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A minivan is a vehicle designed primarily for passenger safety and comfort, with three rows of adult-size seats, access through large sliding doors, and car-like handling and fuel economy. Minivans are purchased for their versatility and can often transport more people than a three-row sport utility vehicle, but with better comfort, access, and fuel economy. Like most modern vehicles, minivans typically are of unibody construction with front-wheel drive. They also feature a short, sloping aerodynamic hood. They are usually taller than sedans or station wagons, affording a good view of the road. Minivans usually have removable seats to allow hauling of cargo on a flat floor.
North American market
The term minivan came into use in North America in contrast to full-size vans. Model timeline:
- 1984: the Chrysler minivans arrives on the market to great success. The minivan replaces the station wagon as the large passenger car of choice in the US.
- 1989: the Mazda MPV is the first Japanese-brand minivan in the US.
- 1990: Toyota Previa was introduced. It was replaced by the Toyota Sienna in 1997.
- 1990: General Motors introduces the Pontiac Trans Sport and its rebadged corporate siblings. GM no longer offers minivans.
- 1993: the Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest came to market in a joint venture by Ford and Nissan. Both discontinued.
- 1995: introduction of the Honda Odyssey
- 2006: Kia Carnival introduced.
- 2008: Volkswagen Routan, a rebadged variant of the Chrysler minivans. Discontinued in 2012.
The minivan's market share peaked in 2000 with sales of 1.4 million units in USA. This shrank to about half a million in 2013. In 2014 minivan sales in America grew 6%. The market is shared about equally by the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Chrysler Town and Country, and Dodge Caravan, with the remaining 6% of the market share by the Mazda 5 and Nissan Quest. From 2014 the market will be shared by the Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, and Kia models.
- 1984: Renault Espace introduced. Like a modern minivan but with ordinary sedan-style rear doors rather than sliding doors. Still in production.
- 1988: Chrysler Voyager, manufactured in Austria, introduced. Unlike the American versions these could be had with diesel engines and manual transmissions.
- 1994: PSA Peugeot Citroën and the Fiat Group begin producing minivans under the Sevel joint venture. Discontinued around 2014.
- 1996: The Volkswagen Group, in a joint venture with Ford of Europe, introduce the Volkswagen Sharan and its rebadged siblings. Ford later withdrew from the Auto-Europa joint venture to build its own Galaxy sharing many parts with the Ford S-Max.
- 1998: Kia Carnival begins to be imported from Korea.
- 2004: the SsangYong Rodius begins to be imported from Korea.
- 2015: Mercedes-Benz introduces the V-Class (W447).
- The Japanese market has had the Mazda Bongo since 1966 and more recently includes the Toyota Alphard, the Nissan Elgrand, and the Honda Elysion.
- In South Korea, minivans include the Kia Carnival and SsangYong Rodius. These are both marketed internationally.
- The Buick GL8 is produced and sold since 2000 in China under the Buick brand name by Shanghai GM, the joint-venture of SAIC Motor with General Motors Corporation.
Predecessors of the minivan
Antecedents include the 1936 Stout Scarab, which featured a removable table and second row seats that turn 180 degrees to face the rear. The DKW Schnellaster, manufactured from 1949 to 1962 was one of the first vehicles to feature the characteristics of modern minivans. In 1950, the Volkswagen Type 2 adapted a bus-shaped body to the compact Volkswagen Beetle. When Volkswagen introduced a sliding side door on their van in 1968, it then had all the features that would later come to define a minivan: compact length, three rows of forward-facing seats, station wagon-style top-hinged tailgate/liftgate, sliding side door, passenger car base. Fiat built a similar vehicle, the 1956 Multipla based on the Fiat 600 with the same "cab over" engine and door layout.
Buick GL8, produced and sold in China since 2000
1930s Stout Scarab
DKW Schnellaster (1949-1962), with front-wheel drive, transverse engine, flat floor, and multi-configurable seating
1964 Volkswagen Type 2
1986 Dodge Caravan
The Chrysler Town and Country is a modern minivan.
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