Hybrid minivans find their niche, go hi-tech

Fiat Chrysler unveiled its 2017 Chrysler Pacifica at the North American International Auto Show, sparking plenty of chatter about the future of the minivan, that vessel of all-American families that rose in popularity during the 1990s.

First, a little history. Though automakers, especially Ford, attempted in the 1970s to market economy vans to families, the true modern minivan began taking shape in the mid-1980s. Chrysler was one of the major players in the minivan style, launching models like the Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country.

And the car companies reeled in their target audience, putting growing middle-class American families in advertisements. You’ve seen them: Jimmy has soccer practice, Jessica has ballet and Johnny has karate, and Mom’s compact car won’t do the trick. Enter the minivan, not simply a vehicle, but daily transport for the everyday American family with so much to do and so little time.

The sport-utility vehicle exploded soon after, with its responsive driving cameras and, of course, a DVD player with small video screens so little Johnny could be soothed by cartoons and kept to his own devices during a five-minute drive home from school.

Now Chrysler is ditching the Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan models for the Pacifica, a hybrid model that features a plug-in charging option. But don’t worry; it also learned from SUVs and has a BluRay and DVD entertainment system, complete with touchscreen devices.

Putting $2 billion into its Canadian manufacturing facility to construct the Pacifica model, this is Fiat Chrysler’s attempt at introducing the 21st century minivan, perfect for the millennial parent. Millennials were raised in minivans a nostalgia factor will certainly be used to sell this vehicle once again and grew up with technological advancements in automobiles. Chrysler hopes millennials see the Pacifica as the best of both worlds.

TRENDPOST: Don’t expect the Pacifica to be the only minivan in the market. Automobile manufacturers surely will begin rolling out their hybrid minivans, driven by nostalgia for a happier past, influenced by the technology of the SUV revolution. Get ready for even more enhancements: mobile app compatibility; out-of-vehicle temperature-controlling options; and portable workstations for the on-the-go millennial parent.

Tim Malcolm

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