By on July 25, 2013


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.


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44 Comments on “Chrysler Changes Product Plans Again, Extends “Sell-By Date” Of Avenger, Caravan, Wrangler...”

  • avatar

    I need a Chrysler 300 SRT8 made of aluminum so that it’s lighter and makes 500HP while managing to get more than 20 mpg. Get on it!

    • 0 avatar

      A product like that already exists. In fact, I think you own one…

    • 0 avatar

      That’s great, but I couldn’t care less about a 500HP sedan. Sedans are lousy for kid hauling, and 20MPG is laughable for my purposes.

      Now that I’m happy with my Sienna and Prius, I’m officially waiting until I can afford a Tesla Model X. But my secret car-crush is a Wrangler Unlimited.

      Wranglers appear timeless, which has got to reduce the incentive to update the styling. I expect that a styling update isn’t going to be a big factor for most Wrangler buyers. The updates would likely grow the market for Wranglers – but if they’re running at capacity, putting that off for a bit means that they print money. The car business is a business where you spend darned near a billion dollars to build a factory and design the platform, and make it back one car at a time. If you can sell the same car for a couple of extra years, that’s free money. And, if the extra time allows them to sell a better engineered Jeep in the future, that’s a double win.

      Higher MPGs and a turbodiesel might be required to sell one to me personally – but judging by the lack of depreciation and the ever-increasing number of them that I see, selling more of what they have is a great way to increase Fiat/Chrysler’s ROE for their existing factory. This is probably a good move for Fiat/Chrysler.

  • avatar

    Diesel Wrangler pickup?

  • avatar

    Wrangler pickup?

    Is it based on the AEV brute? That’s one hell of a nice truck, but not at the close to 100 grand they want for one. It’d be awesome to get one from the Heep factory for about 40 grand, instead.

  • avatar

    If you’re concerned that people hold on to old Wranglers for too long, an air suspension is a great way to fix that.

  • avatar

    ” the Jeep Wrangler, which is said to be undergoing a radical redesign..”

    This is not what Jeep people like to hear, delaying this is probably a smart move on Sergio’s part. The Cherokee sacrilege will take time to get over, though I think it was a premature knee-jerk response

    • 0 avatar

      Asking eurotrash fruitcakes to redesign an American Icon like the Wrangler is like asking the FIAT 500 design team to pen the next generation RAM pickups.

      Sergy knows that he’s stepping into waist deep guano if he thinks he can get his European engineers to successfully overhaul the only Jeep that stil sells. But he’s an arrogant little prick and when he does finally approve the next “mocha pop Wrangler urban fashion excitement vehicle,” Jeep sales will be dead.

      • 0 avatar

        “…Asking eurotrash fruitcakes to redesign an American Icon like the Wrangler is like asking the FIAT 500 design team to pen the next generation RAM pickup…”

        But really, what do you think of changing the basic Wrangler design?

        Says the hypocrite that will whine incessantly should they shrink or wrong-wheel drive the next 300/Charger

        • 0 avatar

          I’d argue that there’s nothing to change.

          The Wrangler sells because it’s the only open top real 4×4 on the market.

          Aside from stuff mandated by new government regulations and better engine/tranny offerings, one of the strongest selling points of the Wrangler is that it’s an open top, bathtub body, no BS, live-axle off roader that can still be bought bare-bones with an MT, then customized with an endless array of aftermarket parts for actual off road use.

          As much as I hate to use the term, it’s a true lifestyle vehicle for people who actually need a proper off roader, and is part of a vanishing segment of vehicles populatd by about half of a dozen offerings like the Xterran FJ Cruiser (most of which are dying out).

          Jeep pretty mych has cornered the market with the Wrangler because it’s now the only one of its kind out there. If you screw with the formula of what makes a Wrangler a Wrangler, it will not sell.

          The only Chrysler products I’d ever consider buying are the RAM and Wrangler–and neither would benefit from a European designer’s touch. The mindset of what Europeans want out of a car and what Americans want out of a true off roader is so polar opposite that no good can come out of such a merger of thoughts.

          Or to put succinctly, TL,DR… Refinement has no place in the Wrangler.

          • 0 avatar

            Who said anything about Europeans messing with the Wrangler anyways? Last I heard there were a bunch of job ads posted IN AMERICA for positions relating to the new car. Unfortunately, CAFE and other regulations mean changes will come. But from the looks of things, they aren’t going to be too severe, and others, like the diesel variant, are welcomed.

      • 0 avatar


        Care to elaborate?

    • 0 avatar

      What “Jeep People” like to hear doesn’t mean a damn thing to Sergio, nor should it. :-)

      “Jeep People” complained when the flat fenders disappeared, complained every time the CJ2/5/8/6/7/5/3/0/9 got longer and wider, complained about the square headlights on the YJ, the coil springs on the TJ, and the plastic handles on the JK.

      Very very few of these “Jeep People” buy new off the lot. Most of them buy from “Non-Jeep People” 5-10 years later and use the aftermarket (or a hammer, saw, and welder) to make their jeep what they wanted anyway.

      None of the engineering changes detailed in the linked TFA seem to indicate changes to the basic formula of the wrangler, which is a 4WD-Off-Road-Capable-Convertible-Body-on-Frame-Small-Truck.

      Lighter frame with more modern materials? Great! Lighter Panels? Great! New hood clips? Who gives a f… err… Great!

      The diesel? Well, that’s a pretty big change, that can only lead to…

      …more torque and better fuel economy? Great!

      As to Sergio putting off the new Wrangler? Well wouldn’t you? Chrysler already sells every one that comes off the line, despite “Jeep People”. Might as well maximise the ROI on the investment, and use the additional time to more extensively refine the newer models.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, but it’s the “Jeep people” who tell the posers to buy the Wranglers new so when they grow tired of them the “Jeep people” are right there to snag those deals on barely used off-roaders… it’s all part of the plan, man

        • 0 avatar

          Dude… we don’t talk about that. Just like we don’t talk about the noise, the abysmal fuel economy, and terrible road manners and the…

          …I mean, err… go buy my.. your new jeep. You’ll love it!

      • 0 avatar

        The air suspension is conspicously absent from the list of “greats”.

        • 0 avatar

          Gotta admit I’m skeptical on that one. But if it works out, I see adjustable ride heights in our future. And if it doesn’t, the aftermarket will fix it.

          For any other vehicle I’d have my doubts. But the wrangler? Yeah. If it’s broke, they’ll fix it.

  • avatar

    Sergio must see a continuation of subprime demand…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Chrysler should let the Durango go after the full-sized BOF SUVs from the competition—as they’re already doing—while making the Journey more competitive with the Pilot, Pathfinder and Highlander.

  • avatar

    The man is playing cards, darts and whack-a-mole at the same time.

    This is a bluff to devalue Chrysler Group’s successful bread-and-butter and boutique lines to purchase the whole more affordably. Nothing more.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that’s a best case scenario.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m afraid so, yes.

      So far we only know about old models being extended — I expect that as a next step we’ll see the new model launches (200 and Caravan replacement) pushed back as well in order to conserve cash. It would completely fit the Marchionne pattern.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem is, Sergio is stuck between the need to jawbone the UAW VEBA on price, and the need for Chrysler to keep making money so he can afford to buy the rest of Chrysler through borrowing, with Chrysler income to pay back the loans (and keep Fiat from going under).

      There’s a next step, combining Fiat and Chrysler into a company that is neither Fiat nor Chrysler, and going public, using the IPO proceeds to finance future product and pay off the Agnelli family. That will extricate Fiat from Italy, it’s unions, and its slowly shrinking base market, but buying the VEBA’s 41.5% at a bargain rate while keeping Chrysler healthy enough to be the cash cow is going to be a neat trick.

      As far as weakening Chrysler’s lineup is concerned, I really think the simplest explanation for his strange product plans is that he doesn’t know cars or how to market them. That might not matter if this is all a way for the Agnelli family to get out of the car business. Then what Sergio is trying to engineer is a pump and dump for them.

      • 0 avatar

        No, what it’s about is not spending hoards of money on redesigns, especially the bread and butter money makers. By holding off on those redesigns he’s saving billions. Notice the most iconic and the least needed to change are way off into the future. It’s going to be interesting to see if he can keep sales up with just minor refreshes. He’s also got to be careful in not having the complete line needed to have new designs all at the same time.

  • avatar

    I’m all for greater fuel economy and lighter weight in the new Wrangler but if Fiat cuts the roof off of a 500 and adds an extra inch of ground clearance ala Cherokee it will be a sad day indeed.

    On the bright side neutering the Wrangler could breathe new life into the off-road SUV market by prompting other manufactures to move in and fill this very popular niche.

  • avatar

    I love how this whole thread has revolved around the Wrangler.

    Caravan – awesome, I see it selling in great numbers and even our resident “tame racing driver” loves it. It helps that Toyota and Honda want to charge an arm and a leg for their vans.

    Avenger – a car that has now reached the point of the old W-Impala. Cheap, unloved, and (in V6 form) hauls butt. Routinely embarrassing the Dart by outselling it just as the Impala embarrassed the Malibu by outselling it for a few years.

    • 0 avatar

      Eh. I like Chysler and Dodge way more then most. But I am concerned that their development time line is just way to slow. The only real new car they released has been the Dart – and is the Dart GT even here yet?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Well, talking about new products. The Wrangler in the photo is the exact colour my 95 Cherokee Sport was, those rims are the exact rims as well with same huge amounts of lead to balance them.

    I wonder if the Jeep still run the same Koni shocks as well.

    If Fiat wants to do something, they should get the Rampage concept and drop it onto a full ladder frame chassis, call it a Dodge and take on the global midsize market (it has to be reliable and durable). Fiat have a great range of little diesels to use in it as well as some V6s.

    • 0 avatar

      I saw what you’re talking about on the street a few years ago, but not quite how you envision it. Somebody got an old short-wheelbase Caravan and peeled off the roof from behind the driver’s seat to the back door, removed the windows, and built a divider between the front “cab” and the “box”. That was done on old 1960s A100’s by the factory, and I think Ford made some Econoline pickups too. The Caravan pickup I saw was FWD though, and I saw it from the driver’s side, so no idea how the builder handled the sliding door.

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