Last year, the American auto industry sold a record-setting 17.5 million vehicles. This year, the industry is on pace to break its own record.
The auto comeback of the last few years has been driven by what the industry calls “light-weight trucks,” or what normal people call “SUVs, minivans, and other vehicles that are neither midsize cars nor 18-wheeler trucks.” This is the story of the century, really. Since 2000, cars and “trucks” moved in perfectly opposite directions: Domestic and foreign car sales are down 14 percent, while light-weight truck sales are up 15 percent.
But there’s something particularly interesting about the category leading all vehicles in the best three-month start to auto sales in U.S. history …
… no. Minivans?
Yes. Minivans! The soccer-mom icon of the 1990s had a rough start to the 21st century. Sales fell by two-thirds in the first decade, from 1.2 million in 2000 to just over 400,000 in 2009. In the last five years, minivans recovered slightly, but mostly they bounced up and down around the half-million mark, like a Honda Odyssey rolling over a series of speed bumps.
But perhaps minivans are poised for a mini-comeback. They led all vehicles in sales growth in the month of March, as well for the first three months of 2016. More than 143,000 minivans have sold so far this year, almost three-times the number of luxury SUVs. Toyota sold more of its Sienna model in America in 2015 than in any year since the recession. Meanwhile Honda's minivan, the Odyssey, is outselling its Pilot SUV, the Wall Street Journal reported.