By on October 10, 2011

With Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep brands consolidating into single dealerships as part of Chrysler’s “Project Genesis” dealer overhaul, CEO Sergio Marchionne is voting overlapping models off the island, starting with Dodge’s Grand Caravan and Avenger. Automotive New [sub] quotes Marchionne saying

We cannot have the same type of vehicle in the showroom because the consumer is not stupid. We’re not going to create the confusion and conflict in the showroom.

Dodge’s minivan (which outsells its Chrysler T&C sibling, albeit at lower margins) and midsized sedan will be replaced in 2013 by a single crossover, based on the next-generation minivan platform. A compact crossover, based on a Fiat platform, will replace the Avenger “after 2014.” Oh, and the subcompact is definitely off. In other words, you can pretty much forget the product plans unveiled two years ago at Chrysler’s five year business plan.

Though Marchionne claims that killing the two Dodges is about “not confusing the customer,” there’s another possibility: with Alfa-Romeo scheduled for a US launch, with a lineup that will eventually include the Giulia midsized sedan (which will form the basis of the next-gen Chrysler 200), a compact CUV, the 4C sportscar, the MiTo subcompact, the Giulietta compact hatch, and possibly a rear-drive flagship, it’s entirely possible that these Dodge cuts foreshadow the phase-out of the Dodge brand. After all, both brands cultivate a sporting image, but base most of their products on mass-market models. Both are on the “emotional” side of the brand spectrum, and both rely heavily on the color red in their branding. If the Avenger and 200 were insufficiently differentiated for Marchionne’s taste, how will Dodge and Alfa distinguish their shared Compact, Compact CUV, and LX-platform flagships? More importantly, why else spin off the Ram brand?

Of course, there’s no way Chrysler would admit such a plan until the Alfa invasion force is ready… which likely won’t be until 2014, when (if?) the all-important midsizer arrives. And Marchionne certainly seems to like having a fat brand portfolio, so perhaps he is comfortable with keeping both brands. But the issue has certainly occurred to him, as he has publicly acknowledged that

The level of competition between these two brands is tremendous because they are both going after the same company. Dodge is the American muscle car, while Alfa is the European muscle car. How we dovetail these two brands is extremely important.

Of course, that was back in 2009, about 15 or 20 iterations of Chrysler Group’s product plans ago. At the time Marchionne was also publicly admitting that Alfa might not make it. But now that Fiat is behind Alfa, and Dodge’s already-lean lineup is going on a diet, the prospect of Alfa replacing Dodge seems very real. And if it doesn’t happen, Chrysler Group is going to have some six-brand dealers, and even more tough differentiation decisions. Stay tuned…

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82 Comments on “Avenger, Grand Caravan Marked For Death. Is The Dodge Brand On Its Way Out?...”


  • avatar
    SilverHawk

    Frankly, these plans are in a constant state of flux as Chrysler/Fiat sort things out. And now, with Marchionne personally heading up the Chrysler Group, we will hear more iterations on almost a monthly basis. Those dealers who do not sell Fiat & Alfa will still want a solid line up of vehicles to sell, covering the most important segments. At the present time, we can only be sure of a future Chrysler Group product when we hear that pilot production of that model has begun, which it now has for the new Dodge compact. So I can bravely predict that the Dodge brand will survive 2012.

    • 0 avatar
      VanillaDude

      I live in Dodge country.
      When Pontiac was killed, more Dodges were sold.
      These drivers like American cars like these.
      Alfa isn’t a natural fit here.

      If Fiat is interested in sales, they need to convince Dodge buyers that their new cars will be real Dodges. So far, I don’t see those concerns in the mix.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        From Sergio’s POV, I would assume him to think that he is still offering you Chrysler, Jeep and RAM, and shouldn’t that be sufficient? I’m not saying I agree, just wondering if that is a rationale for killing Dodge, which I still believe is his plan.

  • avatar

    Alfa Charger SRT8!

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Seems kinda backwards to me. I’d kill the 200 in an effort to push Chrysler’s image upmarket, leaving the volume midsize to Dodge, and morph the Town & Country into a luxury crossover with higher margins. Killing the Caravan name is foolish, even if Dodge is marked for extinction, for the same reasons that Chrysler hung onto the Voyager nameplate for years after Plymouth was shuttered. Plus, considering that the T & C was a wagon (and occasionally a ragtop) until ’88, it doesn’t have to be a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Stop making sense. Its not allowed in this industry.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Yep, Chrysler should get the expensive, more refined European car platforms – similar to the Buick Regal versus the Chevrolet Cruze.

      The fly in the ointment is that FIAT isn’t Europe’s strongest car maker. Their long term debt currently occupies serious junk bond status. If Fiat can’t deliver a solid C and an intermediate platform for Chrysler or Dodge to build on, then I see an early 1980ies AMC replay.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Chrysler, you messed up royally! Dodge should be trucks only. PLYMOUTH (yeah!) should be the budget (financially sensible) brand and the higher level cars Chryslers.

    If Alfa actually makes something that’s at least as good as Chrysler’s offerings, then yes, those vehicles could fill in everything below the 300 and minivans. and the Caliber, 200, Avenger and Journey (did I miss anyone?) can rightfully ride off into the sunset.

    C’mon, consolidate already! It’s going to happen sooner or later, like it or not.

  • avatar

    “We cannot have the same type of vehicle in the showroom because the consumer is not stupid. We’re not going to create the confusion and conflict in the showroom”

    This might actually be the start of something interesting. Chrysler certainly underestimated its customers for years…

  • avatar
    marc

    It makes perfect sense. Fiat never cared about Dodge. They have to keep Chrysler, as they need the namesake brand to continue. But they have already spun off Ram with trucks and…..wait for it…. yes, a minivan. Yes, Fiat has 3 minivans. The Dodge, the Ram, and the Chrysler. So why not keep the Ram Van and increase its variants (a la the old Caravan). This negates the need for a Dodge. The Avenger is a dog. Dodge has no small car. The Journey is an also ran in its segment, and its replacement can easily be a Ram. Dodge basically has the Charger/Challenger left, and that could surely be folded into Chrysler and Alfa.

    Chrysler/Fiat as Chevy (oh, how the mighty have fallen)
    Ram as GMC
    Jeep as, well, Jeep
    Alfa as the step up, think Buick/Caddy
    And the top is well covered by Maserati.

    So Alfa is not replacing Dodge. Chrysler is. And Alfa is replacing Chrysler in the pecking order.

    Marchionne never wanted Dodge. He wanted US distribution and Jeep. He has to also roll Chrysler and Dodge into one mainstream brand. And he has realized the value of Ram.

    Dodge is dead.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Alfa will not replace Dodge, Alfa is going to be positioned as an Italian version of BMW in the U.S., with premium pricing, and sold through the very limited Fiat/Alfa Romeo sales channel. It will not be a high volume brand. Dodge is comparable to Fiat, a lower priced volume marque with sporty asperations. Chrysler is being positioned as a slightly more upscale brand, and is the equivalant of Lancia. Chrysler is not replacing Dodge either. If they were going to phase out Dodge, they would not be on the verge of introducing possibly the most important symbolic car that best represents the fruits of the Fiat/Chrysler merger, and that car will be introduced very soon as the C-segment DODGE sedan (the name of which is still secret, with only “Dodge” nameplates going on the pilot production models).

      • 0 avatar
        FromaBuick6

        But that’s still too many brands, both here and in Europe. I really wish carmakers would get past the whole Sloanism thing – that idea is way past its prime. There’s no reason to offer more than two brands, tops.

        Given Chrysler and Fiats pathetic track record with small and intermediate cars in this country, they should probably just pare it down to Jeep, Dodge trucks/minivans/crossovers, Alfa and a couple of boutique models like the Challenger, 300 and 500.

      • 0 avatar
        RedStapler

        In a rational world without the Alice-in-Wonderland CAFE standards this could be a workable strategy.
        .

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      I read you Marc and think just kill Ram and Keep Dodge. Ask the Man on the street. They knew Dodge. They need to think of Ram. And Scion and even Fiat and somewhat Smart. Like the Taurus, people want to see what the familiar name brings.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        And I fully agree with you Rental Man. Dodge should equal Chevy, and Chrysler should equal Buick, maybe even Caddy if they sell Chryslers and Alfas together. But the fact that the 500 is in the Chrysler dealership tells you what he thinks of the Chrysler brand. It’s the volume seller in his plan, and Dodge is nothing to him. I’m not saying I agree with Sergio, but as soon as he spun off RAM, I said Dodge was on the chopping block, and this just makes it all the clearer.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    I’m a serious Alfisti, but this is just All Ate Up With Stupid.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Well, the demise of Dodge was my first conclusion as well, however, after reconsideration, it might be a shrewd move. Marchionne is trying to eliminate the “badge” engineered duplication ala Caliber/Compass/Patriot or Ford/Lincoln, for that matter, that everyone bitches about. Right now, CUV’s are the volume sellers vs. similair platform size sedans (see Fusion/Escape, Malibu/Equinox). Looking at the 200/Avenger segment, the 200 is outselling the Avenger by about a 2-to-1 margin, so it makes sense to go with the 200. Dodge will get two entries into the CUV segment with a D-segment offering and a smaller C-segment model (replacing Grand Caravan and Journey). The B-segment (Fiesta/Fit/Sonic) is simply not a very high volume/high margin segment in the U.S. right now, so why try to field an entry in that market until the volume increases. Don’t write the obituary for Dodge just yet.

  • avatar
    seabasstin

    Not to be contrarian but why would Alfa and Dodge be confusing?

    Dodge is and will always be a “super” american brand.
    When I visit family in Kentucky, you will find Dodges everywhere, with american eagle decals and other such “Amurican” symbolism attached.
    whether trucks/cars or vans.

    Alfa will NEVER dislodge Dodge in this market, as it is not possible for a foreign, fancy, stylish brand to replace the American roughneck image.

    If I was Marchionne I would bring Alpha to the US and position it ABOVE all the other brands Chrysler=Jeep=Fiat>Dodge>Ram trucks.

    I would position Alpha to compete with Acura/Infiniti/BMW/Audi.

    I would keep Chrysler and Jeep where they are (price points/branding/market segment).

    Make the Fiat 500 the only american fiat model and only in direct competition with MINI/Smart/Prius in cities.

    Emphasize the americanness of Dodge and Ram, and make them even more so.

    No more pansy cars from Dodge only super sport or muscle cars & 1 tough suv (nitro).
    so Charger, Challenger, Nitro, and a real Mustang fighter for the Avenger.

    For RAM offer 3 models in 2 lines.
    Small, medium, large in trucks and panel vans. (from a ford Transit connect fighter to a replacement for the old Daimler based sprinter van with a dodge caravan based one in the middle.)
    Make Ram very commercial, emphasize hardworking esthetics, remove the silly curves & absurd wheel wells, make them more solid, and mechanically simple. The super work brand.

    Move the Durango into Chrysler, and rename the Durango the 300x or something and make it the suv version of the 300.
    Redesign the 200 into a smaller but really nice small 300.
    Rename the Town and country the 200s following a numbered nomenclature.
    and finally offer a 200x Acura rdx/mdx fighter.
    (all Chryslers should have numbered names. ) 200=car, 200s=van, 200x=suv/cuv)

    Don’t touch Jeep except to offer a Jeep truck. 6foot bed maximum.
    (no matter what bs the ram guys have been spouting they just would not compete with Ram trucks.)

    For Alpha don’t worry about competing with sister brands focus on Audi/Infiniti/BMW.
    offer 1 halo TT/G37 coupe model, 1 7 series/A8 fighter based on 300c; offer 1 5 series/A6/G37 fighter; offer 1 3series/A6 model with teeth.
    Add a performance line that competes with R/M models.

    At the top of the market you have Maserati competing with Mercedes (they need to add a bigger model) and Ferrari is in its own vertiginous world.

    That is it you are done.

    This is not magic people, get on with it!
    There is room for Ferrari, Maserati, Alpha, Chrysler, Jeep, Fiat, Dodge and Ram in the US and elsewhere.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    So, Dodge will be left with muscle cars, crossovers and a compact sedan? Doesn’t sound like careful brand positioning. It sounds like a careful phase out. The muscle cars will have a hard time going forward as CAFE gets tougher. The crossovers and compact sedan are there to give the 10% of dealers who have not merged with a Chrysler dealer under Genesis…for just one more model cycle. It can’t be a coincidence that Dodge’s top two sellers have been stripped of the Dodge name.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Look at sales, Dodge will replace the Avenger/Grand Caravan that sold a total of about 15,000 units in September with a unique new Dodge badged CUV that will probably also sell about 15,000 units per month (see Escape at 20.000 units and Equinox at about 15,000). Plus Dodge is getting the new high volume C-segment sedan (Hornet, Neon, Dart?) and a new C-segment CUV. Plus, they’ll have the Charger/Challenger. Dodge isn’t going anywhere, they will gain volume. They will have unique products in the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram showroom that aren’t just badge engineered versions of a Chrysler model. Sergio is cutting duplicate versions of the same platform, but offering more TYPES of models, let’s see how it turns out.

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    Getting rid of “Caravan” is flushing their most valuable brand equity right down the toilet. About as stupid as Ford killing the Taurus, or Acura renaming the Legend. I will never understand why automakers do this.

    • 0 avatar
      fred schumacher

      This is exactly right. Getting rid of the Caravan name and the model’s functionality would be breathtakingly stupid. It has been a money maker and market leader for Chrysler for nearly three decades. It is a known quantity, something Fiat-Chrysler can not afford to lose.

      Daimler never understood the segment of the American market that Chrysler was filling. I remember asking my local dealer how the Daimler-Chrysler 300 worked out for him. He said he sold a few and then the demand dried up. It was too expensive for Chrysler buyers, who were not interested in Mercedes-Lite. “I could have sold a ton of Intrepids if they had continued producing them,” he emphasized.

      Marchionne has to be careful not to make the same mistake.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    “…I will never understand why automakers do this….”

    I’ve always thought that in the lower (much lower) quantum levels of dumb, the sales types contend with politicians for the absolute lowest dumb orbital level of all.

    Think of what Carly Bimbosaleswoman did to HP…a company that used to actually make good electronics.

    Or what Ed Cole and his fellow scads off finance slugs and sales cretins did to GM.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    I dunno, some of this doesn’t make too much sense, ie, selling off the version of the same model that sells more, the Caravan which is STILL quite popular as minivans go and yes, it’s been nearly 30 nigh since it was introduced but at least it was never left to rot on the vine and stayed fairly fresh all these years.

    That said, the T&C, it may have better margins, but it doesn’t sell nearly as well as the Caravan so that kind of doesn’t make sense, if anything, dump the T&C and keep the Caravan for Dodge as an affordable van for the everyday people as the older RWD Dodge/RAM van is no more since it was phased out in 2002.

    That said, the Avenger wasn’t updated like the Chrysler 300, ne, the former Sebring, which was a derivative of the former Dodge Stratus (or was that Vise Versa?) That kind of makes sense unless it’s done better than the Chrysler version.

    If anything, I’d rather see Chrysler step up to cars that are clearly an upgrade from Dodge in the luxury department, if not in size and let Dodge stay with larger go fast cars like the Charger/Challenger. I never understood the need to spin off the trucks to RAM, I’d rather that stay Dodge too as it WAS part of their image to begin with and let Alfa Romeo go after the smaller, lighter but still fast cars like the Giullieto and the Mito and the 4C and let Fiat do the A/B and to some extent, the C segments where it’s strongest.

    But I see where having to plan things out at LEAST 18 MO’s to 24-48 months out, or roughly 4 years ahead, it’s difficult to read that far out in so far as the economy, product development, technology and government regulations so I can see this being in flux, but at some point, you gotta nail it down and firm things up eventually if you want to make them happen in a timely fashion.

    Also, with 2 corporate cultures melding with different products and trying to eliminate duplication and excessive badge engineering, that takes time and it’s been proven that Chrysler/Fiat CAN develop a car in as little as 18 months but that’s the ABSOLUTE minimum time frame to develop a car without it coming out half baked. In this case, they simply modified the little 500 for N.A., rather than built and all new model, which takes more like 4 years min to develop these days.

    So I think it’ll be a wait and see as I think Marchione as a MUCH better understanding of the American Market than anyone from either Daimler or Cerribus ever had.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “That said, the T&C, it may have better margins, but it doesn’t sell nearly as well as the Caravan so that kind of doesn’t make sense.”

      I think that it may be because Chrysler has a more universal appeal, and (just guessing here) because minivans have an appeal that transcends political, cultural, and economic demographics.

      My well-to-do left-leaning mother-in-law drives a Chrysler-made minivan, and so do the poor rednecks on my side of the family. I bet the poor folks on my side of the family would be just fine driving a Chrysler, but my mother-in-law wouldn’t want to go down-market.

      For myself, Dodge keeps making vehicles like the Caliber, the Journey, and the Grand Caravan that can do what I need to do. But, as someone who has no nostalgia for muscle cars, and who has been trained in gun-safety but who doesn’t love guns, the firearms jokes that show up in every Caliber review would be enough to scare me off, before we even get to the styling that I dislike (like those crosshair grills, the faux muscle car aesthetic, or plastic-transformer-toy looks). With apologies to all of the Dodge fans out there, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Dodge brand disappear, but I would like to see the cars live on as more-generically styled Chryslers.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    2012 Stripper Dodge Grand Caravan American Value PKG. A Hair of $21,000 On Dodge web site now. No need for Journey with 7 seats the real van is only $500 more. People think Grand Caravan when they think minivan. The Town & Country is an after thought. A van is never billed as luxury. Lexus never rebadged the Sienna. Same with Acura. Mercedes do not offer the Vito or V-class in the USA. Dodge Grand Caravan is the symbol of the category even if the Toyota and Honda might better it. Does Dodge need to take a page from Ford killing the Town Car to keep the MKT, a leader on the least sold cars in the US? Maybe to kill it and then “bring it back” Just make it the best!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m hard pressed to tell the difference between the Grand Caravan and the Town & Country. I’ve misidentified T&Cs at GCs many times. My mother in law owns a 2005 T&C with the stow-and-go seats which I’ve ridden in many times and even done some troubleshooting, and for the life of me, I’m still second guessing myself as to whether it’s the Dodge of the Chrysler. That iconic minivan is its own brand.

      I’m guessing that what’s really happening is that people who don’t like the Dodge styling are getting a quote for the Grand Caravan, and then walking over to the Chrysler side of the showroom and saying “same van, same price, or I walk.” But my guess may be clouded by the fact that Dodge’s aggressive styling clashes with my personal taste. I’d much rather go with bland and generic Toyota-ish styling than have crosshairs on my car and have people make gun-jokes about its name.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I think these are trial balloons to see how the public reacts. I’d think it would be suicide to kill off the Grand Caravan, they may as well shut down Dodge division entirely. Like someone else noted further up, the T&C can morph into other forms, it’s had many before.

    Kill the T&C (or reform it into something else), and refine and enhance the Caravan, for the upcoming sales battle.

    Most of the enhancements we’re seeing now is the last gasp of Cerebus, getting the lineup ready for sale. Marchionne had little to do with this, other than to take credit for it.

    In light of this trial balloon, I’m wondering about the ‘genius’ that is Sergio…

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    If anything, kill off RAM.

    It’s been a couple of years now, and most folks still refer to them as “Dodge” trucks…

  • avatar
    rochskier

    No. This is a much needed refocusing of the Dodge brand.

    I am continually mystified by this idea that every brand needs to offer a complete line of vehicles to survive in the marketplace.

    Dodge is about one thing – American muscle. That means pickups, Chargers, Challengers, possibly a small coupe if done right. Minivans and compact sedans need not apply.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Thank you, I was about to post the same thing.

      A car brand doesn’t need a compact, a midsize, a full-size, a minivan, and a couple SUVs. If you have four or five brands and they all have that, you end up unfocused and competing with yourself. GM rode that into bankruptcy; nobody ever cared about the difference between the TrailBlazer, Bravada, Envoy, Rainier or Ascender (did I forget one?), and having them all just diluted a bunch of GM’s brands.

      If FiatChrysler wants to have a fat brand portfolio, the only real way to do it is to have only a couple of cars in each brand, and then have dealerships stock every brand so you don’t have a thing where a dealership is selling only two models. Nobody would respect a Jeep-branded midsize sedan, right? So why should Dodge keep around crap like the Nitro and the Avenger?

      Frankly, it’s about damn time that somebody took a look at Dodge and said “well, you guys make some good cars and some crappy cars, so why don’t you only make the good ones?”

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        At least in the case of the GC, it IS one of the good ones. Tell you what, please go rent a 2012 GC. I just had one for a month after the Sienna got totaled. Loved it. Kids enjoyed seeing how far back into the vehicle items from the dash would land when we punched the Pentastar. Getting rid of this fully competitive and fun-to-drive vehicle, especially in favor of the wallowy T&C, would be sheer idiocy. I’m going to consider this whole scheme half-baked and hope it continues to evolve in a better direction. There is plenty of crap to get rid of at Mopar without killing a best-seller and one of the few class leaders they have.

      • 0 avatar
        e30driver

        You did forget one – the Saab 9-7 :)

      • 0 avatar
        doctor olds

        You forgot Saab’s best seller, the 9-7x!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      The Dodge brand strikes me as quite well focused. They have consistent styling and design language, and everything seems to be competently and consistently executed.

      Aside from the Caravan, they make very usefully sized/shaped modern family cars that match my needs pretty well and then put them in aggressive and/or militaristic and/or muscle-car clothing that I would never buy.

      There’s nothing wrong with Dodge/RAM pickup trucks, except for their lack of an innovative and efficient compact truck to replace my old Ranger. But the fact that there isn’t a truck on the market that’s an improvement over my 13-year-old beater truck is a broader issue, and doesn’t have anything to do with the RAM specifically.

  • avatar
    Pedro Henrique

    The Dodge brand is not in its way out. They’re just going through rebranding to make the line more interesting to the average consumer. Dodge doesn’t even have a C-segment sedan right now.

    I agree with the elimination of duplicate products in the portfolio, the problem is that doing so is not easy, at least in the case of Chrysler’s minivans. The Avenger sells little and if its production stop tomorrow nobody will notice.

    The Town & Country nameplate is considered more refined and certainly has its value in the market, but the Grand Caravan nameplate is in fact more popular and is strong within the average consumer.

    Going back a little in time, when Daimler-Chrysler decided to phase out the Plymouth brand, the Voyager was the best selling minivan in the brand’s lineup. Following the discontinuation of the Voyager, Chrysler decided to reposition the Grand Caravan to take its place in the market. However, the public hadn’t understood that and sales of the Voyager were never transferred to the Grand Caravan and Chrysler minivans sales declined following the Plymouth phase out. It could happen again with the discontinuation of the Grand Caravan on behalf of the T&C.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Given the continuously changing product plans of Fiat’s American-based operations, I don’t really think it merits much attention. We all know that there’s a lot of overlap in the portfolio of products that wear the Dodge or Chrysler badges and sometimes Jeep badges. We also know that the stuff that moves is their Jeepy stuff, minivans, and trucks. And everything else? You rent it or their “family & friends” buy it.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Seems to me that, for the sake of simplicity, they could either get rid of Dodge and Ram and move the pickup to Jeep (Jeep Ram) and all the other vehicles to Chrysler. OR, get rid of Chrysler and Ram and make everything a Dodge or Jeep. The Chrysler 300 could easily become a “Dodge 300″ or a “Dodge Monaco.” I like the Chrysler Jeep idea better. Then, sell the subcompact and van Fiats as “Fiats.” Forget trying to sell the Doblo and Ducato as Rams — no one will be fooled.

    • 0 avatar
      Rental Man

      I keep on thinking Chevrolet and Ford. They sell anything above a moped all the way to large trucks under the same name plate. The Dublo & Ducato can sell as Dodge (Ram) Trucks. The Sprinter did with no brand loyalists frenzy. Why do Fiat-Chrysler need to break up the names so much? If needed kill Chrysler and Ram first. Keep Dodge and Jeep. If Chrsler thinks they are near premium like Buick or Acura they need to martket themselves that way. If the 300 should turn into the next Limo car make sure it can handle 500,000 miles on bad roads with low cost ownership. If it is team Lancia-Chrysler that can sell on both sides of the pond show us product!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Real bonehead move to kill off the Caravan, an American icon.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    So where does the new Viper fit into all of this if Dodge is going away?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    We cannot have the same type of vehicle in the showroom because the consumer is not stupid. We’re not going to create the confusion and conflict in the showroom.

    I’m sorry, but Sergio is the one who sounds stupid. The Caravan’s base price is $6,000 cheaper than the Luxurious T&C. He wants to get rid of it.

    Where, pray, will people get an affordable traditional minivan (with sliding doors)? Another automaker, I guess, but right now, Dodge sells the cheapest.

    Are people who want a deal on a new minivan stupid? The Caravan and T&C have coexisted as long as I’ve been alive. I think people realize they’re different vehicles, especially now that they’ve moved the Chrysler further upmarket.

    While we’re on the subject of confusing customers, why the heck did they branch off the RAM brand? Everybody who knows the truck knows it as the DODGE Ram, and probably always will.

    If he truly thinks customers aren’t stupid, then why bother removing the ram’s head logo from all Dodges but the Ram, and replacing it with two vague red stripes?

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      right now, Dodge sells the cheapest.

      And how is that supposed to be good for Chrysler, exactly?

      The Caravan is a fleet queen. During the 2010 model year, 60% of them went to fleet, with the majority of those going to rental.

      Chrysler needs to generate margin. The company would probably be better off if it lost some minivan sales if it can find a way to raise transaction prices on the units that it does sell. Being the K-Mart of car making has not proven to be a winning strategy.

      • 0 avatar
        marc

        And ChryCo will still have th RAM Van for fleets and bargain hunters. How much ya wanna bet that RAM Van starts being offered with full seating and windows?

      • 0 avatar
        Rental Man

        Fleet money is not that bad. Rental companies either buy cheap, yet then those cars are gone. No floor plan. No dealer money-in-the-trunk, no special finance. Gone. If they are program buy-back units then dealers pick them up at the auctions and sell as nearly new low mile CPO.
        NO. It does not increase value of used cars. That being saidnthis category is all fleet. Mopar, Nissan, Toyota and Kia. Even Hondas appear.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Fleet money is not that bad.

        When fleet comprises 60% of sales, it’s quite bad. Don’t try to oversell it.

  • avatar
    mjz

    They haven’t said they are going to kill the Caravan NAME, just eliminate it as a clone of the T&C. No reason they couln’t use the Caravan name for the smaller, clever people carrier type vehicle they are talking about replacing the Grand Caravan with. Remember the original Caravan was about the size of the current Mazda5, it just morphed through the years into the gigantic Garan Caravan we have today.

    • 0 avatar
      fred schumacher

      The first generation Caravans were smaller than a Mazda 5, yet had more space. My favorite vehicle of all time was a 1993 Caravan with 2.5 liter and 5-speed manual. That car averaged 29.5 mpg over the time I drove it (I kept records). It only had 100 hp. but they were real horses coming from a tractable, undersquare long-stroke engine that pulled like a diesel.

      All minivans have bloated enormously. (I consider the Mazda 5 to be a wagon, not a minivan). Chrysler should never have dropped the short-wheel base versions, which are much better winter drivers than the Grands. A modern version of that simpler 1993 van, weighing under 3,200 pounds and costing $15,000 base, is what the market, in this time of extended recession with declining incomes, needs.

  • avatar
    fred schumacher

    Dodge is not only “American muscle.” Dodge is your daily “bread and butter” driver. It’s the name most closely tied to Mopar as a brand. Within Dodge was a complete line-up, from compact to truck, that consumers were familiar with. On the other hand, Chrysler was a name connected to an incomplete line of higher end models; Plymouth was connected to an incomplete line of lower end models; Jeep was an incomplete line of specialty vehicles.

    Get rid of the Ram brand. Nobody calls them that. They’re Dodge trucks, period. Dropping the Caravan, the vehicle and its name, from the line up would be one of the stupidest things Marchionne could do. Dodge is a known quantity in North America. Fiat/Alfa is not. Dodge gets little respect in the auto press, but those of us who have used Dodges, especially Caravans, not as toys but as transportation tools over hundreds of thousands of miles know how reliable and inexpensive they are to own and operate.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Dodge may be a known quantity in the US, but (right or wrong) for much of the population they’re “known” as something to be avoided.

      Sure, there was a time that they were associated with both “American muscle” and “bread and butter” daily drivers. That time ended at least one full generation ago, probably closer to two.

      Now they’re associated with “I wanted a new car but the Ford/GM/Import alternative was too expensive; so I bought this instead”.

      Their reputation is so trashed throughout much of the US that they should forget about what they used to stand for in 1969 and focus on making good cars of the type that the 25-40 year old market segment wants to buy. This demographic does not want vans.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @bikegoesbaa: “…focus on making good cars of the type that the 25-40 year old market segment wants to buy. This demographic does not want vans.”

        Really? Once they start pumping out babies, they will.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        I doubt it.

        I know more than a few couples in their late twenties or early thirties who revamped their family fleet once they had children.

        Exactly none of them wound up with a minivan. Crossovers and hatches are very popular, and one goofball bought a full-size RWD passenger van so he can tow his race car and haul the kids, but as far as I know nobody even looked at minivans from any manufacturer.

        As long as the folks I know are somewhat representative of the current “family truckster” demographic, the minivan is going to be a hard sell for the next decade or two. We were raised in the things, and for people in my age group they’re inextricably linked with mom jeans and general suburbanite lameness. All the chicks I know are happy to pass on sliding-door convenience in exchange for not looking like their mental picture of their mother.

        Maybe the convenience advantages would win out of people were having 3+ kids, but nobody I know wants to do that either.

      • 0 avatar
        rochskier

        I’m 33 and I’ve loved every minute of the past 3 years I’ve spent driving my HEMI-powered Dodge Magnum.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “Dodge is not only ‘American muscle.’ Dodge is your daily ‘bread and butter’ driver.”

      This does seem to be what the Dodge brand is trying to achieve and how they present themselves. But, I have to tell you, it doesn’t come across that way to me. Dodge makes at least 3 cars that would work well for my family (both present and future) in the Caliber, the Journey, and the Grand Caravan — and I’ve been toying around with the idea of picking up one of these new or used. On paper, they all match my needs quite well. But, the aggressive and weapon-themed styling (crosshair-grilles, “Caliber”, etc) is a major turn-off. Also, I have no nostalgia for muscle cars, since my kid-brain assumed that their crummy aerodynamics made them slow — so appealing to American Muscle nostalgia doesn’t make the car any more attractive.

      The difference? Despite growing up with guns and in a rural culture, I disagree with some of the values that rural/gun culture holds dear. This means that I simply don’t want crosshairs on the grill of “my car”, and I won’t drive a car named after the inner diameter of a gun barrel. Make the Caliber or Journey look bland and boring, give the Caliber a generic name, and I’ll be interested in buying one. But an innovative drivetrain in either one, and I won’t be able to help but buy one. (The Grand Caravan downplays the crosshairs and has enough of a utilitarian image that the problem is siginficantly reduced.)

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Make the Caliber or Journey look bland and boring, give the Caliber a generic name, and I’ll be interested in buying one.

        Compass?

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @Luke42: I never made the connection between the Dodge styling and the guns. I believe the rationale behind the crosshairs grille is a homage to the late 50′s early 60′s Chrysler 300 series, which featured a prominent crosshairs grille. And a prominent big block Chrysler motor, too.

        However, I do think they should have kept the crosshairs grille on Chrysler models and let Dodge do something else. But, I guess everyone has to have a grille that is recognizable from thirty paces these days, not unlike the 1930′s…

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        My major turn off for Chrysler products is that multiple engineer friends who were at the time employed either by Chrysler or a Tier 1 Chrysler supplier have independently told me to never ever buy any Chrysler product no matter how much I like it or how good a deal it seems to be.

        When employees of a company tell me to avoid that company’s products, I listen.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        bikegoesbaa,

        Our family has had good luck with Chryco products. Many of dad’s full sized work vans went well over 100k with no issues other than a timing chain (and water pump while you are there) with one going well over 350k before we lost track of it. My wife’s 2000 Durango has 170k on it right now with no real issues. Though I have to admit dad’s current 1996 Grand Caravan had to have the transmission replaced at 137k miles and a solenoid pack at 163k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @geozinger: “I never made the connection between the Dodge styling and the guns. I believe the rationale behind the crosshairs grille is a homage to the late 50′s early 60′s Chrysler 300 series, which featured a prominent crosshairs grille. And a prominent big block Chrysler motor, too.”

        I didn’t make the connection either, until I started reading reviews for the Caliber.

        But, with names like Magnum, Caliber, Avenger, Charger, and RAM, there’s definitively something warlike and weapon-themed about the Dodge brand. Add in the aggressive styling, the crosshairs grill, and celebrating using more oil than necessary (muscle car nostalgia), and you have an unmistakable theme. I know many people feel that this is a bread and butter all-American way to be, and they’re welcome to that opinion — but it is not something that I could possibly identify with. As a left-leaning family-man, there’s absolutely no way that a Dodge could be “my” car with this baggage.

        So, despite the fact that, on paper, Dodge’s lineup is better for my purposes than most, I just can’t give them full consideration. Before this, I hadn’t given them full consideration because of concerns about the reliability of their vehicles — but I started to reconsider that when I realized that everything is far more reliable now. I suppose that strongly turning off some potential buyers is is the risk that comes with edgy, risky, and non-bland styling. I’m not a fan of transparent badge-engineering, either, so I suppose the choice that Fiat/Chrysler has for Dodge is between bland Toyota-like styling, or using it only for a niche products.

        P.S. Journey is a really good size/shape/capability for for a family car, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the name. Too bad it looks like a Dodge, and tries so hard to look like an SUV. The Caravan / Town & Country avoid the pitfalls of being a Dodge to some degree, by being identifiable as their own thing.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        The more I think about it (keeping in mind that this is the first time I’ve given Dodge any serious thought), it makes sense to use the Dodge brand as a niche-nameplate for the super-aggressive muscle and sports cars. The Viper and the Charger/Magnum really do belong in the “Dodge This, m*th*rf*ck*r” brand, but the family cars need to have a more universal appeal.

        Putting the family cars in a more culturally-neutral brand (like Chrysler) ought to increase their appeal to non-right-wing families (such as my wife and I), as well as increasing their appeal worldwide.

        This ought to make the muscle cars fans happy since Dodge really would be catering to them, and it should increase the appeal of Fiat-Chrysler’s products to family-car people — since family cars fulfill a need that spans both culture and geography.

        So, my opinion is that combining the Grand Caravan and the Town & Country into one widely-applicable Town & Country makes a lot of sense. Furthermore, I’d like to see the Journey turned in to a Chrysler Journey (I like the name, but it needs to be restyled), and I’d like to see the Caliber re-invented as a Chrysler compact wagon that can still tow 1000lbs.

        P.S. The ability of the GC/Journey/Caliber to perform light towing duties (such as towing a 4′x8′ utility trailer), without voiding the warranty is one of the reasons that they look so good on paper for my purposes. I’m looking to replace my Ranger with a family car that can still be used for hardware store runs — so a Caliber-sized wagon with the same 1000lb towing capacity would be perfect until Kid #3 is born, if the styling and branding didn’t clash so fundamentally with my values.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    IMO, the loss of Dodge is another step towards the loss of Chrysler and Fiat.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      What would anyone expect? Of course Fiat is going to rearrange and streamline their Chrysler subdivision to where it works best for them, Fiat, by calling all the shots and controlling the purse strings.

      I suspect there will be quite a few more deletions, rearrangements and changes coming in the next three years. I can see where the T&C line will incorporate a range of $25K-$50K to take up the slack for the loss of the Caravan.

      It has already happened with the Jeep Grand Cherokee line that now has a range of $28K-$60K. It’s the way of the future.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Was this meant to be a reply to me? I don’t think Fiat has any sort of future at all. They got in bed with Chrysler out of desperation. They needed the influx of US taxpayer funds to keep going. Just look at their bond ratings. They’d have been dead years ago but for a corrupt judge that let them loot GM.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Yes, CJ, it was a reply to your comment.

        I’m no Fiatsler fan but the best thing that ever happened to Fiat was when the Obama administration gave Chrysler to them, and paid them another $1.3B to take it.

        Most analysts expect the Fiat 500 to do very well in the cities and suburban environs. Fiat has gained access to an enormous potential market now that it can sell in the US.

        I expect Fiat to do very well in the US and, in turn, the rest of the world as it expands to places where no Fiat has ever been.

        Don’t count out Fiat, and do not discount the managerial capability of its CEO, Sergio Marchione. After all, look at what Carlos Goshn did with Nissan.

        The best thing that ever happened to Chrysler was that Fiat was willing to take them. A little slicing and dicing of the product line will help cut redundancy. Fiat will introduce price-leaders in the existing lines to make up for those lost by the trimming.

      • 0 avatar
        OldandSlow

        FIAT’s bond ratings are firmly in the junk bond category.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    From what I have read over at Allpar, Dodge started out selling more minivans, but the T&C has taken over more recently. This would validate what I have been seeing in Central Indiana. I recall reading that new management would be keeping an eye on the minivans and deciding which one to eventually push.

    Honda and Toyota sell expensive minivans. Dodge and Kia sell inexpensive minivans that can move upmarket with more features. It looks like Sergio would rather stay in the higher end (more profitable) segment, and let Kia have the bottom end. Probably not a bad plan.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I have no idea what will happen, but I seriously doubt that the Dodge brand is slated to be replaced by Alfa. The customer affinities for those two brands couldn’t be two more different groups of people.

    As far as the minivan goes, it could be a smart move to consolidate that line around Chrysler branding. After all, the various Dodge and Chrysler minivans are really nothing other than different trim and options packages for the same vehicle.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Sergio is pruning back “branches” so that the entire garden will yield more fruit. Think about it, each full line dealer has to stock models fron FOUR different brands. Sergio is eliminating the weaker duplicate entries of each platform to concentrate on each of the brands strengths. As an example, the dealer near me has about 40 200′s in stock and about 10 Avengers. Same for the minivans, many more Town & Country’s and very few Grand Caravans. It just makes more sense to concentrate on one version, and turn the badge engineered weaker model into something more distinctive. Let’s say they take the Grand Caravan and return it to a shorter wheelbase model with CUV-like features and call it the Caravan. They will still maintain customers interested in a well priced, cleverly designed people mover, but it won’t be a direct clone/competitor of the T&C. I think this is what they have in mind, and I think it might be a smart move.

  • avatar
    BTEFan

    If FIAT decides to get rid of Dodge, I don’t think the name Chrysler Caravan sounds that bad. Split the difference, so to speak.
    What about the bringing back the old Plymouth/European Chrysler name of Voyager. Ats more international than Caravan and it could serve to differentiate the high end Town and Country and the huddled masses version…

  • avatar
    mjz

    Dodge is still Chryler’s highest volume nameplate in the U.S. It will not be replaced by Alfa Romeo or Fiat here.

  • avatar
    eldard

    Why not just sell Hyundai vehicles and not bother to remove the H logo like what Dodge Mexico does? lolz


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