Minivans Showing Signs of Life
Detroit is waking up to a surprising fact about the oft-ridiculed minivan. It's selling, according to The Wall Street Journal.Sales of minivans that have gotten redesigns --or are new entries to the market in the recent past -- are up strongly. But the gains so far have been dominated by foreign models, which have tended to be more stylish and innovative of late. (Some versions of Nissan's Quest have five separate windows in the roof.)Now U.S. carmakers are trying to make their minivans cool, too, according to the Journal. On Dec. 8, DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group showed the next generations of its Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country minivans, due at dealerships early next year. Last week, General Motors Corp. unveiled two new family vehicles, the Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay, that it's trying not to call minivans, even though they are based on GM's current minivan models, according to the Journal.Bob Lutz, GM's vice chairman, said last week that the goal was to make them look more like sport utility vehicles. "It gets rid of thesoccer-mom curse," he said.In some ways, the U.S. makers are being forced to play catch-up, according to the Journal. Honda Motor Co.'s Odyssey minivan, which introduced the hideaway third-row seat, is still gaining market sharesome five years after its launch. Sales of Toyota Motor Corp.'s redesigned Sienna are up 24 percent for the year to date. The Sienna offers features such as a side curtain air bag that protects all three rows of seats, and rear door windows that open and close.