By on November 13, 2012

The long awaited replacements for the Chrysler minivan twins are still at least 21 months away, according to Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Speaking to Automotive News, Marchionne said that if the vehicles currently in consumer products got favorable reactions, then production could begin in as little as 21 months. But as it stands, Chrysler isn’t even sure which of the nameplates will survive as a traditional minivan and which will become a crossover with hinged doors.

Regarding plans for the Chrysler lineup to retain the minivan with Dodge getting a crossover, Marchionne said

“This is how I view it, but forget about my preference. Those are big issues, and we need to find out in the marketplace what works. We are having customer clinics right now.”

We thought the matter had been settled already. Evidently, it hasn’t been.

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44 Comments on “Chrysler Minivan Replacements Still In Flux: Marchionne...”


  • avatar
    Dimwit

    Yep. Hoist on their own petard. The segment is too important to allow for a sloppy refresh. This is their bread and butter. If they blow this, FIAT is toast.

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    I would just ride that horse till it dropped. It’s way to successful to hurry. Last I heard they were selling them as fast as they made them so I think Haste makes waste. Probably why nobody put me in charge.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      They sell them as fast as they make them … because they size the production to the sales levels, like everyone else does. That’s a straw man argument.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        It’s no straw man. For a long while they were running the plant on only two shifts. They are now, and have been since the model refresh, running 3 shifts at the only plant that makes them. There is no other capacity readily available at the moment.

        If they weren’t selling as fast as they could make them, they could easily go back to 2 shifts. Instead they are running near capacity.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Saying “they sell them as fast as they make them” means nothing on its own, for any car. See my comment above.

        Now, if the Chrysler minivan plant is running at max capacity, and they are selling them without any need for cash on the hood, I will indeed be more impressed. Is this the case, then?

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        It means plenty I think. They realistically don’t have the ability to increase production more than the current pace to keep up with demand. Seems like a legitimate statement to me.

        Whether there’s cash on the hood or not doesn’t change the reality of the statement. Maybe if you want to insist on being cynical about it, it does.

        There is probably a good deal of cash on the hood. A good deal is a good deal.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        There is some cash on the hood – $2K right now for the T&C Limited, for example. But even that is not important. What matters is whether Fiatsler is making money on these. I am a little surprised they are having to offer incentives at all, given their low sticker pricing vs. the Sienna and especially the Odyssey.
        As far as the refresh, IMHO they can take their time. These are competitive vehicles and great values.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Dimwit and Angus McClure; you guys are exactly right. The Grand Caravan and the Town and Country do so many things exactly right. Suburb “mommy missiles” for hauling the whole family and all their stuff; can double as hauler in a pinch.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    A Caravan with hinged doors that’s crossover-based already exists. It’s called the Journey, and it’s terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      The Journey (which rides on the old Mitsubishi GS platform) is substantially smaller than the Caravan — though larger than the original SWB Caravan.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      They also used to make the Pacifica. It was like a less goofy looking Buick Enclave, but it never met sales expectations and died after one generation.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That wasn’t really crossover based was it? I hate the Pacifica.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        How can you call the Enclave, the world’s most beautiful crossover, “goofy-looking”?

        Perhaps the name “Enclave” is goofy? I kinda agree.

        Surely you jest…

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        I think the Pacifica was based on the minivan platform. It would compete with the Enclave if it were still in the market. The Pacifica was very pricey when it came out, but it had a really high quality interior, one of the last before Chrysler started doing “rubbermaid” interiors.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The Pacifica was not even 75% of the size of the Enclave, and didn’t have as many features. I really don’t think they were competitive. The Enclave competes more with the former Aspen. (Which was also awful.)

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        Corey DL: The Pacifica was 198.9 inches in length, the Enclave is 201.9 inches. The Pacifica was introduced with only one very high end trim level, and could easily be optioned to well over $40,000. Lesser trim levels were added in later model years after sales were less than expected. The Pacifica was really the “spiritual” predecessor to the Enclave. The Chrysler Aspen was a truck based SUV, and would be more comparable to the Cadillac Escalade, not the Enclave, which is not truck based.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Enclave is a little bigger than the Pacifica was. The Buick’s claimed interior volume is 153 cubic feet, while the Chrysler claimed 143.3 cubic feet. For some bizarre reason, all of the three row Pacificas seem to have had captains chairs instead of a bench in the second row, so they only seated 6 instead of the Buick’s 7. I’m not sure what crossover based means, since crossovers practically all share some architecture with sedans or minivans almost by definition.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The Pacifica was built on the same line as the minivans, but really didn’t share a whole lot with them. The suspensions were fairly different, powertrain options didn’t always coincide etc.

        IMO they were ahead of their time. They didn’t do anything worse than the current crop of similarly sized crossovers, the consensus seemed to be they were too expensive.

        Personally, I think consumers were still hung up on big truck SUVs in the couple years before Katrina fuel price spikes and those that followed.

      • 0 avatar
        Truckducken

        The Pacifica was underpowered (or overweight, depending on POV) and unreliable. It was a nice ride, though. The legend is that it shared some design features with the E-Class, along with the Mopar minivans.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    I’m really looking forward to the next gen, but the current minivan is still the only Chrysler product that anyone in my family would realistically consider purchasing (well, leasing at least….I wouldn’t keep one long-term). It’s a fantastic and versatile vehicle for those people who need an all-in-one solution (and are smart enough to not give a crap about trends).

    My 58 year old father rented one of these on vacation last year and was so impressed with it’s versatility he is thinking of replacing his old but trusty….and a little rusty, Tacoma with one. He needs something that he can use to haul things around, but doesn’t want a giant truck or something too industrial feeling.

    With the fold-down seats its great as a utility vehicle, so he can carry all his wood and gardening projects, plus it’s a fantastic road trip car as well to go camping and other trips. Plus the price is more than reasonable, something none of the other vans can claim any more (sorry, but 45k for a minivan is nuts, Honda).

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      I agree w/ everything you wrote. One note, though: Not all Honda minivans are $45K. Their “base” model has a MSRP of $28-29K. Just like Chrysler. And both (and Toyota) can certainly be optioned up to the $40K+ neighborhood. The Dodge version, though, is the real winner for a value play…nobody comes close to their $20K starting point. Not even Kia! But I’m sure once you adjust for equipment the difference is less. [paging Mr. Karesh....]

  • avatar
    mjz

    I know Sergio doesn’t want to have “duplicate” Dodge and Chrysler models, but in this case, I think they should keep BOTH versions, as each appeals to a different demographic. Dodge Grand Caravan is affordable and a bit sporty (ok, I know it’s a minivan), and the Chrysler Town & Country is more upscale and luxurious. I think eliminating either one will be a big mistake for them, and they will end up alienating one of the two groups of buyers. Certainly it can’t cost Chrysler that much to produce both versions. They risk losing the “king of minivan crown” if they screw this up. To supplement the new minivans, let Dodge get a revised Journey and Chrysler can add a bigger and more luxurious crossover to compete with the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave. More or less a Pacifica replacement for those who don’t want the “stigma” of driving a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I agree. I think I read something years ago that when Chrysler phased out Plymouth and created the Chrysler Voyager, not all of the customers came back and purchased the Chrysler replacement or the Dodge for that matter.

      I also recall that when they killed the short wheelbase minivan with the 2008 refresh it was selling somewhere around 100,000 units – they thought the Journey was going to appeal to those short-wheelbase customers, but it never did fill in the gap in sales as intended.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Another option to consider would be to make the Dodge smaller, more like the original Dodge Caravan, and leave the Town & Country as the larger more luxuious version. It’s kind of ironic how big these “minivans” have become. A smaller Dodge Caravan would be more saleable as a Fiat in Europe as well.

    • 0 avatar

      People keep asking for smaller version of everything, but when it appears, it sells poorly (in America at least). Look at Mazda 5, look at Cube. They are terrific, but their sales stink!

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Shhhh! Don’t tell internet posters their personal views are irrelevant! They may die without that massive ego to cushion their existence. To be less of an ass, I think all the time why are cars so small that I can’t comfortably fit in most of them. I realized long ago though I am the exception to the rule. Just like the compact truck and sub-compact market.

        If anything our much bigger minivans of today are far more efficient movers than the originals because they get roughly equivalant mileage while being able to haul far more. It’s the mass transit effect.

        I would advocate to keep the T&C and turn the grand caravan into a crossover simply for profit reasons. Minivans have become epic haulers priced higher than mid size sedans and SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      The current generation looks closer to the first generation than the generation that preceded it.

      I actually like the looks of the current generation and wish my father had held out as the previous generation van he bought (2007 T&C) is starting to fall apart.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    IMHO, the biggest mistake Chrysler did to the van re-design was drop the SWB-version, which I thought was the most practical size for most.

    • 0 avatar
      mjz

      Agreed, bringing back the smaller version as a Dodge Caravan would be most welcome. The current crop of “minvans” are just too damn big. There have to be many people who are interested in the practicality of a minivan, but who don’t want to drive one of the current crop of behemoths around town. Maybe that’s why the Ford C-Max is off to a pretty good start. It’s sized much more like the original Chrysler minivans.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The Journey does most of what the SWB Caravan did and combined they sell more vehicles than the final few years of two separate SWB and LWB vans.

      I had a last gen SWB Caravan for a while, and it was a great versatile and cheap to run vehicle, but the benches had no more room for passengers than a Journey I found. It was taller, but thats about it.

      When you can get a Grand Caravan for 20K to start, why even bother make a shorter one?

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        By making the Caravan smaller, thus differentiating it from the T&C, it would help distinguish the two models (which Sergio wants) and allow Fiat to sell a better sized vehicle for the European market. I think there is a market for a minivan that is more like the original minivan size, and these people aren’t necessarily satisfied with a crossover.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Since the new generation won’t be ready for 21 months, 2 model years, they need to put the 9-speed transmission and DI Pentastar engine in this generation as soon as they can. They can offer it as an optional package, that way if there are problematic bugs, they still have the old engine/trans to fall back on.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Derek, I believe this is one of those “Oops” occasions for a car mark. Falling into the WAY-back machine to the late ’80s, I remember clearly Ford face-palming their foreheads with the 25th Anniversary of the Mustang came due. Ford rapidly put together a “25th Anniversary Special” but in reality was little more than a badge on a standard Fox body GT. The Caravan/T&C twins is the Pentastar’s best bread-n-butter car with similar name recogition that apparently became temporarily forgotten once Fiat’s signature was drying. They’ll throw something together to bridge the gap, but guarantee it won’t be a class leader.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    A lack of a brand-new minivan isn’t hurting them per se (both vans have already surpassed ’11 YTD sales through October), so why rush out with something so important?

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I’ve always liked the driving position and dash design of the latest Caravan / TC. The 2011 exterior refresh could have gone further, but hey…people are still buying them. I think the next generation for BOTH nameplates needs to keep their traditional size & shape, and expand on refinement of the details. Let the marketing department handle any image and “nameplate mission” distinctions. Keep the crown, fellas!

  • avatar
    JKC

    My wife recently replaced her Freestyle with a new T&C. I drove a Siena and an Odyssey as well, and the Chrysler handled better than either, and had better visibility to boot. Not to mention the fact my wife bought it for thousands less than either the Honda or the Toyota would have cost with similar options.

    Baruth reviewed on of these not too long ago. I’m not 1/10th the driver he is, but he pegged the driving experience. It drives a lot better than a big box on wheels has any right to.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I think the Chrysler triplets, especially the Routan, are by far the best looking, best handling of the minivan brood.

    One of the families at our school traded in her 2000 Odyssey for a Routan last year…she hasn’t been impressed with the build quality.

    I still think there’s market room for a well designed, well built SWB model. Something between the Mazda5 and Grand Caravan.

    • 0 avatar
      JLGOLDEN

      @ Dave M: You mention an owner’s concern on her Routan’s build quality. This reminds me that I’ve ridden in my VW dealer’s shuttle vans, both 20,000 mile examples of 2011 Routans, and each one had insane interior creaks & rattles: Inner-city roads produced a chorus of ticking and tapping and little “pops” which would make me bat $hit crazy on any vehicle, new or old.

      • 0 avatar
        Fenian

        A couple months ago we bought a 2009 CPO Routan SEL with 42k miles for the princely sum of $18,000. There are a few creaks, but so far, we have been pretty happy with it. The only downside so far is the 4.0l/6-speed combo is delivering fuel economy that leaves a little to be desired.

        That being said, the depreciation on it is fantastic for used car shoppers such as myself.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Where would Routan rank in terms of its siblings, is it the equivalent of a Caravan, T&C, or something in between?

      • 0 avatar
        Fenian

        @28-Cars-Later

        The Routan is split into S, SE, and SEL trims. The S is definitely Caravan territory, while the SE is somewhere in between. The SEL, pre-Pentastar, had the 4.0l only found in the T&C, not the 3.8l. I believe they all have the Pentastar nowadays.


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