Minivans and moms. They've belonged together ever since the first minivan rolled out of Chrysler's Hellmouth 33 years ago. Minivans and moms go together like soap and water, like salt and pepper, like the optimistic dreams of a young woman starting out and the soul-crushing disappointment and alienation of a mother with teenagers.
Today, however, it seems that car companies, led by Chrysler, are out to prove that minivans are great for dads, too. Case in point: the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. It's being advertised with the hashtag #DadBrand by Jim Gaffigan, a brilliant American comedian (and father of five) who embodies the quintessential befuddled dad. The pitch? The high-end eight-seat Chrysler Pacifica is so loaded with dad-friendly gadgets that men no longer need to feel emasculated driving a minivan. The Pacifica can make you cool.
Olivier François, chief marketing officer for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles told the Detroit Free Press, "To me, as European … I tend to see a giant box on wheels that you sell to a population that is very value-driven. So, it's a soccer mom product. And that's great. We decided to challenge the perceptions. So we put a dad in the minivan."
So, when women were the primary demographic, car companies allowed minivans to be embarrassing boxes on wheels (#Junk4Mom) but now that men are the target demo they're loading them with goodies and making them cool (#DadBrand). This is the old double standard at play. Anything to do with the female experience is devalued. You know, if men were the ones who menstruated, then "Perioding" would be a gold medal Olympic event and tampons would be government-funded.
I've never understood minivan angst. It seems a natural progression. You grow up, you get married, you have kids, you buy a minivan, you lose all your friends and everyone hates you.
Still, I admire Chrysler's attempts to make the minivan/fatherhood combo cool. I bought my first Dodge Grand Caravan in 2006 because I had too many kids and I didn't want to spend a fortune on a car that I knew would, over the course of time, be coated in vomit, mucus, human feces and Cheerios (so many Cheerios). As long as it was safe, I was happy. The Pacifica is replacing the Town & Country - the higher end version of the Grand Caravan, and it seems like a good car. It starts at $43,995 and has an in-van vacuum, an 8.4-inch display navigation system and Wifi. But I'm dubious any car (or earth-bound object) could make a dad like me look hip or cool.
Then again, I'm now "old dad." I'm not the demographic. The Pacifica is targeted at the young couples you see each weekend with a kid in the stroller and a dog on a leash. The dog is the key. It's the reason Chrysler may sell a lot of Pacificas. That's because these couples got the dog first to see if they were "ready" to have a kid. Of all the untruths floating around this big blue orb, the notion that owning a dog is in any way, shape or form preparation for having a kid is one of the biggest. Owning a dog qualifies you to own another dog, not to be a mom or dad.
No one has ever received a phone call at two in the morning telling them that their Labradoodle Ozzy is in police custody because he drank three-quarters of a bottle of Smirnoff and vandalized his high school classmate's house party.
But that's the marketing genius. Show me a person who thinks it's possible for someone to be "ready" to be a parent and I'll show you someone who thinks a minivan can make him hip and improve his #DadBrand.
You cannot make being a dad cool. It's impossible. That includes, in the case of the Pacifica, making being uncool hip. Being a dad means sacrificing yourself for people who, at least 75 per cent of the time, think you're either an ill-tempered jerk or a clueless idiot savant. It means that, once you're dead, those self-same people will go around telling everyone and anyone who will listen what an amazing guy you were. It means learning that exhaustion and elation can exist in the same moment. That's the #DadBrand.
So buy the 2017 Pacifica because you're a parent and it's a minivan, and as smart drivers know, minivans are more tractable rides than SUVs or crossovers and because it won't bother you when your kids puke and crap all over it – #BecauseTheyWill.