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.