Enter the minivan. In the early 80s it quickly filled the desire of new families to find a new way of carting their kids and accompanying paraphernalia around the neighborhood. Better in some ways than the classic family wagon but worse in so many others, the mini van’s tenure was ultimately much shorter than its predecessor. As the 90s approached, the SUV is on the horizon and it’ll leave the minivan burning in its path.
I’m sure we don’t need to convince anyone that the SUV essentially took over as the default family vehicle in America. Just look around, you’re lucky to see one car for every 3 SUVs or trucks on the streets of Denver. This may have something to do with the extreme weather in our fair city, but the dominance is clear.
So here we are. The craze has lasted a good 20 years and the auto market feels overdue for an adjustment. Again, today’s children look at their parents SUV, the way the 80s kids saw minivans and the 70s kids saw station wagons. They want something different. These hulking vehicles are simply not cool and to the Millennials they represent gluttonous consumption & gauche values. When they start to have kids of their own, they won’t pick an SUV. They’re looking for something different.
And the obvious question is, will they choose one of the new breed of ‘Sport Wagons’ coming out of the US and Europe? I don’t think there’s any doubt that this is where we’re headed. The stigma of the wagon in the US (which is the only place it ever lived) is not only fading but might be ancient history by now. The New (very cool) offerings from Fiat, VW, Toyota and Chrysler join the world’s wagon stalwarts Subaru Volvo, Subaru, Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz to make this point. In years past the world’s best wagons didn’t make it to the US because we just didn’t buy them – that fact is collapsing a little bit every year. And it’s not just the kids that are digging the wagon, the fact that Mercedes Benz now delivers the $110k, 600hp E63 AMG into the US is proof that the more well heeled adults are in on the action as well. In fact, rumor has it that the original coolest wagon on the planet, the Audi RS4 might be coming to our shores in 2017. This vehicle, in its ‘Avant’ livery has often been the top of the Audi line (a position currently held by the Audi RS7) but has never once been available in the US because it didn’t sell.
According to Byron Olsen’s book, “Station Wagons, the ultimate vacation vehicle is a uniquely American automotive design development with an origin almost as old as the automotive industry itself.” Well said. It’s long overdue for a comeback and we can’t wait to drive them all.