The Man Van: A Gender Neutral Minivan for Men?


"We don't necessarily encourage any selling or marketing to any particular gender. We just want to sell vehicles," said Dave Coleman, a new car sales manager at Phillips Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Ocala, Fla. "The vast majority of the decisions are made by females. Whether by themselves or as a family, 60 percent of the time the decision is made by the feminine gender."

The loss of personal style is a hard pill to swallow and some men may feel boxed in by the minivan's traditional shape and style. On DadLabs, one father attempts to take paternity back and salvage hotness by adding magnetic flames to his minivan.

But it was cool once.

For years the minivan ruled the roost.

"You had the station wagon but it wasn't cool, then the minivan came out and didn't have a stigma attached to it," automotive Web site senior analyst Karl Brauer said.

But the minivan began to lose its image as the newest cool family vehicle on the block when the sports utility vehicle came on the scene.

With overwhelming popularity came negative connotations that transformed minivans into a stodgy vehicle that defined your life by little boxes -- albeit, moving boxes.

The less functional SUVs had appeal because there was no frumpy and domesticized association with the vehicle Bauer said. But even SUVs eventually began to lose ground to crossover vehicles that had high market appear without the sliding doors of minivans.

In the last five years, sales of minivans have dropped by one-half, moving from 1,110,907 in 2005 to 503,242 in 2010, according to

Last year, the Chrysler Town and Country sold 112,275 to become the top-selling minivan. The model was followed by the Honda Odyssey (108,182), the Grand Caravan (103,323), the Sienna (98,337) and trailed by the Ford Transit Connect (27,405).

The minivan market has shrunk from 6.6 percent of the overall automotive market in 2005 to 4.4 percent in 2010.

The minivan stigma that men feel about driving them has been "one of the toughest nuts to crack over the last 10 years," Bauer said.

The Nissan Quest "Moms Have Changed" commercial from years ago morphed in 2010 into dad preparing for triplets by watching his sports car turn to a minivan -- an act that appeared much more frightening than triplets.

"I don't have any issue driving a minivan," said Brauer, a family man. "I know they are the most functional vehicles for towing people around. There's no better option than the natural advantages of a boxed space for space efficiency."

For Sarah and Matt Barrand, that was their now 13-year-old Dodge Caravan -- a minivan Matt began calling a "man van" long before 2011.

"There's a dedicated minvan demographic who doesn't care about the image but loves the functionality," Brauer said.

The audience the Caravan must reach to break new ground is people who aren't adverse to the minivan market. The minivan already appeals to nonfamilies -- more than half the owners don't have children.

"I think women will find it appealing as much as men do," says Gilles.

But, can you win them all in the world of man van versus mom van?

"You have a spectrum of guys and customers -- there are plenty of women that wouldn't be caught dead in a minivan -- who are never, ever going to buy a minivan no matter how it's marketed," Brauer said.

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