The traditional minivan has been losing ground to SUVs and crossovers in recent years, and now another segment has caught up to it in sales: Car-derived vans.
Car-derived vans are generally passenger versions of vans developed for the light-commercial vehicle market. Automakers including PSA Group and Daimler have been promoting them as alternatives to minivans and adding more comfort and amenities.
“These cars have become the best substitutes of traditional MPVs [minivans],” said Felipe Munoz, global automotive analyst at JATO Dynamics. “They are cheaper to produce and have the same or more interior space” as minivans. Vans developed for the commercial market also tend to have longer life cycles than passenger cars, helping automakers recoup development costs.
JATO includes three sizes of car-derived vans in its segment total: small models such as the Volkswagen Caddy, midsize models such as the VW Transporter and large models such as the VW Crafter.
There were 195,264 car-derived vans sold in the first half of the year in Europe, according to figures from JATO Dynamics, with sales depressed by several months of lockdowns during the coronavirus crisis. For the full year in 2019, 560,234 car-derived vans were sold, an 11 percent increase from 2018.
There were 187,200 minivans – small, midsize and large – sold in the first half of 2020, according to Munoz. Overall, there were 734,300 minivans sold in 2019, an 18 percent decline from 2018.
Minivan market share fell to 3.7 percent in 2019 from 4.7 percent in 2018, according to JATO, while car-derived vans grew from 3.2 percent to 3.6 percent in that period.
PSA Group’s new generation of small car-derived vans that debuted in 2018 included the Rifter from Peugeot, a new name for the passenger version of the Partner commercial van. In the midsize segment, Citroen’s car-derived van is now called the SpaceTourer and Opel’s is the Zafira Life -- both nameplates previously used on minivans.
Mercedes-Benz will launch the T-Class in early 2022 as a version of the Citan small commercial van (built by Renault and based on the Kangoo), seeking to appeal to families and shuttle services and promising that it will be distinctly recognizable as a premium model. And VW will introduce a new version of the Caddy next year based on the MQB platform that underpins the Golf.
The comparison between minivans and car-derived vans is not clear-cut in some cases. For example, passenger versions of the largest commercial vans such as the Fiat Ducato, Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit are much bigger than even the largest minivans, yet many are sold as private vehicles and counted as passenger cars in JATO figures.
And JATO categorizes the Mercedes V-Class as a large minivan even though it is based on the Vito commercial van, because it is much more luxurious than similarly sized competitors such as the Renault Trafic, Munoz said.
However, in the compact segment, car-derived vans are strongly outselling minivans, Munoz said.
There were about 90,000 compact car-derived vans sold in the first half, led by the Volkswagen Caddy, with 21,452 sales, according to JATO. In second place is the Peugeot Rifter at 17,515 sales, followed by the Citroen Berlingo at 15,217 and the Dacia Dokker at 14,346.
In the same period, there were 71,948 compact minivans sold, led by the VW Touran at 22,558, with the Renault Scenic/Grand Scenic in second place at 17,167 sales.
Germany is the largest market for car-derived vans of all sizes, with 31,273 sales in the first half, a 29 percent drop from the first half of 2020 that can be largely attributed to the coronavirus crisis. France was second, with 12,272 sales in the first half, a 42 percent decline, followed by Spain with 8,535 sales, a 46 percent drop; Belgium at 7,026 sales, down 40 percent; and the UK at 4,929 sales, down 46 percent.