Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Automotive Market Needs a Convertible Minivan!

Chop that top!

 A good friend of mine contacted me today to gripe about how there are no convertible minivans on the market. With the weather warming up, us minivan drivers get to watch with envy as the good people of the world cruise by in their convertible Mustangs, 911s and Sebrings (okay, I'm not really jealous of that last one). If I want the wind to whip through my hair (or what is left of it) I have to roll down my window, which is just plain rough. I want to put the top down on my luxury cruiser minivan and roll hard on the way to dance lessons.

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet

Apparently my friend wasn't aware of the fact that Nissan produces a convertible version of the Murano, called the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. The great thing about the CrossCabriolet is its huge trunk, even with the top folded down. Not only that, but it has a folding hardtop and all-wheel-drive meaning it can be driven year-round for mad shopping trips. The bad news is the Murano CrossCabriolet has the highest percentage female ownership out of any newer vehicle in the United States, according to a source I cannot recall now (bad writer!). I guess that's only bad if you are a guy, like me.

But back to the convertible minivans. You know, as I've said over and over I never thought I would own a minivan. But they are incredibly practical vehicles when you have kids, with a low step-in height, large door openings and huge cargo capacities. Do you have any idea how many strollers I can fit in the back of mine at once? It's crazy. Still, I would like a little bit of impractical fun, and a convertible van would provide a smidgen of that impractical fun.

But the technical side of me knows a convertible minivan would present some serious mechanical issues. First off, such a large folding roof would use a pretty complicated folding mechanism, which would take some fancy engineering. Not only that, but where would the top go once it's folded? There isn't exactly a trunk in a minivan. And then there are those pesky, practical sliding doors that would look pretty weird without a roof on the van.

Of course Germans are good at tackling such engineering issues. Volkswagen has their badge-engineered Routan that is a Chrysler abomination. This problem could present the perfect excuse for Volkswagen to reinvent the minivan in a format that would allow for a Cabriolet version. They could even offer a TDI version of the van using the same engine as the Touareg.

One huge advantage of a cabriolet minivan: when it gets crazy as it often does in minivans, mom or dad only need to fold down the top and hit the freeway. The whistling wind would quiet everyone down and force junior to hold on tight to his Avengers hat. I think that feature alone could help Volkswagen or whatever automaker brave enough to make a convertible minivan sell at least 200,000 models in the first year of production. Automakers lately are carving out all kinds of interesting niches in the marketplace, but this one so far has been untouched.

Now I'm off to catch a plane to Wolfsburg so I can sell the VW board on my excellent idea.

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