By on January 11, 2017

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan red Detroit skyline

(Update: A previous version of this story stated that the Honda Odyssey was the top-selling minivan in the U.S. in 2016. The number one spot actually goes to the Toyota Sienna.)

After being granted a stay of execution, the Dodge Grand Caravan’s hazy, undefined lifespan remains a controversial topic in Auburn Hills.

The Moses of minivans continues to trundle off Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Windsor, Ontario assembly line, alongside its far-more-advanced Chrysler Pacifica stablemate. Compared to the tech-laden Pacifica, the venerable Grand Caravan offers an acceptable level of content at a lower price point, and its reprieve was in keeping with FCA’s tendency to keep money-making models around for extended periods of time. Together, the two models span the segment’s price range.

The unavoidable question for FCA is: how long can the Grand Caravan stay in the lineup?

“That is the point of heated debate on the inside of FCA,” said FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne during a media conference at the North American International Auto Show. “When we shut production of the Grand Caravan is not clear to us yet.”

In November, a letter sent from a parts supplier to Canadian autoworkers union Unifor stated that the end of the line for the aging model will come in July 2019. A crossover would replace the Grand Caravan, the letter said.

Marchionne claimed that rumors claiming FCA would begin phasing out the model this year are absolutely not true, before adding — maddeningly — “probably not.”

Rather than being handed a death notice in 2016, the Grand Caravan ended the year as the second-highest-selling minivan on the U.S. market, losing to the Toyota Sienna by a margin of only 113 units. With 127,678 units sold in the U.S. last year, the model topped its 2015 tally by over 25 percent. North of the border, the Grand Caravan remains enormously popular, with 51,513 units sold in 2016.

The biggest attraction to keeping the Grand Caravan around, besides its continued popularity, is the older model’s much lower entry price. While the Pacifica has enjoyed glowing praise, the all-new platform and high level of technology warrants a premium sticker price, potentially leaving childbearing millennials out in the cold. Only the base Pacifica retails for under $30,000, with upper trim lines pushing past the $40,000 mark. The Grand Caravan, however, stickers for $23,595, usually with a pile of manufacturer cash on the hood driving the price below $20,000.

For FCA, filling a gap with a very old product suits the company just fine.

When asked about the gulf between the two minivans, and the argument that Pacifica sales could be affected by the model’s price, Marchionne wasn’t condemning anyone or anything.

“We had the same story with the Grand Cherokee back in (2010),” said Marchionne. “It took us about 12 months to get geared up. It has received more awards than any minivan I’ve heard of. It’s a lot more expensive than the outgoing vehicle. We know that from a quality standpoint and what it offers the marketplace, there’s no better. Give us some time — I think we need to take out the imports and place the Pacifica at the top of the list.”

Marchionne did say the automaker needs to look at the Pacifica’s price range.

FCA needs “to offer some level of affordable access to the Pacifica at the low-end,” he said, adding that the same pricing issue arises with most new models.

“The Grand Caravan has got limitations — it’s very old architecture.”

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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101 Comments on “Sergio Doesn’t Know What to Do with the Dodge Grand Caravan...”


  • avatar
    Tumbling-Dice

    You could cover all bases and simply shorten the headline to “Sergio Doesn’t Know What to Do”.

  • avatar
    86er

    Why does a disposable people-mover need to be highly advanced?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Because tech is somehow required for everything per marketing gods and MSM. I say, f*** tech. Everything hip and trendy isn’t so and all of your “technology” was developed at least ten years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Actually, I’d argue that this particular segment is VERY tech-heavy. I can’t think of another type of vehicle that features stuff like remote-opening side doors, or multiple TV screens, or seats that disappear into the floor, or built-in vacuums, or even (my favorite) the new Honda system that allows the driver to “talk” to his kids over their headphones.

        All useless stuff to you and me, but apparently not to the folks who buy vans. Gadgets sell in this segment.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Good point Freed. Drilling down further I’d want to look at the take rate for features like the system to “talk” to the kids via headset. One could make the argument that such things will filter down, but I believe the larger swath of the market shops on acquisition price (and possibly TCO over time), I don’t see the vacuum and headphones feature to be dealbreakers for most. I also think TV screens were more of a 2005 feature than today when these kids all have those cheap touch devices (although the internet in cars could be the 2017ish replacement feature). Stow and Go is cool but isn’t “tech” in my mind, although the power doors would be and I imagine popular (when they work).

          • 0 avatar
            gomez

            It may be difficult to determine take rate since “talk via headset” might not be a standalone option and if it is, it may only be on the high-end models that few people buy. There may be quite a few people that want the vacuum, but won’t pay for the higher end SE and Touring models. Alternately, it could be a standard feature that people get whether they want it or not. Either way, it’s not be a true representation of take rate.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree gomez. Such a thing would be easier if all options were a la carte but as you point out, they are not.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            There’s a certain kind of parent that likes to brag about all the baby-saving crap he buys. I knew any number of them. I had one guy actually give me a hard time for using taped-on diapers when velcro ones were just so vastly superior.

            They like to brag about all the stuff on their minivans too.

            Chrysler knows their market, that’s for sure. That’s why they advertise the tech gadgets, even if few of their vans have them. It’s so other parents can be jealous of Pacifica owners.

            Weird but true.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Interesting insight. My response to the other dad when queried about diaper type would be “I don’t care, I have a wife for that”.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            My reply was, “As long as the tape holds the kid’s f**king s**t I could care less.”

            At that point he began talking about the latest Consumer Reports tests.

        • 0 avatar

          Vaccuous soccer moms who think they need to talk to their child for the five minutes they interact with them in their van from morning care to school and from school to after-school care will buy the Pacifica.

          The rest of America needs the following minivan tech…

          -Bluetooth
          -Stow N’Go
          -Rear A/C
          -Rear Sliders
          -Probably Power Rear Sliders and hatch
          -Backup Sonar/Cam
          -Keyless Entry

          End of List.

          The fact that You can get all this in what is still quite possibly the best-looking minivan on the market for ~$25-28k is phenomenal.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Sergio has a winner but doesn’t know how to handle it.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I think Sergio knows exactly how to handle it…ride the horse until it dies, like Little Blackie in “True Grit.” No-brainer. But it doesn’t solve the problem of what Dodge is, unless Dodge is going away. Either way, it tells you something about FCA.

          • 0 avatar
            gaycorvette

            It helps if you’re going to call others vacuous that you can spell the word correctly. Helps your street cred as a connoisseur of the vacuity of others.

    • 0 avatar
      orenwolf

      Because people mostly haul children around in these and therefore deserve 1) the best safety options available and 2) options to keep you from strangling said kids on road trips?

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        1) Safety I get, but is the Grand Caravan really unsafe?

        2) Parents have wanted to strangle their kids prior to the invention of electronic gizmos, and strangely, still do.

        • 0 avatar
          orenwolf

          “Safety I get, but is the Grand Caravan really unsafe?”

          Unsafe? No. Could be more safe? According to the IIHS, NHTSA, and NTSB, yes. Given that driving still seems to be the most common opt-in way to injure yourself or others, and the cargo, it seems only fair to try and make these vehicles as safe as we can.

          This brings back my age-old comment, though, that we’re quickly entering a world of a “safety gap” where only the affluent can afford safety features, though. I suppose part of that will equalize once these premium vehicles enter the secondary market.

          • 0 avatar

            Safety Gap? Do you really feel that’s true? Or do you feel that true safety is only provided when you have total Sensor Fusion alerting you of all of your surroundings, which is completely unnecessary. Cars across the board or generally equally safe adjusting for weight differences

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            I feel that when numerous tests show that several technologies have markedly reduced the chances of fatalities with their introduction, that yes, they should be standard. Or do you believe our understanding of vehicular physics and momentum ended in the ’70s with seatbelts and ABS, before we even had computer modelling?

            If you want to play the “government agencies are pushing tech for political reasons” card, fine. But not all science and advancement is evil for evil’s sake, regardless of what you may believe. Some of it even saves lives.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            “Safety gap”?

            Give me a break, orenwolf. Even the least-expensive cars (and vans) today have safety features that’d have been pure sci-fi when I was a kid.

            The little darlin’s have never had it so good, even if the top-line safety stuff is an option.

            I have kids myself. Sometimes you buy what you can afford and do the best with what you can. That’s the way it is. And I’m sure that in a few years, all the accident-avoidance stuff you find on more expensive vans (and cars) will work its’ way down to lower-priced models. That’s how manufacturers do this, you know…they charge more for it on the higher priced models initially, amortize the costs, and then include the features on less expensive models. Not so long ago, things like side-curtain airbags or stability control were only found on uber-expensive vehicles, you know.

          • 0 avatar
            orenwolf

            Thanks for making my point for me. The “safety gap” existed all those years ago too, when stability control and side-curtain airbags were only available to the rich. Now, that’s the case for the next set of safety features, which is my point. I know it’s “the way it is”, that was my point in the first place. :)

    • 0 avatar

      At some point it becomes a question of safety. The Grand Caravan is probably ‘safe enough’, but architecture that old has to be making some sacrifices when it comes to off-set crash safety, etc. compared to its newer brethren. And kids+safety is a key point of concern.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Based on the GC’s IIHS scores, I think the kids are gonna be just fine in one.

      • 0 avatar
        Richard Chen

        Not to mention upcoming requirements for autobraking, which would make sense to have both vans on the same platform.

        So, stripper Pacifica, a 4 cylinder fleet special?

        • 0 avatar
          Mathias

          Regarding safety, I’d like to mention the Chevrolet Astro. It had absolutely abysmal IIHS crash results, tremendous damage, buckled floor, just awful.

          In the real world, it was one of the safest cars in terms of deaths per passenger mile.

          I never bought one, in part because of the safety issue, but it’s a judgement call.

          We still drive a 2003 Sienna that we bought new. In 1998, it was state-of-the-art and an IIHS pick. Twenty years on, it’s been left in the dust. But in absolute terms, nothing has changed

          In comparison, the Grand Caravan is just fine, even if it lags the most recent vans. We try to pay attention in traffic, which is the biggest safety feature there is.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Can’t blame anyone for considering the Grand Caravan because of its low price, it’s 5 grand less than a Sienna or Odyssey before incentives. If family situation forced me into a three-row vehicle I would be trying to do it as inexpensively as possible. I wouldn’t care much that it sat on an older platform or lacked the newest features.

    I’ve seen what the in-laws horde has done to their van–these are tools for a task, not toys to be excited about and sink a lot of money into.

    • 0 avatar
      Corollaman

      Will the new Journey cost more than the current Grand Caravan? Keep the damn thing going, they have stood by the Journey as bad as it is , and people on a budget who need 3 rows at an affordable price still buy them. Besides the rental fleets love the Caravan.

  • avatar

    Keep the GC around as long as people are buying them in droves.

    Second place to the Ody last year? Why mess with a good thing?

    Oh wait, it’s FCA…

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      FCA loves to also keep outdated product around. If the Journey is still being sold, I have no clue why this couldn’t be.

      Yes, it’s outdated. But too often people get enamored with ~all new~. I say make some minimal changes to the structure for safety purposes, restyle the interior and the super boring exterior, and you can basically sell the same minivan for the next 6 years. Especially for people who don’t want to spend $35k on a minivan, only to be rewarded with a terrible 9-speed.

  • avatar
    ajla

    This is a problem FCA is going to have in general going forward. A lot of the appeal behind their current products is that you can save some up front cash compared to the competition.

    Charger/Challenger moves to Alfa platform. It gets “better” but costs $5K – $10K more. Some people are now priced out and some just go lease an Infiniti or BMW.

    Durango is replaced by Wagoneer. The Jeep SUV is $10K+ more. New Ram drops in 2018 and suddenly those nice $9K incentives go away.

    I’m interested to see how the new Compass does compared to the value-priced Compartiot twins.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Easy solution Sergio. You sell over 179,000 of these each year. The MSRP starts at around $23k and you can get them for less.

    So spend about $1,000 per unit on upgraded parts. Offer a 10 year warranty on them. Increase the MSRP to around $25k. Then watch as they fly off the lots, without the need for constant manufacturer’s incentives.

    The FCA reputation for poor quality/reliability steers many buyers away from these vehicles. If you could improve their reliability to well above average and offer an extended warranty for additional piece of mind and to attract consumers before the new longterm reliability numbers become apparent, you could have a vehicle that soldiers on for an extended period like the original Beetle or the 2CV.

    There is a reason why Caravans cost double what most other vehicles including SUV’s cost to rent (at least they do in Southern Ontario) and that is because they fill a market need.

    • 0 avatar
      Gardiner Westbound

      Two thumbs up!

    • 0 avatar
      PenguinBoy

      Agreed.

      Improving reliability should be easy enough to do – after being in production so long, they probably have a really good idea of what breaks on these vans by now. In addition to reducing warranty costs, improving reliability would also eventually lead to improved resale value which strengthens the brand and also allows them to offer cheap leases.

      That said, after being in production so long it wouldn’t surprise me if these are already reasonably reliable, FCA reputation notwithstanding. I see an awful lot of them around, and some of them look like they have a few miles on them. I’ll bet you’ve got a much better shot at a long service life and trouble free ownership experience with a $20k “Value Package” Grand Caravan than with a $40k+ Pacifica…

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        I’d be interested to see what the average length of ownership is on brand-new ones. I see them as a throwaway that you trade in/return after a few years.

        • 0 avatar
          PenguinBoy

          Perhaps, but at least some of them seem to be kept on the road for a long time – I see no shortage of 10+ year old examples on the road. They seem to end their lives being used as beater vans by tradesmen, snowboarders, and others.

          There’s a first gen (pre 1990) ex telephone company Caravan painted flat black with a “Batman” motif in a ski town near me, still in active service. I wonder how many miles that thing has on it, and what it took to keep it on the road this long?

          I also get a chuckle when I see high spec older model Town & Countries with ladders strapped to the roof.

          So even if the original owners don’t keep them that long, in at least some cases these are kept going for a long time simply because of their low cost and high utility.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            Despite the old wives tale that only Japanese cars can last 10 plus years or that owners keep them that long there are loads of 10 plus year old Caravans still driving around and many have the original owners too. While quality control may be a bit shaky that doesn’t mean they are not reliable or can’t last. The Chrysler 3.3/3.8 OHV engines were bullet proof and the newer 3.6 Pentastar has been quite good too after the initial first year head issues were straightened out. And the 4 and 6 speed transmisisons haven’t been too bad form the 2008-2017 time period either.

            It’s not uncommon to see 2008-2010 examples with up to 210K miles going through the auctions still running like new.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I think what this illustrates is that FCA has no real plan about what to do with Chrysler or Dodge. Not good.

    Said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s Jeep and Ram, or die. Marchionne better hope there isn’t a recession or a gas price increase (or both) on the way.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree wholeheartedly.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I’d say the answer would be to make a de-contented version of the Pacifica and sell it as a Dodge for less, but since they have no idea what Dodge is, or should be, what’s the point? Where does it fit in with the Dodge when there is, in fact, no Dodge brand, just a motley collection of cars?

        There’s no marketing plan here – just “pump out more of what sells RIGHT NOW and screw next year.”

        If I were a FCA employee, I’d keep my Linkedin page nice and spiffy looking.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I agree again. I’d keep a Chrysler badge on the “cheap” one with another name like Pacifica Limited.

          Someone should monitor HTTP traffic coming out of Auburn Hills, I’d love to know how many hits LinkedIn is getting lol.

          • 0 avatar
            grinchsmate

            Interesting.

            Job ad indices have been around forever, financial columnists all think they’re onto the next big index, I saw a guy graph secondhand JetSki sales through a downturn, employer confidence surveys often make the news. If someone could come up with an employee uncertainty index, “Rat Jump Quotient” for the sensationalists they could really clean up.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Maybe I am completely wrong, but I can see fuel prices shooting up in 2017 after the new regime annoys the wrong country. If that happens FCA will be in a horrible position.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Count on higher energy prices, brett.

        #MakeExxonGreatAgain

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        You have no idea how little the US depends on any one oil producing country. The Saudis tried to kill fracking and failed. The tech simply became more efficient, while small leveraged outfits were forced out and gobbled up by bigger deep pockets oil players. Our biggest imported oil sources are Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela, none of which can afford to cut us off – we’re their biggest customer.

        In the biggest oil shale deposit of all in Texas, drillers are still drilling, but not fracking, saving future production for higher prices. Then higher prices arrive, the new production will drive prices down again. Expect that yo-yo effect to keep US oil prices in a low narrow range for a decade or more, and that’s not factoring in a better regulatory atmosphere for domestic producers from the Trump administration.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      re: “FCA has no real plan”

      It sounds more like he is being pragmatic. He doesn’t want to cancel a product that FCA will need if the economy tanks. He also doesn’t want to clip the Pacifica’s wings if things go well. That’s one mistake made with the Dart, which initially competed in the same dealership with the cheaper 200 (Sebring).

      It’s not a good time to make firm plans. Nobody knows which way things will go. Anybody who claims to have definitive answers is talking out their back side.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        “It sounds more like he is being pragmatic.”

        Agreed. A plan is an attempt to predict the future, which is something humans aren’t particularly good at. It seems to me that Sergio is good at adjusting his plan to reflect reality when confronted with evidence that shows it isn’t working – I see this as a good thing.

        • 0 avatar
          gomez

          The problem is that Sergio changes his plan every time he opens his mouth. Yes, adjusting to market conditions is a good thing, but that will always put you behind the curve, which is not. It makes investors nervous and doesn’t inspire confidence in potential customers. Changing the plan as frequently as FCA does shows that they don’t have the right inputs and data set to predict the future correctly.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Problem is, heavy handle, last I checked, playing fast and loose with your product planning is perfectly fine for a whole range of products, like blue jeans. But it takes a lot more time to design, engineer, test, market and produce an automobile. Automakers have to look forward 5-7 years. Now, what’s in FCA’s pipeline for then?

        Not much beyond Jeeps and a new Ram pickup, far as I can see. And for this moment, that’s fine. But not having any set plan in the car business seems awfully reckless to me.

        • 0 avatar
          gomez

          Plus new product means people have jobs and puts people in showrooms. If I were an FCA factory worker or a dealer, I would be pissed/worried about the constantly changing plans and no definitive path for the car side of the business.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          FreedMike,

          The Pacifica is the new product in this case. No one (except you) is claiming that FCA has not delivered a replacement for the GC.
          The question is “how long should FCA build both minivans in parallel?”

          Who knows, maybe the GC will outlive its replacement. It’s happened before. The VW Type 2 outlived its replacement (in limited production in Brazil).

  • avatar
    soberD

    We’ve put 60k miles on a 2014 AVP in 2.5 years. I would buy another one in a heartbeat – it’s a phenomenal vehicle.

    I don’t see why they can’t make some minor updates and keep it going.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      I’m thinking of buying one of these, or a Ford Flex. Not to haul kids, but to haul old parents. If I’m shopping for a pre-owned GC, priced in the $14-18k ranges, what years, equipment, etc. are favored? avoided?

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        Any of the recent years will do, buy certified.. Get the Chrysler factory bumper to bumper warranty.. You can get it online for $1900 and you can finance it with the vehicle.. It covers everything but the consumables and glass

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      How does it do with only front A/C? Lack of rear air is the one thing that would give me pause to picking one up.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    My concerns for a “family hauler”.

    1. Are there vents in the second and third rows for A/C & heat?
    2. Can I pair my phone with the audio system? (Cause that’s all the “tech” I need)
    3. How cheaply can I get it cause kids are hard on cars.

    I guessing there are enough people in the same boat Sergio. Keep it cheap and cheerful, as reliable as the competition, and it will keep selling.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Kids cover everything with jelly, french fries, and smashed Crayons. I have seen this in every car I’ve been in where children ride in it regularly.

      • 0 avatar
        MoparDave

        I always said that the ideal family hauler should have vinyl seats, rubber floor mats, and a drain in the middle of the floor to hose it out.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Maybe I’m some sort of weird outlier, but I can never recall much of a mess in any of my parents’ vehicles growing up, and I distinctly remember the one time my brother spilled a coke in the back of the (recently bought) ’89 MPV. That was the first and last time that happened.

          • 0 avatar
            grinchsmate

            I can clearly remember cleaning Cheerios out of a seat rail of a second hand Kia Grand Voyager.

            I think your family was an exception.

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    I’m glad they are still selling it- America needs an inexpensive minivan. Most families can benefit from such a car, while many fewer can afford to pay > 30k for it. Keep selling it in base trims so it does not compete with the new model.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      It is still on the radar for me as a useful hauler now that my adopted daughter is getting heavy into dog shows. They aren’t fancy, but with one row of seats folded down, their is more than enough room to place all of the pup’s gear (you would be surprised at just how much gear goes into taking a small dog to shows!) and three people’s worth of luggage. Toss in a DVD player and a way to keep her cheap tablet lugged in and not much more is needed. The venerable 3.7 is strong enough to maybe even handle a small trailer/camper. I can see why FCA would be smart to keep it in inventory.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Keep them both forever. That’s the whole idea of having Dodge and Chrysler divisions. Dodge, cheap, less refined, Chrysler for nicer and better and more expensive cars. (Vans). This is the complete opposite badge engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      This is my take as well. It fulfills a need. Families need a cheap van and the Caravan is the answer. There is no harm in keeping it chugging along with minimal updates. Heck most of the fancy tech stuff is just the infotainment unit in the dash so offering new toys there doesn’t require a whole new, costly platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Exactly. Get the bugs out of the tranny, modernize the stereo, and you’re done. People with money to burn will like the Pacifica, the rest of us can go GC for our hauling needs. Hell, it could even be a reverse-halo for Chrysler. People come in for the great price, then you upsell them to the sexy newcomer.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    The Grand Caravan offers 90% of what any newer van does, at a very steep discount. If you’re not someone who is lured by fancy tech (even though it has plenty of it) or image, it’s probably one of the best buys out there still….even with it being an FCA product.

    The only thing that would give me second thoughts from buying one is the abysmal Small Overlap crash tests.
    http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/dodge/grand-caravan-minivan#inline

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Small overlap crashes are fairly rare in real life and the GC does fine in all the other types. The risk is mostly in the nature of a broken leg rather than your life. The small hood of a minivan makes the small overlap challenging (though other minivans do better).

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    Come this summer this iteration of the Caravan will have been churned out for a full ten years. It’s the ‘Friends’ of minivans!

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      As long as people keep tuning in and viewers have the demographics advertisers want to reach, it’ll go on indefinitely. It could be the Gunsmoke of minivans, going 14 years, or the Bonanza of minivans, going a full 20 years, or even the Ed Sullivan of minivans, lasting a full 23 years. The Captain Kangaroo of minivans, going nearly 30 years, might be an outside possibility. After all, the VW bug continued for 55 years, but that was a car.

  • avatar
    Jack Denver

    While it seems unfocused to have 2 different minivans going at once, it seems to be working. The obvious concern is that you don’t want to be poaching buyers away from your own higher priced product with the low priced product, but I don’t think that’s happening – they seem to be straddling the market with distinct high and low priced models. This is really the purpose of having more than 1 brand, or was before manufacturers put their marques on single platforms and just switched the grilles and taillights around. They should keep the GC going for as long as it keeps making $. They can patch in 90% of the “tech” that the market demands without having to spend a lot of $. There is a clear demand for a low priced van by young families that don’t have a lot of $ to spend. Do you really NEED a built in vacuum cleaner and a PA system from the 1st to the 3rd row? Screw focus or branding or whatever – in the end it’s all about the Benjamins. FCA doesn’t have enough of a line up remaining for Dodge and Chrysler as it is – they need whatever they have left. Reliability should only get better if they keep making the same vehicle and keep working the bugs out of it. They can do nominal styling refreshes from year to year but GC could be the minivan equivalent of the Panther – who cares if it is “obsolete” as long as it fills its niche and the price is right? Under $20K street price is an incredible bargain for this much vehicle – you could spend more on a compact.

  • avatar

    Its become clear that unless its a niche-market money-draining high-strung 180-unit/yr $85k sedan or a laughable one-trick pony subcompact worth $4500 in two years, Sergio has no idea what to do with it.

    And the line about the G/Caravan being ‘ancient architecture’ is laughable considering he bait-and-switched dozens of dealers into selling the 500.

  • avatar
    pdieten

    Does anyone remember when the Buick Century and Olds Cutlass Ciera stayed in production through 1996, even though their ostensible replacements had arrived back in 1990, because the older cars so perfectly matched what their buyers wanted at a low price point that GM couldn’t justify giving up those sales?

    Good times.

    Eventually they figured out how to make the replacement (the 1997 W-body Buick Century/Regal twins) acceptable to previous Century buyers. I’d guess maybe this is the way FCA should go. Heavily decontented Pacifica at a price point between the GC and the current Pacifica.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yeah, and 10 years later GM went down the tubes.

      Clueless product planning has consequences.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged Miata Man

      Just a WAG, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Sergio wants to maintain the (purported) ‘prestige’ of the Pacifica nameplate for the inevitable day that it gets rebranded as a Fiat.

      • 0 avatar
        pdieten

        Doesn’t have to be called Pacifica; doesn’t even have to be a Chrysler. When the old Century was replaced, Century was still the budget/old folks versions of the car and Regal continued as the version with the premium driving experience.

        Point being, abandon the current GC platform and standardize minivans on the Pacifica’s platform. Give it a completely different name, whatever Sergio wants to use. Dodge, Fiat, whatever. Or he can call it the Chrysler Voyager if he wants. Provide a basic-to-popular content level and price it between the current GC and the Sienna. Maybe it could work.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    I am on my second Chrysler mini-van, and I agree with soberD, it is a phenomenal vehicle. My current ride is a 2016 DGC R/T (the MAN VAN!) It is the most luxurious vehicle I have ever owned (which doesn’t say much about my previous vehicles, I guess). It has leather, 2 DVD players for my kids that are 4 years apart and watch different things. It has a heated steering wheel and heated seats in the front and middle rows. I can carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood (and have). My phone pairs in seconds and the stereo streams music without issue. It tows my 3500 lb trailer without difficulty. It cost me under $40k Canadian out the door with incentives. After 40,000 km, nothing has broken. What more do I need?

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      What more could you want? Let’s see. A minivan that’s safer? Or maybe higher standards? If that’s the most luxurious thing you’ve owned, that says more about you than the Caravan.

      That being said, I miss the days of cheap (and small) minivans. My ’98 short wheelbase Caravan managed to transport two full size couches in one trip. It cost $16k, had hardly any features, embarrassingly tiny 14″ tires, a laughable 3 speed automatic that needed constant repairs, and it conked out entirely after 6 years. I still miss it.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        “a laughable 3 speed automatic that needed constant repairs”

        Are you sure that it wasn’t the “Ultradrive” 4 speed transmission?

        The Ultradrive needed constant repairs, but the “laughable 3 speed” transmission was basically the old Torquefite adapted for FWD applications and was pretty much bombproof – and not likely to need constant repair the way something like an Ultradrive or Honda Odyssey transmission might.

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged Miata Man

          I think that would have been the A670/31TH. That transmission was certainly more resilient than Ultradrive, but still frequently had difficulties with the added weight (and payload) of a minivan.

        • 0 avatar
          quaquaqua

          Yes, I’m 100% sure it was the 3-speed auto. We stayed away from the 4-speed auto (and the hunter green color it came with on our dealer’s lot) because I never liked how you could always hear a Chrysler 4-speed auto at an intersection — due tom the weird grinding noise coming from the car as it slowed to a stop.

          Bombproof? Our transmission had several major issues (thank christ I got the extended warranty), but then again, so did the rest of the car. A/C was replaced twice, engine needed repair, ignition became defective… It’s the first car I’ve ever owned, dating back to the 70s, that didn’t make it anywhere *near* 100k miles. I never went back to Chrysler. But that being said, I miss it (and its cavernous interior) daily.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Our first Caravan a Grand Caravan ES which at the time was quite possibly the most expensive vehicle sold by Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth ate through 3 of their 4 speed transmissions in less than 4 years.

          Its replacement a Caravan Sport ate through another 2 of their 4 speed transmissions in 4 years.

          However the base model (24D?) that we had at the same time with the 3 speed worked just fine for us and my SIL who we gave it to. Soldiered on for over a decade.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            The Ultra-drive was single handedly one of the worst transaxles every built for reliability and it took years before they were anything approaching reliability. The Honda 5 speed wasn’t much better.

            I also wouldn’t call the Chrysler 3 speed transaxle bombproof but it was light years better than the Ultra-drive. It seemed to suffer more in the heavier bodied vehicles when backed by the Mitsubishi 3 liter V6.

  • avatar
    WalterRohrl

    Odyssey: Built in US, Honda HQ in Japan

    Sienna: Built in US, Toyota HQ in Japan

    Caravan/Pacifica: Built in Canada, FCA HQ in Europe

    Who exactly is Sergio talking about when he mentions the “imports”? /s

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Rename it the Checker Marathon!

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    The best thing they could do with the Grand Caravan is replace the Journey with it.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Personally I’m thrilled. Our 2007 Caravan got us through the small kid / mounds of cracker crumbs in the back years and we’re into the years of hauling 6 water polo players to practice.
    We thought we were almost done with minivans but have realized there’s 9 years before we’re done delivering kids to college and doing family camping trips.
    It’s good to know that when the 2007 expires (soon?) there will still be cost effective family transportation available. Keep making them!

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    I have one of these in the T&C guise. Its a great vehicle. If this one got totaled I think I would just buy another one. My only complaint is that it’s hard on front tires, wears the outer edges. But I think alot of minivans have this issue.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    @spookiness
    ” If I’m shopping for a pre-owned GC, priced in the $14-18k ranges, what years, equipment, etc. are favored? avoided?”

    At that price, your powertrain is the 3.6 l V6 with the 6spd automatic. The engine is solid, the transmission is ‘OK’.

    I’ve been unable to find a good used Chrysler van at a lower price point, say 6-8k. Any good candidate gets snapped up quickly.

    On another board, I just learned that 20k-mile 2016 Chrysler T&Cs are selling at auction “for $19-20k all day long.” Another poster pointed out that these are all ex-rentals. That may or may not matter to you.

    I’ve given up on used minivans. It’s a bit like buying someone else’s living room. They live hard lives, and the grandparent types that take care of them are not the ones that place them on Craigs. By the time they sit at the FCA dealer all cleaned up, you might as well buy new. There is a definite market for minivans, and few models left.

    I’m looking to buy a new one, probably this year, and I’m watching carefully what’s available. All the good incentives are going to the high-end models, and my wife specifically does not want power doors. I’m having a hard time finding a basic model for a good price — certainly nothing south of $20k has come up.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      “and the grandparent types that take care of them are not the ones that place them on Craigs.”

      Then what happens to them when the grandparents kick the can or go in a nursing home?

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I will echo what the majority of the B&B is saying, dropping the current Caravan would probably be the Avenger/200 chopping all over again. Kicking a ‘known quantity” cheap and cheerful vehicle that I’m fairly certain is just a money press at this point is silly. Foolproof the TIPM (if not already taken care of), maybe crank out a few more warmed over special editions for flavor, and keep on making them.

  • avatar
    FusilliJerry

    I always thought the GC could use an SRT6 version.


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