Skip to comments.The Return Of The Minivan
Posted on 01/06/2011 9:22:43 AM PST by Notary Sojac
It's boxy, bland, and relentlessly practical, but in an age of diminished wealth and high unemployment, maybe that combination doesn't sound so bad. Despite those qualities, or because of them, the minivan is making a comeback.
Sales are up, new models are appearing, and the woman who once did the blog "Rage Against the Minivan" has fallen in love with one. "In marketing campaigns featuring heavy-metal theme songs, rapping parents, secret agents in cat masks, pyrotechnics and even Godzilla, minivan makers are trying to recast the much-ridiculed mom-mobile as something that parents can be proudor at least unashamedof driving," reports The New York Times.
This is known as reinventing the wheel. Minivans became popular in the 1980s because they offered so many thingsabundant seating, ease of entry for young children, decent fuel economy, and cargo space without excessive bulk. For a generation in its fertile years, they were the solution to every need.
Except one: the perennial urge of many baby boomers to believe they are cool. Our parents knew better than to expect hipness to coexist with diapers and PTA meetings. But the postwar generation is the one advertisers asked, seductively: "Who says you can't have it all?"
Apparently, though, the urge to be awesome has carried over to Generation X. That explains why automakers are trying so hard to convince them that basic, functional transportation is not a fate worse than fiery death.
Toyota is selling the Sienna as a "Swagger Wagon" after hearing consumers lament, "I don't like being the soccer-mom joke or feeling like I've given up all trace of my identity to be a parent," according to marketing manager Richard Bame.
Good luck with that. Portraying minivans as radical is like trying to sell Kansas to snowboarders.
It's also largely pointless. The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who, when they have kids, worry they are no longer cool, and those who, when they have kids, think being a parent is cooler than anything they've ever done. The latter group will consider a minivan. The former won't, even if you paint a skull and crossbones on it.
For those captivated by parenthood, the appeal of stylish wheels is (or was) nothing compared to a car that could carry baseball gear for an entire Little League, transport a flock of first-graders to Chuck E. Cheese's, get double-digit gas mileage, and ride appreciably better than a Conestoga wagon. In my book, coolness was a consolation prize for the poor mopes who were missing out on Indian Princesses.
But some people feel differently, which is why the rise of minivans was accompanied by the rise of something far less sensible: the sport-utility vehicle. With its truck frame, macho looks, and off-road capability, it allowed Americans to drive station wagons to the grocery store and ballet lessons while pretending to be Marlboro Men (and Women) riding the range.
Never mind that SUVs typically carried fewer passengers, got worse fuel economy, handled like front-end loaders and had a regrettable tendency to flip over. Plenty of people were desperate to overlook all these shortcomings rather than be publicly unmasked as parents.
The SUV's cherished dirt-eating, boulder-climbing feature was generally unneeded by suburban parents. For that matter, it was greatly exaggerated. One of the more surreal experiences of my life came when the people at DaimlerChrysler refused to honor the transmission warranty on my son's Jeep becauseprepare to be shockedhe had taken it off-road.
Maybe Generations X and Y are getting past the drab associations that once hung over minivans. Sales reached about 450,000 last year, up 9 percent over 2008. But that was still only about a third of the total at the peak 10 years ago.
How come? Because the industry has figured out a different way to capture those buyers looking for the best features of a minivan. SUVs and "crossover" vehicles have acquired smoother rides, third-row seats, and better fuel economy. In essence, millions of Americans are driving minivans disguised as truckssheep in wolves' clothing.
Maybe minivans will take a bigger share of the market as some consumers decide they might as well have the real thing. But with all their interior space, minivans can't carry the one thing many motorists must have at all times: their illusions.
on the plus side, they’re cheap and widely available.
our 1991 Caravan went 250k before it was totalled in an accident.
Most dangerous vehicles on the road. Outrageous rollover risks. Don’t drive over 35 mph.
... with ‘Soccer Moms’ too?
only with evil,exploding Firestone tires and Dateline exploding gas tanks in them.
Or the Triumph TR-3 my uncle used to drive me around in when I was in grade school?
We didn't wear helmets or Nomex, either.
That’s a problem not limited to mini-vans. I had a 2 door hatchback that had high center of graphic warning labels.
Or living in. Down by the river.
I hate my wife’s minivan with a passion. Part of that is due to it’s being a dodge, part is due to the look of the thing. As one hippy wanna-be car reviewer noted in a review of SUVs and minivans introduced at the Detroit auto show 7 or 8 years ago, a SUV looks like an aggressive, snarling predator while a minivan stood on end looks like a pregnant woman in a flowing skirt. I like aggressive.
All that said, when 3-gun season rolls around, it carries 4 rifles, 2 shotguns, 2 pistol range bags, 2 add’l pistol cases, 4 suitcases, a case of bottled water, a cooler, 6 ammo cans, the dog, and the kids, easily. A comparable sized SUV does not.
I don’t understand people, never will. When I had young children, it was all I could do to buy a minivan. And when I could finally afford one, I felt extremely fortunate to own one. They are great vehicles.
” ... a SUV looks like an aggressive, snarling predator while a minivan stood on end looks like a pregnant woman in a flowing skirt. I like aggressive.”
If you depend on the looks of the vehicle you drive to define you, I feel sorry for you.
we have a minivan. We could afford it and afford to fill it up every week. End of story.
When we needed a 15 passenger van, we had to sell the minivan. Money was too tight to keep both. Now that the kids are getting bigger and we do more driving, we went ahead and got a minivan again. Whole family outings still require the big van, but for shopping trips and classes for the kids — can’t beat the better gas mileage and comfort of the mini.
Wrong. SUVs have the greatest rollover risk due to the higher center of gravity.
I wouldn't care if it was two/tone peach and pink, it did the job.
Now that we are moving to the country, I am going to need a 4wd to climb the hills on our property and plow the driveway. But you can bet it's going to be a good used Jeep CJ or maybe an older Land Cruiser if I can find one, not one of these bling-blinged posermobiles that are called "SUV"s' today.
We have a nice used Buick “crossover” that is a minivan in all but name.
The only thing I don’t like is it lacks four wheel drive. Winter’s in the Midwest require at least one four wheel drive vehicle where we live.
I had 3 Chevy Astro Vans, drove them all over 200,000 miles.
The lady I sold one of them too has over 500,000 miles on it , and it’s still going.
Chevy decided to replace it with the Venture. A piece of crap that spends more time in the shop than on the road.
That is how vehicles are marketed. What defines you as a person. Why do you think the classic mid life crisis thing is for men to get a sports car or motorcycle.
I drive a S10 with 212K miles because it is paid for and can haul a deer out.
Most folks out here in the rural West buy SUVs to get around on paved snow covered mountain roads in Winter, not for off-roading. In over 40 years of off-roading I have yet to see a Ford Explorer on the trail. It is all Jeeps and 4 wheel drive pick up trucks.
“Most dangerous vehicles on the road”
I once had a trauma surgeon tell me the same thing. The sliding door on the side give it zero integrity in a side-impact crash or a rollover. The whole roof can cave in, too, due to the design of the door. Or so he claimed.
“Why do you think the classic mid life crisis thing is for men to get a sports car or motorcycle.”
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the love affair with vehicles. I love cars. But, I don’t see myself as being defined by my car. I don’t let image define my need. I needed a minivan, and I thought anyone who would think less of me because I drove one was not playing with a full deck.
As a driver, I prefer cars. They are more nimble, and just more enjoyable to drive.
1993 Ford Aerostar and 2001 Toyota Sienna - both workhorses for my family, even if my wife IS now ready to get out of the minivan zone.
My 10 year old Jeep Cherokee XJ will drag your minivan over the river and through the woods and on to Grandmas house.
Not under warranty? Buy some tools and fix it yourself!
Minivans are for wussies.
We’ve got two minivans and an SUV, among other vehicles.
The Expedition is wonderful. For a large, luxury vehicle, it has great capabilities. A few seasons ago, during a kid’s snow derby in the Cascade Mountains, I tried to get it stuck. I was intrigued by a patch of rolling, unplowed, ground. Other dads were around for extraction if I got into trouble. No problems! The thing ground through grille-high snow and got me back to the road.
However, mostly the SUV sits. We just moved, and the older minivan (Dodge Grand Caravan) has been a Jack-of-all-trades. I’ve been using it as a pick-up truck to the dump, cargo hauler, and bus. We keep taking the seats in and out, in, and out, people, cargo, people, cargo. I was shocked when the riding lawn tractor fit.
As far as image projection goes, I’ve found I can be a snarling predator in any vehicle I drive. But mostly, I’m just a nice guy.
“I once had a trauma surgeon tell me the same thing. The sliding door on the side give it zero integrity in a side-impact crash or a rollover. The whole roof can cave in, too, due to the design of the door. Or so he claimed.”
My auto mechanic said to avoid ERs, trauma surgeons are the most dangerous types of physicians.
depends on the off-roading. i’ve seen lots of exploders, blazers, jimmys, rav4s, highlanders, samouris- all manner of suvs on the dunes and throughout state parks in MI.
Dirt track minivan racing...
Not too much different from Saturday afternoon in the mall parking lot.
Well, my mechanical engineer says necrosis released biomarkers are a good indicator of myocardial infarction.
I just like driving a car that goes where I point it and stops where I want it.
I also prefer to stay safe through maneuverability rather than armor plate.
Hey brownsfan, good schtick! We pulled the same gag twice.
lol.... well played!
“Hey brownsfan, good schtick! We pulled the same gag twice.”
Yours was decidedly more elegant, but same basic premise. Great minds think alike?
It annoys me how people assign ultra competency in any area to doctors.
I’ll take half the wheels, and agree with you. Plus you sportscar guys don’t have to put up with the “Uncle Fred” stories we motorcyclists hear all the time.
You know, as soon as they see you on a motorcycle, somebody has to regale you with story about poor “Uncle Fred” who ground his face off riding one of those two-wheel hellfounts.
I totally agree with you, fan. And if one allows themselves to be defined by the marketers or their vehicles, what does that say about ones true character and motivation? Don't older men who drive sports cars/motorcycles know that many are laughing at them - we don't think it's cool to cop out with mid-life crises.
No, no, your’s was more to the point. I would have posted first if I didn’t have to look up convincing jargon on the interweb.
“Don’t older men who drive sports cars/motorcycles know that many are laughing at them - we don’t think it’s cool to cop out with mid-life crises.”
Be careful now. Not all older guys who own sports cars are having a crisis. I really like sports cars. I had one, until it died, and will again. But, if you feel like laughing at me when I drive it, have at it. :)
Unlike the crisis guys, I understand that a sports car with a 50+ year old bald guy is NOT a chick magnet!
I aint ever buying a milfvan...er, I mean minivan.
Like Notary Sojac said, do we get a pass if we were into the activity in our youth? Perhaps an international hand gesture indicating our status? I’m not ready for the home and wheelchair yet.
I’ve been given a slide from veteran cops when I pull off my helmet and they see a graybeard instead of a squid. From younger troopers, not so much.
Agreed. I should have been more careful in my word selection. A mid-life crisis guy is identifiable by his comportment.
please see my reply at #37. I should have chosen my words a bit carefully.
With rear seats removed, my cavernous PT Cruiser is like a mini-mini-van WITH a 5-speed.
I can put an entire bicycle (both wheels ON) inside and close the hatch.
Awww...us old guys will stop piling on.
Now, the chicks do dig my gold chains and shades. We can all agree on that, right?
You do, and you'll clean it up. By golly.
I’m actually attracted to 50+ bald guys WITHOUT the jewelry. At 50+, shades may be esthetically necessary!
Im actually attracted to 50+ bald guys WITHOUT the jewelry. At 50+, shades may be esthetically necessary!”
Funny how the internet works... I assumed you were male until I read that! I guess you still could be a guy, but that would just be creepy.
Are the shades necessary for the 50+ guy, or for you to wear when you look at them?! ;)
“I sometimes really wish for a real station wagon again.”
Look at the Ford Flex. Not overly attractive, but it’s a station wagon. I think there are other wagons that can be had. The nice thing about minivans is the flexibilty of removing seats.
“Both, I think”, she snickers.