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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, and also with better comfort, access, and fuel economy. Like most modern vehicles, minivans are typically 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.
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.
In the 1970s, as vans grew larger, minivans grew out of a quest to add functionality back into to their design. In 1972, designers at Ford Motor Company created the Ford Carousel prototype as a variant of the upcoming redesign of the 1975 Ford Econoline. In order to better fit a van into a typical 7-foot 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. However, nearly a decade later, the concept was revisited by designers, produced in somewhat different form as the Chrysler minivans and the Ford Aerostar.
- 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.
In 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. In 1987 Chrysler introduces the extended-length ("Grand") minivans. The Chrysler Town & Country debuts 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 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 & Country, and Dodge Caravan, with the remaining 6% of the market share by the Mazda 5 and Nissan Quest. With Mazda and Nissan out of the segment, from 2014 the market will be shared by the Odyssey, Sienna, Chrysler, Ford, and Kias, as well as the new Ford Transit Connect.
- Toyota's: former models included the TownAce, imported from Japan from 1984, and the Previa from 1990 to 1997 by the Sienna.
- General Motors produced the Chevrolet Astro from 1985 to 2005, a rear-wheel drive minivan based on light trucks. It was replaced by the Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay. From 1990 to 2005, after which it left the segment, GM sold the Pontiac Trans Sport (also rebranded in Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles).
- Ford entered the market in 1986 with the Aerostar replaced from 1995 to 2004 by the Windstar after which Ford exits the minivan segment, returning in 2014 with the imported Ford Transit Connect.
- Nissan and Ford marketed from 1992 the Quest and Mercury Villager. From 2004 Nissan makes its own version of the Quest, exiting the segment in 2014.
- Mitsubishi imported the Delica Star Wagon from 1987 to 1990, also rebranded by Nissan as the Vanette.
- Mazda's MPV in 1989 is the first Japanese-brand minivan designed specifically for North America. It is replaced in 2005 by the Mazda5. Mazda leaves the segment in 2013.
- VW imported until 1991 the Vanagon, returning from 1993 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2003 with the Eurovan. From 2008 to 2012 VW sold a rebadged Dodge Grand Caravan as the Routan.
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.
2015 Toyota Alphard
The Toyota Alphard is a modern minivan.
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- "The Mother Of All Modern Minivans: 1949 DKW Schnellaster". The Truth About Cars, Paul Niedermeyer, March 29, 2010.
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