What's so bad about minivans?
Heck, I had three of them. The first one even had a four-banger and a stick shift.
Of course, that was when my sons were a lot younger, and it was great to have a vehicle that could haul lots of people, pets and stuff. But somewhere along the line, minivan became a dirty word. It became too closely associated with the post-Yuppie soccer mom phenomenon that ravaged suburbia.
And as surely as the seasons change and hemlines rise and fall, the SUV replaced the minivan as the most popular vehicle parked in suburban and exurban strip malls. Now the SUV moniker is growing ever more suspect.
That must be the reason some automakers are reluctant to correctly classify their products. For example, upscale producers such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW are afraid to utter the term "minivan."
Yet the Mercedes R class and the long-awaited BMW "space-functional" vehicle, due in about two years, look a lot like what most folks in North America call minivans. They are designed as functional people movers.
Of course, nowadays things just aren't that simple. With 1,600 individual light-vehicle models to choose from, there is a lot of blurring of vehicle segments, and people movers now include minivans, SUVs, CUVs, SUTs (ugh!), crossovers and good, old-fashioned station wagons.
These days, every new vehicle has just got to be a segment buster.
Consequently, life gets a little tougher for analysts and newspaper editors, who like to stuff vehicles into clearly defined cubbyholes. All this segment commingling makes it harder to explain the market.
What really matters is that a vehicle identifies -- or better yet, anticipates -- consumer needs.
Just don't call it a minivan.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]