Pretty much every mom I know would drive anything but a minivan. Can a hybrid minivan change that?
Toyota will produce a hybrid Prius minivan in 2011, a Tokyo stock exchange newspaper is reporting. The seven-seater with a lithium-ion battery pack would be the first hybrid minivan in the U.S. It will sell in the mid-$20,000 range, perfect for today's budget-conscious families.
But can our desire to be hip and green overcome our mommy-made anxieties about being terminally uncool?
Some major cultural backlash happened between 1996, when soccer moms driving minivans helped elect Bill Clinton, and today, when minivan-driving moms are blamed for everything from over-scheduling their kids to the war in Iraq.
About three years ago, I eventually succumbed to peer pressure and traded in my economical Dodge minivan for one of those "crossover" SUVs that are really vans in disguise driven by soccer moms in denial.
Even though I could fit two infants, their car seats, a double stroller and our entire extended family's Christmas presents in the minivan, I couldn't get over the image thing. Even though I loved the sliding doors and the ease of squeezing my kids in and out of tight parking spaces, my pride got in the way. Something to do with vowing to never be "one of those moms," which ranks right up there with my continuing delusion that I am still 32, can still drink all the wine and beer I want whenever I want, and can still drop everything to dart off and meet a friend for dinner.
Minivan bigotry has made van-driving moms the last group OK to hate in America. The urban dictionary describes a "soccer mom" as a middle-aged, upper-middle-class white woman consumed with play dates, driving her minivan with her fancy coffee and cell phone. She thinks her little kids are "angels," but squashes any originality in them, driving them to atheism and alienation. Death to soccer moms in minivans is basically the underlying sentiment.
Can a hybrid change all this? I have my doubts. As I see it, the only hope for a new minivan image is a new spokesman. And I have just the man for job. Put soccer dad David Beckham in his tighty whities at the wheel of a minivan. Then we'll talk.