- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 17, 2004

Are minivans cool again? Not since a record 1.4 million of these cargo-happy transports left new vehicle showrooms in 2000 has consumer interest in the venerable “Mom-mobile” been as strong, according to the latest new-vehicle shopping data from CarsDirect.com. It’s these suburban icons — not passenger cars or SUVs — that are piquing the interest of new vehicle shoppers.

In fact, this year’s crop of new and redesigned minivans is enjoying one of the highest percentage increases in shopper activity of any new vehicle category. To date, 37 percent more buyers are considering a minivan as their next new vehicle than last year.

Notable is the growing interest in minivans among full-size SUV shoppers. According to CarsDirect.com’s April 2004 cross-shopping statistics, 33 percent more Toyota Sequoia shoppers chose to comparison shop the two leading minivans in April than in January 2004.

Even more striking, 45 percent more Chevrolet Suburban shoppers jumped the fence to check out the Odyssey and Sienna in April, compared with January.

Stereotyped as a practical but decidedly uncool new-vehicle choice, the minivan lost major ground to sport utility vehicles during the past four years. For 2005, with redesigned DaimlerChrysler minivans arriving on the scene earlier this year, and important redesigns such as the 2005 Honda Odyssey and four all-new “sport van” entries from General Motors scheduled for fall debuts, the minivan could be poised to recapture the attention it commanded when the former Chrysler Corp. created the category in 1984.

Add respectable fuel economy, superb cargo space and utility, solid performance, luxurious creature comforts and ride height, and the new crop of minivans may just signal a return to what attracted Americans to the category in the first place — an efficient way to haul people and stuff.

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