Today’s Post by Joe Farace
The title of today’s post originally appeared in the text that for a wallpaper image that was available for download 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 while driving on I-70 near Vail, Colorado and we liked what we saw. At the time, we were driving a Subaru 4×4 station wagon and the thought of having all that space for hauling our studio’s photo gear was appealing, much more so than a standard full-size van. But all that changed after the Caravan was launched and subsequent generations of minivans quickly became the default mommy-mobile.
It seemed like as soon a baby arrived in a family, the couple raced down to a car dealership and bought a minivan because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do having been indoctrinated by the happy, smiling families and their dogs in TV commercials for minivans. Flashback to the 1960’s when my daughter was born and I owned a first-generation 1964 Plymouth Barracuda. With its fold down seat and folding trunk partition the available storage space was copious and the car had a sense of style (at least to me) and I never, ever thought, “Oh I need a truck to drive our young daughter around.”
The obvious alternative to a minivan is a station wagon. Nowadays station wagons, along with hatchbacks, seem to be anathema to most Americans, yet Europeans buy them in equal numbers to sedans. Other than Subaru, no Japanese maker, that I know of, still offers wagons, while most European car companies still do. Instead of my (now sold) Mercedes CLA sedan, I really wanted to buy the company’s CLS wagon. But I couldn’t because Mercedes did not sell the wagon version (pictured aove) in the USA. Instead Americans were only offered the smaller—yes, there’s less room—GLA crossover that is, nevertheless immensely popular. Hey it’s a nice little truck but if you need more room, why do I need to buy a bigger SUV?
For all the minivan haters out there. there is good news on the horizon: According to The Truth About Cars, the American minivan category accounted for 408,982 sales in calendar year 2019 but Americans won’t acquire 300,000 minivans this year. With the effect of the pandemic influencing some car sales, “the minivan segment saw its share of the U.S. market crater”—to 1.5 percent. I expect this trend to continue into 2021 as more and more Americana get into crossovers, like the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek that Mary just bought*, which while it’s not a station wagon is, in a way, a much better option for many families than a minivan.
*Please note that this is Mary’s, so now she has three cars: a 2016 Beetle convertible, the 2018 Subie and, yes, her company car, a 2016 Ford Escape. Me? As of this writing, I still do not own a car but Mary lets me drive the Beetle and Subie from time to time. Look for a video with my driving impressions of the Crosstrek real soon now.