The popularity of minivans has hinged on the versatility of their interiors -- plenty of seats to take the family on a trip one day, no seats the next day to haul home half of a hardware store.
But the hard truth behind the promise of easily switching from limousine mode to cargo mode was that removing seats was difficult. The seats were nearly 100 pounds, making them hard for one person to maneuver in and out of the sliding door without damaging something. And once the seat was out of the van, it had to be stored.
Senior Writer Dale Jewett looks at the milestones of minivan seating.
Years reflect model years.
1984: Chrysler Corp. introduces the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans. Second- and third-row seats from Magna International Inc. can be removed to create a flat floor to handle 4-by-8 sheets of plywood. A cargo version has only front seats and solid side panels replacing glass behind the C-pillar.
1990: General Motors introduces the Chevrolet Lumina APV, Pontiac Trans Sport and Oldsmobile Silhouette with a "bucket-bench" seat system touted for its versatility. The second row has three seat units that sit side by side to form a bench. The third row has two seat units that form a bench. The seat units can be moved to different positions to create various configurations. They also can be removed to form a flat load floor.
1991: Toyota introduces the Previa. Second-row seats can be removed. The third-row seats fold vertically against the sides of the minivan to create cargo room.
1992: Chrysler introduces integrated child seats as an option for the second-row seats from Magna. The center section of the seat back folds down to create a booster seat and reveal shoulder straps. But the child seats make regular seats hard and uncomfortable.
1993: The Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest minivans debut. The automakers try to deal with concerns about the weight of removable seats by putting the third-row bench seat on a track. The seat, from Johnson Controls Inc., can be moved to create more legroom, or it can be folded and moved to create more cargo room. The second-row seats are removable.
1995: The Honda Odyssey debuts. Based on a Japan-market model, it looks more like a station wagon than a minivan, with forward-hinged rear doors instead of sliding doors. But the Odyssey has a rear seat that folds flat into a well in the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle does not sell in high volumes.
1996: Chrysler introduces redesigned minivans that include Magna seats with wheels to make it easier to get the seats in and out of vehicles and put them in storage.
1997: GM introduces redesigned minivans - the Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Trans Sport and Oldsmobile Silhouette - with removable seating units from Johnson Controls that use frames made of light-weight steel to make it easier for women to remove them.
1999: Honda introduces the second-generation Odyssey. Now a full-sized minivan, it has second-row Johnson Controls seats that can be separated to form captain's chairs or moved together to create a bench seat. A third-row bench seat folds and stows into a well in the rear of the vehicle or rotates to form a rear-facing seat when the tailgate is open. The stowaway third-row seat becomes a hit with consumers, and a waiting list forms.
2001: The Chrysler group redesigns its minivans but does not include a stowaway third seat. Program chiefs claim that consumers don't like noise created by having a well in the floor pan. They also say they can't do a foldaway seat and still offer all-wheel drive as an option.
Second and third rows on the 2005 Chrysler Town& Country fold flat with ease.
2005: The Chrysler group introduces redesigned minivans that feature storage wells that allow the second- and third-row seats from Intier to fold flat.