A minivan is a vehicle designed primarily for passengers, with two or three rows of seating accessed via large (often sliding) doors.
Offering car-like handling and fuel economy, minivans typically have unibody construction, front-wheel or all-wheel drive, greater height than sedan or station wagon counterparts, and have re-configurable interiors with flexible or removable seating — to prioritize either passenger or cargo volume.
In international markets, the minivan is classified as multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) or people carrier.
In North America, the term minivan derives from the size comparison to traditional full-size vans (like the Ford E-Series, Dodge Ram Van, and the Chevrolet Van). Full-size vans derived their underpinnings upon full-size pickup trucks, while the first generation of minivans sold in North America derived from either compact pickup trucks or passenger cars (or both).
Predecessors 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.
In 1972, designers at Ford Motor Company developed the Ford Carousel prototype as a variant of the upcoming redesign of the 1975 Ford E-Series. To better fit a van into a typical 7-foot (213 cm) tall American garage door opening, the Carousel was designed with a lower (6-feet tall) roofline and trim similar to a station wagon and a personal luxury car; rather than a cargo carrier, Carousel was intended a family vehicle. The vehicle was never produced, due to the mid-1970s fuel crisis and company financial difficulties. Nearly a decade later, the concept was revisited by designers and produced in somewhat different form as the Ford Aerostar.
In the late 1970s Chrysler began a six-year development program to design "a small affordable van that looked and handled more like a car". The automaker introduced the first modern minivans in 1983, the front-wheel-drive Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.
- In Chinese Taipei, the Taiwanese market features the Luxgen M7.
- 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 SAIC-GM, the joint-venture of SAIC Motor with General Motors Corporation.
For the 1984 model year, the Chrysler minivans arrived on the market to great success. The minivan replaced the station wagon as the large passenger car of choice in the US. In 1987 Chrysler introduced the extended-length ("Grand") minivans. The Chrysler Town & Country debuted in 1990. The term minivan came into use in North America in contrast to full-size vans. The minivan's market share peaked in 2000 with sales of 1.4 million units in US. This shrank to about half a million in 2013.
In 2014, sales of minivans in America increased 6% over 2013. In terms of market share, approximately 94% of the segment's market share comes from sales of the Chrysler minivans, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna; the best-selling vehicle varies from year to year. The remaining 6% of the segment is shared largely by the Ford Transit Connect, Kia Sedona, Mazda 5 (discontinued after the 2015 model year), and Nissan Quest.
- Toyota: former models included the Van/Wagon (imported versions of the TownAce from Japan) from 1984 to 1989, and the Previa from 1990 to 1997; replaced by the American-built Sienna.
- General Motors: former models included the Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari from 1985 to 2005, a rear-wheel drive minivan based on light trucks. Also sold front-wheel drive APV minivans from 1990 to 1996 (sold as Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile); replaced by Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac Montana, and Oldsmobile Silhouette; later replaced by Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6, and Buick Terraza, marketed as crossover SUVs; GM exited minivan segment completely in 2008 .
- Ford: former models included the Ford Aerostar from 1986 to 1997 and the 1995-2007 Ford Windstar/Ford Freestar/Mercury Monterey after which Ford exits the minivan segment, returning in 2014 with the imported Ford Transit Connect Wagon.
- Nissan: former models include the Van/Wagon (imported versions of the Vanette from Japan) from 1987 to 1990; the first two generations of the Nissan Quest were developed with Ford and marketed as the Mercury Villager from 1992 to 2002. The 2004 Nissan Quest was developed exclusively by Nissan, built in both the United States and Japan.
- Mitsubishi imported the Delica Star Wagon as the Mitsubishi Van/Wagon from 1987 to 1990
- Isuzu sold a badge-engineered Honda Odyssey as the Isuzu Oasis from 1996 to 1999.
- Mazda: the 1989-1998 Mazda MPV was the first Japanese-brand minivan designed specifically for North America. It is replaced in 2005 by the Mazda5, which was discontinued in 2015.
- Volkswagen: former models include the 1979-1991 Vanagon, replaced by the Eurovan sold from 1993 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2003. From 2008 to 2012, Volkswagen sold a rebadged Dodge Grand Caravan as the Volkswagen Routan
- Chrysler: the 1986-2016 Chrysler Town and Country and the 1984-2017 Dodge Grand Caravan and Dodge Caravan 1984-2007 and the Plymouth Voyager/Grand Voyager 1984-2000 were the oldest minivans on the market in North America, they reached high sales until Chrysler announced that they will be replacing the Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan with the all new Chrysler Pacifica Minivan.
In 1979, Volkswagen replaced the long-running Type 2 with the Volkswagen Transporter T3/Caravelle (VW Vanagon in North America). While retaining the rear-engine form factor of the Type 2, the Caravelle was an all-new design. In 1984, the Renault Espace was introduced. Designed and manufactured by Matra, the Espace was a front-wheel drive van with four front-hinged doors. Although slow-selling at first, the Espace would go on to become one of the most successful vans of the segment. Beginning in the late 1980s, American-market minivans (the Chrysler Voyager and Ford Aerostar) were exported to Europe.
During the 1990s, the production of minivans continued, with the extensive use of badge engineering and joint ventures between manufacturers. In 1994, under the Sevel joint venture, Citroën, Peugeot, Fiat and Lancia introduced competitors to the Espace based on a single platform. For 1995, Ford and Volkswagen introduced their own joint venture (leading to the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan). Imports of American-market minivans continued, with the Chrysler Voyager, limited imports of the Ford Windstar, and the Opel/Vauxhall Sintra produced entirely in the United States alongside its Chevrolet Venture counterpart.
1930s Stout Scarab
Buick GL8, produced and sold in China since 2000
The Chrysler Town and Country is a modern minivan
The Chery Eastar Cross is a modern minivan
Luxgen M7 produces a wheelchair accessible van Luxgen V7.
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