Mom-jeans are stylish again, Pokémon is ubiquitous, and the minivan is having a major moment. As the old saying goes: Those who fail to learn from the 1990s are doomed to repeat them.
Minivan sales in the U.S. are up 21 percent so far this year, outmatching every class of vehicle except the midsize pickup. And though the bloated kid-carrier has yet to match its heyday, U.S. drivers are on pace to buy more than 600,000 of them this year for the first time in almost a decade. If the current pace holds, more people will purchase these soccer practice-pods than subcompact cars such as the Honda Fit or such entry-level luxury cars as the BMW 3 series.
Its renaissance was hard to see coming. Until recently, the minivan looked as though it were headed for the historical scrap heap, along with the pickup car and the Volkswagen diesel.
The antagonist? An army of SUVs. Minivan sales in the U.S. peaked in 2000 at approximately 1.4 million vehicles. Two years later, Americans bought more than 3 million SUVs for the first time. These vehicles were big, tall, and infinitely cooler. Nowadays there are roughly 100 SUVs to choose from in the U.S.—from a $20,000 version that looks like a swollen sedan to a $100,000 land yacht with a few longhorns-worth of leather stitched inside. Meanwhile, there are six minivans. The ratio isn’t a coincidence: When it comes to style, SUVs are considered the vehicular equivalent of a leather jacket, while minivans are a pair of cargo-shorts....
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