No Minivan, No Chrysler?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Chrysler’s one-time bailout fodder, the minivan, gets no love this time around. Auburn Hills plans on idling its St. Louis South minivan plant on October 31, a move that has drawn a protest from 600 local UAW workers. The St. Louis Business Journal reports that frustration among workers is mounting. “This membership has done everything this company has asked us to do,” says UAW officer Chuck Brodell. “We build a quality van. We made it more efficient and we lowered costs. What more does the company want us to do?” St. Louis is also being hit by a shift reduction at the St. Louis North plant that makes the Dodge Ram, causing locals to question Chrysler’s priorities. “There were 1.6 million vans sold in the U.S. in the last four years versus 240,000 in Canada,” says Brodell. “We should be building them in America not in Canada.” But the discontent isn’t limited to the United States. Minivan assemblers in Windsor, Ontario are pushing to increase production by rebranding the Caravan/T&C/Routan as a Nissan, plans which Chrysler say will never see fruition. “It’s a falsehood. I know for a fact it hasn’t been discussed,” Chrysler senior manager of communications tells the Ottawa Citizen. “Would Volkswagen even let us entertain the idea? I don’t know, contractually.” Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that Nissan acknowledges (unlike Chrysler and VW) that the minivan market has “collapsed.” Either way, don’t expect any pro-bailout photo-ops featuring Dodge Caravans this time around.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Sep 13, 2008
    1.6 million vans sold in the U.S. in the last four years versus 240,000 in Canada,” Yes, but there's also three hundred million people in the US, versus thirty million in Canada, and the Grand Caravan has generally held the first, second or third place in Canadian sales where it's not even in the American top ten, contesting the F-150 and Civic. Chrysler--excepting Jeep--actually sells well in Canada. Of course, the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo seem to have picked up the slack from discontinued shorty Caravan, so much so that there's now a "Canadian Value Package" version to staunch the bleeding. Nissan acknowledges (unlike Chrysler and VW) that the minivan market has “collapsed.” The poorly-designed minivan market has collapsed, hence the exit of the bottom-feeder GM Uptanarazzalay and Ford [s]Wind[/s]Freestar. The Quest had the dubious distinction of looking better than it actually performed. And no, the crossovers certainly aren't picking up the slack. That said, the market is weaker, as people have questioned whether or not buying a vehicle whose capability they only use 10% of the time is a wise move, but we're certainly not hearing prevarications of this type from manufacturers of minivans that don't suck.
  • Taxman100 Taxman100 on Sep 13, 2008

    The market has collapsed because they are too big, and too thirsty. My wife and I will be getting am minivan once child #2 comes along - the problem is that other than the Mazda5, your options are big and thirsty, or big, thirsty, and expensive. Bring back a smaller Caravan with a good 4 cylinder, and we'd be interested.

  • Morven Morven on Sep 13, 2008

    It always strikes me that the easy way out for an updated model is simply to make it bigger. It's the focus-group answer; it's a rare customer who'll say that they could never use more space, and if you're concentrating on reasons why people won't buy a car model, 'not big enough for me' is almost always going to be up there. But these kind of questions always assume no trade-off, and there's always trade-off in a bigger, more bloated vehicle - something the customers are consciously or unconsciously aware of, since they didn't buy the bigger car.

  • Runfromcheney Runfromcheney on Sep 14, 2008

    "Not big enough for me". Sadly, that is true, albiet the opposite for me. My biggest turnoff towards a car is "two big" or "handlings two dumbed down".