By on July 17, 2017

Ernie and Bert Sesame Street, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles/YouTube

Get to know me, even just a little, and you’ll quickly discover my seething hatred for the inexplicably popular and mercilessly long-running sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Given the chance, I’d banish the writers, producers and male cast to the barren wastes of Siberia, where the overpaid hacks could atone for their sins (and remain quiet) while braving the frigid winds in search of nutrient-rich mosses and lichens.

Maybe it’s the death of the sitcom that brought us to this point. Raised on the terrific sitcoms (and some guilty also-rans) of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, my childhood television experience was abundance in diversity. Still, despite my love for cars and guns and the like, my TV starting point, like that of so many others, was Sesame Street. America’s social barometer, it was, and continues to be.

Like now, strong options loomed large in little Steph’s brain. Never cared for Big Bird. Too big. Dull in conversation. Grover? Who is Grover really supposed to be? And frankly, I wouldn’t leave any child of mine alone with Elmo.

Still, certain characters hold a special place in my dark, shrivelled heart. Until, that is, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got its hands on their innocent, soft upper halves. (Read More…)

By on June 27, 2017

2017 chrysler pacifica hybrid

Conflicting reports claim Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has either restarted, or is poised to restart, production of the Pacifica Hybrid minivan in Windsor, Ontario.

This comes after a tumultuous month for the automaker’s headline-grabbing plug-in minivan. First, a voluntary safety recall saw all Pacifica Hybrids built to date recalled for faulty inverter diodes, following incidents in which several vehicles lost power while underway. The recall then led to the shadowy shutdown of hybrid minivan production. (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2017

FCA Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

Chrysler’s minivans have been a never-ending beacon of purity and goodness for over thirty years. Less so lately, but the segment remains an important part of the FCA lineup. Intended to replace both the Chrysler and Dodge minivans, the Pacifica did not outsell either at launch. While Pacifica deliveries eventually eclipsed the Town & Country, it was really only due to the venerable model’s extermination. Meanwhile, Dodge’s Grand Caravan continues as the stronger seller and remains a popular option for rental fleets.

This has convinced Fiat Chrysler to extended the Caravan’s death date more than once, but it won’t last forever. In fact, it’s about to suffer a sort of prelude to non-existence as production will go on an extended hiatus in mid-August and won’t resume until December, when the 2018 models appear.  (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Odyssey went on sale three weeks ago. The Chrysler Pacifica has only been on the market for a year. The Toyota Sienna will enjoy another refresh for the 2018 model year.

If ever there was a time in which America’s minivan segment needs to shine, the second-half of 2017 is it.

Minivan sales tumbled 14 percent, year-over-year, through the first five months of 2017. Only 3 percent of the auto industry’s volume is now minivan-derived. Year-over-year volume decreased in nine consecutive months between August 2016 and April 2017.

There are far fewer competitors now than there were a decade ago. Therefore, the minivan market doesn’t need to produce the sort of volume it did a decade ago. However, minivan sales can’t continue to plummet, month after month after month.

Minivan sales need to rise. If they can’t do so now, then when? And if the segment can’t do it with fresh product from Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota, then who can supply the growth? (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2017

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Braun Ability Van

One in five Americans lives with some sort of disability, per the U.S. Census Bureau, including 3.8 million veterans. Not every disability requires a customized vehicle, but the minivan has become the ideal solution for those who do.

BraunAbility has worked since 1972 to adapt vehicles for those who need them, and unveiled its new upfitted Chrysler Pacifica at the Chicago Auto Show.

(Read More…)

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? (Read More…)

By on January 9, 2017

NACTOY Winners 2017

The Chevrolet Bolt was named the North American Car of the Year at the Detroit auto show today. Journalists also saw fit to bestow the honor of Truck of the Year to Honda’s Ridgeline, while the Chrysler Pacifica — which is a minivan — was crowned as 2017’s best “Utility Vehicle.”

The trifecta was recognized this morning in the Cobo Center’s atrium in front of a crowd of automotive journalists and industry executives, launching the next two days of press previews at the North American International Auto Show. (Read More…)

By on January 6, 2017

2017-chrysler-pacifica-touring-l-granite-crystal-metallic7

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat myself: the minivan is the one kid hauler to have when you’re hauling more than one kid. Crossovers are the rage, certainly, but lack vertical cargo and passenger space due to the relatively high ride height. Also, a minivan’s sliding side doors are a godsend when strapping down squirming small-human cargo — especially when aided by a power open/close feature, or when parked in a tight garage.

That’s why I own a minivan — a 2012 Chrysler, to be precise. Besides the two kids, I’m often hauling family members, the kids’ friends, and/or the various implements of suburban remodeling/destruction. No other vehicle is as versatile, but I’m as susceptible to the pull of the shiny new thing as anyone else. Thus, I welcomed the appearance of this 2017 Chrysler Pacifica in my drive for an informal comparison.

(Read More…)

By on December 10, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

General Motors and Ford executives will battle it out for the media spotlight at next month’s North American International Auto Show, but that doesn’t mean Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has nothing to talk about in Detroit.

There’s still a splashy reveal in the works, but FCA has chosen the earlier Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for the unveiling. According to one report, FCA’s mystery vehicle signals a big change for the automaker. (Read More…)

By on September 16, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, and Honda produce nine out of every ten minivans sold in the United States. In a category little more than half the size now than it was a decade ago and with an ever-shrinking number of competitors, the dawn of a truly new people-carrying, grocery-getting, pickup-truck-aping van has the potential to upset the apple cart.

Two years ago, the Kia Sedona shook things up. Although the Sedona remains a relatively small player, Kia’s share of the minivan market is nearly seven times stronger now than it was two years ago.

Next year will be the turn of the Honda Odyssey, as the van with which we’re so familiar follows its Pilot and Ridgeline platform partners to market. Better than one in five minivans sold in America are Odysseys.

This year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dramatically altered its minivan strategy by confirming the top-selling Dodge Grand Caravan’s departure and by launching the supremely stylish, Town & Country-replacing Chrysler Pacifica.

The new Pacifica, a successor to the alleged minivan originator, is by most measurements the best minivan you can drive today. But a few glaring faults leave a large window open for Chrysler’s two key competitors, both of which suffer from advanced age. (Read More…)

By on September 15, 2016

2017 minivans Quest Sedona Caravan Pacifica Odyssey SiennaA long ways from the 1.1 million minivans sold in 2005, U.S. sales of sliding-door people carriers are on track to rise to a nine-year high of more than 600,000 units in calendar year 2016.

Through the first eight months of 2016, year-over-year minivan volume is up 19 percent in the United States, though an industry-wide slowdown stalled the minivan sector’s expansion in August.

More than a year after a plant shutdown in Windsor, Ontario, enabled retooling for a new generation of Chrysler MPV product — and severely cut into fleet sales — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles currently owns 45 percent of the American minivan market, up from 33 percent in the first eight months of 2015.

A portion of the credit for FCA’s resurgence belongs to the all-new Chrysler Pacifica, a direct Town & Country replacement that we’re testing this week. After forming only 25 percent of Chrysler brand sales at this stage of 2015, minivans are suddenly responsible for half of all volume at the fading Pentastar brand. (Read More…)

By on September 14, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

In keeping with my current life stage, a bunch of my friends own minivans. Three of my four siblings have each owned multiple minivans. I own a minivan.

And this week, the test vehicle at GCBC Towers is this FCA Canada-supplied 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited, with a not-at-all limited array of options. As-tested, U.S. market pricing for this Pacifica climbs just beyond the $50K marker to $50,270.

Honda Odysseys top out below $46,000; Toyota Siennas below $49,000. FCA, however, wants the new Pacifica — which adopts the name of a failed crossover that died eight years ago — to be perceived as the automaker’s premium player. Buyers who want a value-oriented FCA van continue to have the Dodge Grand Caravan as an option, at least for the time being.

But we wonder if it’s a tenable position in the long-term; if, when FCA’s Windsor, Ontario assembly plant finishes its Grand Caravan run, the Chrysler brand can maintain the automaker’s longstanding dominance in the minivan sector. (Read More…)

By on September 13, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited Billet Silver

From the get-go, the nine-speed automatic designed by Germany’s ZF in the United States and built and tuned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was deserving of criticism. It was criticism that FCA could not righteously label as unfair, criticism the automaker could not deny.

“We have had to do an inordinate amount of intervention on that transmission, surely beyond what any of us had forecast,” FCA boss Sergio Marchionne said early last year.

The nine-speed, responsible for sending power from a variety of engines to the front wheels of a large number of vehicles, became a reliability nightmare for many buyers who either didn’t perceive its shortcomings on a test drive, or didn’t care. Unless drivers ventured well beyond posted speed limits, the nine-speed wasn’t even able to benefit from its ninth gear. Surely deserving of partial blame for the Chrysler 200’s demise, the ZF 9HP was clearly launched long before it was ready.

Nearly three years since my first exposure to the nine-speed in a 3.2-liter V6-powered Jeep Cherokee, I’m driving a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited this week. It’s a stunning minivan, and at CAD $62,340, it’s a minivan with which one needs a whole week to get a full picture. Yet only a few minutes into our first drive in the new Pacifica, it was clear that FCA had finally sorted the previously dreadful nine-speed.

Almost. Mostly. Sort of. (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Exterior Front 3/4. Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Two years after it issued, and then cancelled, a request for government assistance, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles finally received some cash to help pay for its Windsor Assembly Plant upgrade.

The province of Ontario handed FCA $85.8 million ($66.5 million U.S.) today to help cover some of the cost of retooling the facility to handle production of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. Some of the cash went to the research and development facility FCA operates jointly with the University of Windsor. (Read More…)

By on June 14, 2016

2008 Mazda5, Image: Mazda

Charles writes:

Good morning Bark,

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles hired me about a year ago, which coincided with the first anniversary of a five-year loan on my 2009 Mazda5 Sport. However, I’d really like to get into a company car as a show of support, and because I’m tired of paying five-year loans on cheap used cars.

(Read More…)

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