Friend Don’t Let Friends Drive Minivans

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

That was the text on a wallpaper image that was available from the first generation of this website and blog. And while I am not alone in my disdain for these vehicles, it wasn’t always that way.

Back in 1984, Chrysler (or whateverthehell they called themselves at the time) my wife and I saw a pre-production Dodge Caravan doing high altitude testing on I-70 near Vail, Colorado and we liked what we saw. We were driving a Subaru 4×4 station wagon and the thought of having all that space for our photo gear was appealing, much more so than a standard full-size van. But all that changed after the Caravan was launched and minivans became the default mommy-mobile.

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It seems as soon a baby arrived in a family, the couple raced down to the dealer and bought a minivan because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do having been indoctrinated by smiling families and their dogs in TV commercials. In the 1960’s when my daughter was born, we owned a first-generation Plymouth Barracuda. With its fold down seat and folding trunk partition storage space was copious and the car had a sense of style (at least to us) and we never, ever thought, “Oh we need a truck to drive our young daughter around.”

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Instead the obvious alternative was a station wagon. Nowadays station wagons, along with hatchbacks, seem to be anathema to Americans, yet Europeans buy them in equal numbers to sedans. Other than Subaru, no Japanese maker still offers wagons, while most European car companies do. Instead of a Mercedes CLA sedan, I wanted to buy the CLS wagon. But couldn’t. Instead Americans are only offered the smaller—yes, there’s less room—GLA crossover. Hey it’s a nice little truck but if you need more room, why do I need to buy a bigger SUV?

There is good news on the horizon: According to Good Car Bad Car, Minivan sales in America fell eight percent to only 513,000 units in 2015. I expect this to continue into 2017 as more an more American get into crossovers, like that aforementioned GLA, which while not a station wagon is a way, way better option for many families than a minivan.