Minivans Abandoned; Crossovers Benefit

It is no coincidence the decline of the vehicle that drove families for two decades coincides with the rise of the much-touted CUV.

"They are getting better fuel economy, a better ride, with the same utility as the minivan," says Saturn of Grand Ledge sales manager Les Bielby. He says their Relay was once a kid-hauling hit, but customers are driving the move toward crossovers. In this area, they are asking about the outlook that will arrive next year nearly every day.

"We've had a real strong demand. We can't wait to get the first one on the lot."

Since 2000, GM's minivan sales have dropped 50 percent. Industrywide, they've fallen by 20 percent.

GM execs have said in no uncertain terms that they believe the vehicles that will be made in Lansing are filling the void. "Our new crossovers--Acadia, Outlook, and Enclave--with their three rows of seats and economical V-6 engines, can meet the same customer needs, minus the 'Soccer Mom' stigma," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told "The Detroit News" on Tuesday.

Bielby's confidant his minivan customers would be proud to have an Outlook if and when the Relay is no longer available.

"It's compatible," he says.