MPV, or Multi-Propose-Vehicles are those which are also called Minivans or Monovolume. They were created by Chrysler with the Town & Country, and Renault with the Espace in the early 80’s. They became very popular in America and then in Europe when Renault began a new trend with the Scenic, the MPV version of a regular car, the Megane. Though their shape has evolved during the last years most of them are recognizable because of their height (more than common cars) and because of the size and form of front window, which arrives most of the times up to the front of the car. They are intended to transport people in a more comfortable way, with more roominess. As it was said before, most of the offer is based on regular cars, which serve as the basis for larger versions that can take even more than 5 passengers. In the passenger car industry there are 3 types of MPV, the smallest ones, which come from B-Segment cars and take no more than 5 passengers; the ‘C-MPV’ that are a bit larger, based on C-Segment cars and sometimes take 7 passengers. And finally the real MPV, which are the ‘D-MPV’ not based on regular cars but created as real vans sometimes really luxurious and powerful.
The smallest ones are the most recent. Car makers look to add a more familiar version of their 3/5 door ‘B-Segment’ cars, as the small Station Wagons are not really popular not even in the emerging markets. Most of them are based on their brothers, but some of them were created as that. The first ones can be the Renault Modus (based on the third generation Clio), the Citroen C3 Picasso, the Opel/Vauxhall Meriva (based on the Corsa), or the new Fiat 500L, which is supposedly based on the small ‘A-Segment’ Fiat 500, but uses the platform for the next generation Punto. But there are also others created as B-MPV, such as the Honda Fit/Jazz, the old Mercedes A-Class or the old Mitsubishi Colt. All of them are no larger than 4.1 m but are much more comfortable than regular ‘B’ cars. Though the idea of MPV was born in the US market, this particular kind is not popular at all in the States. Actually just the Honda Fit, Kia Soul and Nissan Cube are the only offer over there. Instead, Europe and South East Asia are the best markets for them. In 2011 more than 530.000 units were sold, being Germany the largest market with 140.000. The segment represented 4% of total sales, and it had the best market share in Slovenia (5,4%) and Switzerland (5,1%). But the largest market for small MPV is Japan with more than 400.000 units sold in 2011, followed by Indonesia with more than 300.000 units, or almost 60% of total market. Indonesians use them for everything: taxi, public transportation, and so on. The Suzuki Ertiga (based on Suzuki Swift), the Daihatsu Xenia, Toyota Avanza are a common thing to see in that country. The comes China with more than 200.000 units. Almost the same amount sold in Brazil, where they have reached an important market share (5,6%). Worldwide around 1.8 million were sold, or 2,9% of total sales*.
The segment is mainly dominated by Japanese: Suzuki, Daihatsu, Toyota, Nissan and Honda. But in Europe the French gained an important part of the market, while Germans with Opel and Ford offer great products. Koreans also created special cars for European market: Hyundai iX20 and Kia Venga. It is considered a small segment so Fiat could have a dominant position, due to the fact that they are well-known for producing small and good cars. But the situation is far from that scenario. Some years ago Fiat presented the Idea and its twin, the Lancia Musa, but sales in Europe were a complete flop. No matter it is not the most popular segment in Europe or Brazil, Fiat must have an important role there. It is why the Fiat 500L was developed and is wisely produced in Serbia to be more price competitive and access to different markets. The car is already available in Italy and France and soon in all Europe, and is expected to arrive in the United States next year. It will have two versions, 5 and 7 seats and wants to make use of the popularity of the small Fiat 500. Fiat has invested a lot in this model as it will have to cover 2 segments for some time, the ‘B-MPV’ and ‘C’ as the Fiat Bravo is getting old and its successor may arrive late. Chrysler did also have one offer with the very popular PT-Cruiser, which could serve as a good background for future models, although the segment is not really popular in North America.
*Source: Fiat Group’s World data basis