From 1983: The minivan was great for families, but was it safe?

A Windsor, Ont., mom loved her minivan because it felt safer, but she wished it had a bolt to secure the child seat.

Different standards meant vans were less safe than cars, said consumers association

Families love the minivan, but is it safe?

33 years ago
Duration 1:39
Drivers may feel safer in a minivan than in a car, but their safety standards are not the same.

Almost from the day in 1983 when it rolled off the assembly line in Windsor, Ont., the Chrysler minivan was wildly successful.

"After driving it, I wouldn't go back to any other vehicle," said a Windsor woman who had owned one for four years. "Because I do so much expressway driving, I feel more secure."

But CBC reporter Colleen McEdwards said the Consumers Association of Canada was suggesting minivans weren't any safer than cars.

Headrests optional

"They don't have to meet the same safety standards," she explained.

The minivan was manufactured at Chrysler's Windsor plant. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

Transport Canada, the regulator for vehicle safety, classified minivans alongside commercial vans, which didn't usually carry passengers.

"Headrests aren't required in the vans. Their bumpers are smaller than cars," said McEdwards, detailing the differences.

Most importantly for the Windsor woman, minivans didn't have the bolt necessary to keep a baby car seat safely in place.   

"Becky has to strap her car seat in with a seat belt," said McEdwards, as Becky wrestled a child's safety seat into position and buckled a seat belt to hold it there.

By contrast, the bolt was a requirement for all new cars. 

Bolts not for everyone

"We recognized that this was ... a family vehicle," said Ted Elliot, a representative from Chrysler Canada. "We tried to make it as safe as possible." 

Ted Elliot of Chrysler Canada said the minivan met the needs of "real people." (CBC News/CBC Archives)

The company would not be making the bolt and headrests standard equipment in the minivan, but consumers could choose to purchase them.

"We believe we've taken the responsible position in designing the vehicle for real people's needs," Elliot added.

McEdwards said Transport Canada was considering a change in regulations to demand the same standards for cars and minivans.

"But it doesn't consider the matter urgent," she said. "Transport Canada's statistics show that in accidents, minivans hold up as well, and in some cases better than cars."   

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