site For Those Dang Autonomous Cars

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The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is going to get a testing site for autonomous cars. Called "M City," it'll be a testing ground that emulates a city scape. See, this is great because if something goes wrong (which it hasn't really yet with autonomous cars), then there won't be people to hit in the city.

Because it isn't a real city.

The full plan calls for UoM to have a fleet of connected autonomous car by 2021. Let's see if it happens.

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Reverse

John Dodge, who with his brother Horace co-founded the Dodge Brothers Company, which was once America's third-largest automaker and later became part of Chrysler, dies at the age of 55.

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[History]

Neutral

Is the minivan still relevant, or is Chrysler investing in a car that will go out of production in short order? Discuss.

DISCUSSION

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Well, Chrysler, the originator of the minivan, would like you to know that the minivan is not quite dead yet. Sergio Marchionne announced that Chrysler is currently investing $2 billion into its next generation minivan and the retooling of the Windsor Assembly Plant.

...which leads me to a question I've had for some time: Why don't any of the luxury brands sell minivans? Ignore the European brands for a minute - let's focus on Toyota, Honda, and Nissan. Take the Sienna, Odyssey, and Quest; take the most fully-loaded version of each. Figure out ways to upgrade it - Make the optional stuff standard; motorize the back seat; whatever. Brand it as a Lexus/Acura/Infiniti. Sell it by the thousands. Profit.

I know that minivans aren't "sexy", but they arguably have more utility than a "sport utility vehicle". Having owned both, it's WAY easier to get people and cargo into the minivan; the minivan is more comfortable, quieter, and less thirsty at the pump than an SUV. I guess the problem is that there isn't a "dream" that you can sell with an SUV. You can sell a Camaro or a Challenger on misty-eyed memories of racing from stoplight to stoplight. You can sell a full-size SUV on the fantasy of taking it to the hills, slogging up fire roads and across the rocks in Moab. But the minivan harbors no illusions.