How Auto Companies Are Reworking the Minivan to Make it Cool

Mocked as Uncool, the Minivan Rises Again (New York Times)

Product Life Cycle theory teaches that when a product reaches the Maturity stage marketers face a tough decision.  At this stage the market is seeing slow growth, yet many competitors still remain.  Even with a slowing market, internally these companies are looking to grow sales, as that is what is almost always expected.  But, realistically in a flat market if one competitor is increasing sales, it must mean others are losing.

Needless to say, the Maturity stage is a tough place to be. Faced with a highly competitive and potentially money losing market, marketers must decide whether to continue to sell their product or abandon it (e.g., sell to another company, retire it from the market).  For marketers who are not willing to let go, they must look to strategies intended to once again grow product sales.

As we note in our Planning with the Product Life Cycle tutorial, there are several approaches to re-growing sales that collectively fall under the resurgence tactics approach.  These tactics include changing target market aspects of the product’s marketing strategy such as convincing customers to use the product more frequently and targeting the product to new markets.

While target market strategies can be highly effective, a more common approach to extending the life cycle is to pursue strategies designed to alter the product itself such as introducing new models with new features and changing packaging.

This story offers insight into how automobile manufacturers are extending the product life cycle of the minivan.  The story describes changes auto makers have made to successfully grow minivan sales following a period of very slow growth.  These include important product design changes intended to give the minivan a more car-like look and feel.  The new features are highlighted in advertisements that are worlds away from the family-friendly ads that have long been the theme of minivan promotion.

Having spent recent years making minivans more child-friendly through amenities like dual-screen entertainment systems and reconfigurable seating, the automakers are now focused on making them more appealing to adults, especially men, who have shied away from the vehicles and their connotations.

What other class of consumer motor vehicles is also in the Maturity stage?  What can be done to extend the life cycle of this product?

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