Diane Pompei cringed when a co-worker called her Toyota minivan "a mom-mobile."
But what really changed the then-single mom's mind about her next vehicle was looking over at a stoplight from her minivan and seeing a cute guy in the next lane: "The image he saw was that I was married and hauling my kids around."
Soon after, the Michigan real estate broker bought a Ford Explorer because "the image was way cooler."
Faced with numerous such tales, the once-hot minivan is trying to kick its soccer-mom image.
The national TV spots for Nissan's redone Quest are the most recent effort.
The ad campaign, which begins this week, is part of an estimated $45 million integrated-media blitz that seeks to portray the minivan as stylish and not just for mothers. The theme: Mothers have changed, and so has the minivan.
One print spread carries the headline "Passion built it. Passion will fill it up." The copy continues: "What if we made a minivan that changed the way people think about minivans?" The passion theme for the Quest is extended to Nissan's Web site with the headline "Put passion in motion."
Nissan took a similar route when it launched its redone Altima two years ago.
Ads called the mid-sized Altima the "cure for the common car," and touted its performance and styling and poked fun - without naming names - at the segment leaders, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
Nissan North America says it wants to sell 75,000-plus Quests annually.
To do so, the carmaker also is updating the styling of its minivan. Wes Brown, an analyst with the consulting firm Iceology, says the old Quest model, which was built in a venture with Ford Motor Co., wasn't competitive. He says the minivan's styling is now "quite aggressive" for the segment.
The Chrysler group, which popularized minivans in the 1980s, is still the market leader in the segment. But the Toyota Sienna and Honda's Odyssey have taken bites out of Chrysler's share.
Nissan Division's U.S. sales were off 2.7 percent through July, to 378,858 units. But several Nissan dealers say the automaker has had virtually no incentives because most of its models are new or redesigned.