No Minivan, No Chrysler?
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.
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.
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