Could strong sales suggest a minivan resurgence is coming soon?
Mercedes doesn’t call the Europe-only V-Class a minivan, but with sliding side doors and eight-passenger seating we all know exactly where it fits in the automotive pecking order. Minivans are supposed to be uncool, yet the V-Class factory in Vitoria, Spain just passed the 100,000-unit milestone since production began in 2014. Sales have been so good that Mercedes expanded V-Class production last year, hiring 1,100 employees while investing nearly $230 million in the plant. Considering not a single minivan went to U.S. shores – literally where the segment was invented – that’s not bad at all.
The V-Class is a bit of an oddity in the minivan realm with its rear-wheel drive platform, something not seen in the category since the days of the Chevrolet Astro. It also uses diesel power exclusively and is available with a manual transmission, two things which would almost certainly change should Mercedes ever decide to bring the V-Class across the pond.
Should that happen, there is still a fairly robust minivan market in America despite the seemingly all-powerful domination of sport utility vehicles. 553,506 minivans were sold last year in the United States; several manufacturers still have offerings in this segment, led by the Toyota Sienna with 127,736 sales. Dodge was a very close second, selling 127,678 Grand Caravans while Honda sold 120,846 Odysseys to round out the top three. Those numbers are a far cry from the 48,000 V-Class sales Mercedes currently averages per year, but with no proper luxury minivan segment in America, perhaps there’s a market to be tapped.
There’s no question that sport-utility and crossover vehicles have adopted the role of primary family conveyance once held by minivans, which in turn inherited the mantle from station wagons. Both segments lost their standing because they became uncool, and SUVs are already heading in that direction – hence the rise of the crossover. But here's the thing; station wagons are undeniably making something of a cool comeback. Does this mean we’re on the verge of seeing reborn minivans with decidedly more cool factor?
If V-Class sales continue to climb, we may soon have the answer.