Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne may not be fond of changing up his outfits, but he certainly has no problem mixing up product plans. The latest news out of Auburn Hills suggests that Chrysler will be extending the lifespan of some key products for up to another 5 years.
Under the new regime, the Dodge Avenger, one of Chrysler’s main fleet queens and the key cannibalizer of Dart sales, gets a stay of execution until 2015. The Dodge Grand Caravan will run until 2017, an extension of two years past its planned replacement date, while the Jeep Wrangler, which is said to be undergoing a radical redesign, will stay on the market in its current form until 2018.
Chrysler has good reasons to keep all three vehicles going. The Avenger’s platform-twin, the Chrysler 200, will be replaced next year in a major redesign, and by keeping the Avenger around, Chrysler will have a cheap sedan to sell to fleets (and presumably, less-than-qualified buyers).
The Grand Caravan can also fill that role in minivan form, while a redesigned Chrysler Town & Country will apparently be introduced to consolidate Chrysler’s minivan position. But the popularity of the Grand Caravan among fleet buyers and in the Canadian market has been said to give Chrysler pause about killing it off entirely. For some time, plans have called for one brand to get a minivan and one brand to get two crossovers. Automotive News seems to think that Chrysler will get the van and presumably Dodge will have a redesigned Journey – and a Grand Caravan too.
The decision to keep the Wrangler kicking around is seemingly more transparent. By extending its lifespan another two years, Jeep can get more capacity at its Toledo, Ohio plant, which is said to be running flat-out. In addition to a whole bunch of brand new features like aluminum body panels and an air suspension, the Wrangler will apparently get a diesel engine and a pickup variant. Right now, Jeep is selling Wranglers, particularly the 4-door Unlimited model, as fast as they can, with special edition variants not lasting long on dealer lots. Presumably, Chrysler will keep pumping them out for another few years to keep Jeep buyers satiated.