Hello Internet humans, and welcome to Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly Jalopnik column wherein you send me automotive-related letters and I provide you with a helpful response, because I am all-knowing and all-seeing.
If you’d like to participate in Letters to Doug, you can! Just send me an e-mail at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, or pass a note to me when you see me walking down the street. Unfortunately, you may not speak to me, because then that wouldn’t be a letter, and I like to keep things old-fashioned.
Today’s letter comes to us from a reader I’ve named Dale, who lives in Texas. Dale writes:
With the steady decline of minivans in favor of SUV’s, I’ve gotta ask. Wouldn’t an upscale minivan? Think if Toyota/Lexus made a minivan, priced it the same way they do with all of their other cross-platform vehicles, and included all of the luxuries that you get with a top of the line full-size sedan. How is this not a thing?
For those of you who are carefully reading Dale’s question, you may note that he has asked me: Wouldn’t an upscale minivan? Well, Dale, wouldn’t an upscale minivan what? Be successful? Hurt small children? Get into a knife fight with a downscale minivan? Carry alligators? I have absolutely no idea what you mean and can therefore only guess that you’re referring to the latter. So yes, Dale, an upscale minivan can carry alligators, provided they a) are not too large, and b) don’t get caught in the seat folding mechanism, because this makes them ornery.
No, Dale, don’t worry: I’m just kidding. I know what you mean. You want to know why nobody has made a luxury minivan yet. And frankly, I want to know the exact same thing.
Let me tell you what I’ve noticed about minivans over the last decade or so: they just keep getting more expensive. A few days ago, I was driving down the street here in Philadelphia, and I passed one of those 1990s Honda Odysseys with its hood up. Remember those things? With the four normal doors and the 4-cylinder engine? I swung around and drove past again, staring in amazement and snapping photos, as the poor guy desperately talked on his cell phone. Then I left, because what was I going to do, stick around wax poetic about minivan history? I had places to be.
But the whole experience got me thinking that minivans used to be cheap, and now they aren’t. Back in the day, the nicest Odyssey you could get was twenty-something thousand dollars, and its best features were alloy wheels and a column shifter. A leather-wrapped column shifter. Now, the nicest Odyssey is 50 grand, and they include a vacuum cleaner. A vacuum cleaner! In a minivan! Oh, what a wonderful society we have.
But this got me thinking: if people are willing to pay fifty large for a Honda with a vacuum cleaner, shouldn’t they also be willing to pay sixty large for an Acura with a vacuum cleaner? I mean, let’s be clear: an Acura MDX is a Pilot with a lot of modifications to make it nicer. So why isn’t there, I don’t know, an Acura MVX, which is an Odyssey with a lot of modifications to make it nicer? This thing would kill in the kind of neighborhoods where people are late picking up their kids from school because Pilates ran long.
I have one theory about why luxury minivans don’t exist: because automakers don’t believe anyone would buy them. Of course, this is another instance in which automakers are wrong, just like when Ford came out with Edsel, and Cadillac came out with the Cimarron, and Nissan came out with a soft-top Murano and priced it at the same level as an adolescent manatee.
I say this because I believe there are many people who would buy luxury minivans, just like there are many people who buy luxury anything, including bath mats, pencil sharpeners, alarm clocks, light bulbs, toothpicks, anteaters, etc. Yes, folks, pencil sharpeners. I don’t know about you plebian scum, but my pencils are only sharpened by Ethan Allen.
Unfortunately, I suspect the automakers may have a little more authority on this subject than me, because they’ve probably researched it, whereas I’ve just mused about it while singing Jimmy Eat World songs in the shower. (“It just takes some time, little girl, you’re in the minivan with xenon headlights…“)
Plus, the automakers have a history of being smarter than me. After all, I really thought luxury trucks would work, and we all know how that turned out: the Cadillac Escalade EXT has now fallen into disrepair at the buy-here-pay-here used car lots of middle America, and the Lincoln Blackwood is so rare that the only time I ever see one is when people incredulously Tweet me photos of them.
Still, I think a luxury minivan would be a good idea. Just imagine it: the Lexus MV 450h. Dual sliding doors. Leather seats. The remote-touch infotainment interface. And a spindle grille so large it has storage space to transport an elementary school diorama.