I agree with Keith Crain's thoughts in his Aug. 30 column, 'Is anything new left?' However, I want to put the record straight on the origin of the minivan concept at Chrysler Corp. I know, because I was director of product planning at Chrysler from 1968 to 1975.
Hal Sperlich may have invented the minivan concept at Ford, but he did not invent it at Chrysler. At Chrysler, the advance product planners, advance stylists (now called 'designers') invented the minivan in the early 1970s.
We built a full-sized clay model and a seating buck, but we were unable to sell Chrysler management (John Riccardo and Gene Cafiero at that time) on investing in that unique product.
Sperlich came to Chrysler in 1977, and with his enthusiasm for the concept, he resurrected it, improved the design with front-wheel drive packaging and flush side windows and sold it to Lee Iacocca.
Hal is rightly identified as the 'father of the minivan,' because without him I don't think it would have happened in 1983. But at Chrysler, he was an adoptive father. He supported and improved the concept at Chrysler, but he did not invent it.