The end of Japanese Mini Vans?

Why “domestic minivans” for sale in Japan are not popular worldwide? The Citroën Berlingo has become a hot topic in the Japanese market. No way… in Japan !?

Peugeot Citroen Japan (current group PSA Japan) made an online pre-order for the new generation Berlingo on October 19, 2019, and within only 5 hours the demand exceeded the planned number in half. Will it be a success like the Renault Kangoo?

Kangoo fuji

In November, at the special venue next to Futakotamagawa Station, the President of Citroen’s headquarters, Linda Jackson, gave a presentation on Citroen’s new strategy. Of course, the new Berlingo was the star of the show for the PSA Group.


On the other hand, Japan’s best-selling products such as Toyota Alphard/Vellfire or Nissan Serena have not been popular in Europe nor even sold. Just in early 90’s in the case of the Nissan Serena/Vanette. This is because the demand for minivans is fundamentally different between Japan and Europe.

The Citroën Berlingo or the Renault Kangoo are the starting point for commercial vehicles in Europe. But in Japan, the intention is to use these cars for families. Strategy that is also taking place in Europe. Commercial vehicles such as the Toyota Hiace or the Town Ace were introduced in the 1980s and minivans have diversified in Japan since the 1990s but many of them were never sold in Europe or had a minor impact in the market.

In the mature Japanese minivan culture, I think Japanese people feel freshness with respect to the Berlingo or the Kangoo. Cars which have functionality and design that Japanese cars do not have. On the contrary, even if we try to popularize the latest Japanese minivans in Europe, they do not match the social trends of European countries.

There maybe some other reasons. Luxury SUVs are more popular in Europe and
America. Minivans in the US are often referred as cars to take kids to the weekly baseball event. It is a family car for picking up children at soccer clubs and schools.

“It looks like a shuttle car or a commercial vehicle …” In short, a minivan is a “dumb car” for Americans. This consciousness has the impression that it was deeply permeated by Americans with the Dodge Caravan.

In addition, in China and Southeast Asia, minivans have a strong awareness of transportation vehicles and commercial vehicles. Some people like, the Alphard/Vellfire, which is why the Lexus LM was introduced, but this is a chauffeur car with a driver. We are not in the same league of Minivans.

An executive of a Japanese automobile manufacturer said once; “Japanese minivans are extremely unique in the world,”. He also added, “Japanese people try to reproduce how important space is with their family in a minivan.” The sociological and historical background established the Japanese minivan culture. The unique minivan culture of Japan does not apply to the world. And probably will never do.



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