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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.[1] 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[edit]

Volkswagen T1 Transporter, one of the ancestors of the modern minivan (1954 model shown)

Antecedents include the 1936 Stout Scarab, which featured a removable table and second row seats that turn 180 degrees to face the rear.[2][3] The DKW Schnellaster, manufactured from 1949 to 1962 was one of the first vehicles to feature the characteristics of modern minivans.[4] 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.


North America[edit]

In 1984 the Chrysler minivans arrives on the market to great success.[5] The minivan replaces the station wagon as the large passenger car of choice in the US.[6] 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.[7]

Current models[edit]

In 2014, sales of minivans in America increased 6% over 2013. In terms of market share, approximately 94% of the segment is shared nearly equally by the Chrysler minivans (Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan), 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.[8]

Discontinued models[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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. Since 2004, the Nissan Quest has been 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.


2014 Mercedes V-Class

Current models include the Mercedes-Benz Vito,[9] Volkswagen Sharan, the Chrysler Voyager (now rebranded as Lancia), the Kia Carnival, and the SsangYong Rodius.

The Renault Espace was produced from 1984, but in 2014 was rebranded as an SUV. From 1994 to 2014 PSA Peugeot Citroën and the Fiat Group produced minivans under the Sevel joint venture.



  1. ^ "Minivan buying guide". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  2. ^ Patton, Phil (6 January 2008). "A Visionary's Minivan Arrived Decades Too Soon". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Darukhanawala, Adil Jal (May 2001). "Blast from the past: 1936 Stout Scarab". (source: Overdrive). Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Mother Of All Modern Minivans: 1949 DKW Schnellaster". The Truth About Cars, Paul Niedermeyer, March 29, 2010. 
  5. ^ Stepler, Richard (February 1985). "New generation minivans". Popular Science 226 (2): 74–75. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Best of the Minivans". Kiplinger's Personal Finance 44 (7): 41. July 1990. Retrieved 6 September 2014. 
  7. ^ "'Mom mobiles' a shrinking category for automakers". CNBC. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  8. ^ Cain, Timonthy. "Chart Of The Day: U.S. Minivan Market Share In 2014". The Truth about Cars. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  9. ^ "2015 Mercedes-Benz V-class". Car & Driver. Retrieved 2015-08-20.