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The market for minivans has been continually shrinking over the last few years as SUVs have continued to outsell them. What was once considered as one of the ideal vehicles for family, has eventually somehow acquired the ‘uncool’ tag. How did this happen? What were the reasons behind the minivan getting this kind of a reputation?
Minivans have a bad reputation among many people because they consider them as slow sluggish vehicles that don’t have a good design and are only used by families or older people.
Of course there is nothing wrong with a vehicle being used by families and older people but no one wants to be associated with a vehicle that is slow and you can’t show off to your friends.
If you buy a new car or SUV you are likely excited to tell all your friends and family about it or post it on Facebook but with a minivan that excitement just isn’t there for many people.
Minivans are great quality vehicles that allow you to haul around many passengers or tons of cargo and honestly they are 100% the best vehicle for anyone with kids but because of the bad stigma of being “uncool” and people not wanting to be associated with that then buyers will often choose an SUV over the more practical minivan.
Let’s trace the history of the minivan and look a little bit more deeply into what led to its bad reputation and people perceiving it as uncool and undesirable.
The inception of minivans
In the 70s, Chrysler put together a team of 100 people who started working on a family vehicle that would fit a standard garage. This was a time when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. Funds were allocated for this new vehicle with great difficulty but Chrysler was willing to take the risk to try and save the company and create the next great vehicle.
In 1983, with the launch of the Voyager and the Caravan, Chrysler had created a new car for the market– a vehicle that drove like a car but almost had the space of a full size van. With features such as the sliding door, power windows and comfortable interiors, the minivan turned out to be the lucky charm that turned around Chrysler’s fortunes.
The minivan was the perfect vehicle for families. It had ample space for people and luggage and it also fit into a standard garage. Thus was born the minivan.
Reputation issues with the minivan
How did a vehicle that had such an intense appeal get such a bad reputation?
Somewhere along the line, maybe due to the advertising and marketing strategies, the minivan became the vehicle for “soccer moms” and “grocery getters.” It was no more a vehicle that people were proud of having parked in their driveway. They did not want to be associated with an uncool vehicle so despite the fact that it has tons of passenger space, cargo capacity and fuel efficiency, public perception also matters a lot.
As SUVs and crossovers became popular, people were no more interested in getting a new lackluster minivan. It may still be a more practical vehicle than all of the popular SUVs and crossovers out there, but it lacks the appeal of those cars since it’s seen as only for “families”.
As time passed, minivans could not stay relevant due to a bunch of other factors as well. There was no more competition in this vehicle type as many companies stopped making minivans entirely.
Especially in the 90s the minivans that were on the road could only be described as UGLY! This only worked to drive more and more people to SUVs.
During this time frame a lot of minivan’s just weren’t as dependable as other vehicles on the market which in turn hurt them even further. By the early 2000s many companies had stopped making minivans since they hadn’t changed in style in decades and sales had continued to plummet.
The size and features of minivans are also not very practical for city residents who are in a rush which caused the demand to slow even further for these vehicles.
All these factors combined with the competition from SUVs were responsible for the decline of the minivan.
Minivan manufacturers tried damage control by slightly modifying the design of the vehicles to attract the public. But the perception that minivans were meant for older people or just parents continues to stick.
The minivan is still a utilitarian vehicle that is perfect for long drives and family vacations. However, in a society that cares more about appeal than practicality, the minivan’s reputation died a silent death. Eventually, its market share shrank, and sales dwindled.
Many popular manufacturers even scrapped their minivan models entirely to remain relevant to the market smitten by SUVs and crossovers.
It is strange how a vehicle that is affordable, easy to drive and has plenty of cargo space lost its reputation mainly due to the coolness factor. If anything, it only reaffirms the fact that the majority of people care more about what others think of them than they do their own comfort. Not many people want to drive a car that has a stigma attached to it (even if it is dynamically better than some of its predecessors!)
The giants in the industry, however, have tried their best to revive the segment by introducing modern minivans with sleek designs that can give SUV lovers a run for their money! Will this mark the resurgence of the minivan, or will these be discontinued as well?
Only time can tell.
Are minivans safer than SUVs?
Safety is one factor that most buyers pay attention to. Did the safety of the minivan somehow affect its reputation?
Minivans, being larger than SUVs are naturally a little harder to handle. If you are going to be using the vehicle off-road or in extreme terrain, SUVs are more suitable and are probably safer in those types of conditions.
However, SUVs have a higher center of gravity than minivans. Due to this, SUVs are much more vulnerable to rollover accidents than minivans.
Moreover, the minivans of today have good safety features and safe crash scores. Therefore one need not worry about the safety factor.
Because of the higher risk of rollovers with an SUV minivans are actually a safer vehicle type than SUVs but many people either don’t realize this or would rather look “cool” than be safer in a minivan.
Is the Dodge Grand Caravan being discontinued?
The Dodge Caravan had its heyday from the 1980s till the early 2000s. With its distinct wood panelled body, the model has had an unforgettable run. 35 years since its inception, Fiat Chrysler finally stopped production of one of the earliest minivans in early 2020.
As the popularity of newer and more stylish SUVs/crossovers surged, minivan sales took a hit. Today, minivans consist a meagre 2.4% of new vehicle sales. While the other Chrysler models of minivans will still continue production, the time has come to bid goodbye to one of the most iconic minivans of all time – the Dodge Caravan.
What is the most dependable minivan?
In 2020, minivans still have a market (albeit a small one). These buyers are perhaps people who prioritize functionality over style. As of today, which of the minivans score the highest in reliability?
The two minivans that are simply the most reliable are the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. This should come as no surprise to anyone since both of these companies have made incredibly high quality vehicles for many years and their longevity is well known in the car world.
However, both of these vehicles are more expensive than other minivans on the market so if you don’t plan on keeping your minivan for 200,000+ miles it likely isn’t worth it to spend the extra money buying these higher quality vehicles.
Most minivans are designed to last 150-200k miles without having too many major issues but then problems will generally start to come up regularly so if you don’t keep your vehicles past that mileage mark then buying a more expensive Toyota or Honda likely isn’t worth it price wise.
Are minivans making a comeback?
When a concept is not well-accepted or fades in popularity, repackaging it and giving it a new name is a common strategy that companies follow. This holds true for the minivan as well.
In a desperate effort to save the minivan sales, many companies have remodelled or rechristened it to attract car buyers.
In early 2019, the Chrysler Pacifica made a comeback – this time as a reinvented vehicle. Although it is not possible to see the popularity the minivan enjoyed during its initial days, the new Chrysler Pacifica has somewhat aided in reviving the sales of this category of vehicles. The Pacifica has even become one of the best-selling minivans today.
As more companies kill their minivans owing to lack to sales, remodelling and reinvented versions seem to keep at least some of the buyers interested in still buying the old standby… a minivan.