By on February 2, 2015

Chrysler Town & Country. Photo courtesy Jack Baruth.

FCA’s decision to kill off the Dodge Caravan doesn’t just mean the end of a storied nameplate. The auto maker will also retreat from a significant niche micro-segment, the affordable minivan.

Speaking to Automotive News, Chrysler brand head Al Gardner said

“The reality is that the [American Value Package] is a very difficult price point to get if you’re going to build the technology, the content, the vehicle, the platform that we want to build…At some point, those customers are wonderful customers for us, and we would love to be able to sell them something, but it may not be a Town & Country, if we look at the segment,” he said. “That price point is really hard to do, and none of the competition can do it either.”

The American Value Package, which starts at $22,390, far undercuts key rivals like the Kia Sedona, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. The new pricing structure of the Town & Country will be more closely aligned with every other van in the segment (starting at around $26,000, with the bulk of models in the $30-40,000 range), but it presents a conundrum for Chrysler.

While the American Value Package has its following, the Caravan is extremely popular in Canada, consistently ranking in the top 5 new vehicles sold. While the two vans sell about 130-140,000 units each in the United States, FCA sold 51,000 Grand Caravans in Canada, versus 8900 Town & Country vans in 2014. FCA will have to engineer some kind of replacement for the Canadian market alone, or else risk abandoning substantial volume in the country where the Chrysler van is built.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

136 Comments on “Future Chrysler Minivans Will Be Upmarket Only...”


  • avatar

    Good job, FCA. But let’s get all hot and bothered about some Alfa-Romeo vaporware available at one of fourteen existing Maserati dealers in the nation.

    Remember, Sergio, you can’t build those “sexy” power steeringless low-volume loss-leaders without the profits you earn from minivans, trucks, and Jeeps.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Huge mistake. Chrysler/Fiat is walking away from nearly 200,000 units sold per year in North America.

    People buy the Caravan based on 1) price 2) utility. If the price of the T&C is equivalent to that of an Odyssey or Sienna, then based on re-sale and reputation the Honda and Toyota will become the preferred choice.

    Chrysler has 2 products in North America with secure markets, the Jeep and the Caravan, to voluntarily walk away from 1 is an act of financial suicide.

    “The Caravan is extremely popular in Canada, consistently ranking in the top 5 new vehicles sold. While the two vans sell about 130-140,000 units each in the United States, FCA sold 51,000 Grand Caravans in Canada, versus 8900 Town & Country”

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The issue is that there’s clearly very little margin in the strippers, and they don’t actually account for the biggest part of the volume. They aren’t walking away from much as most vans go out the door in the 30k range anyway. Why not focus on the profitable part of the market instead of cranking out loss-leaders?

      • 0 avatar
        EMedPA

        Unless things have changed a lot in the past two years, the vans aren’t going out the door for anywhere near 30K. (At least in American dollars.)

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Expensive minivans are not exactly a growing market. And Chrysler/Fiat just announced a massive upgrade to the Windsor facility that manufactures their minivans. It seems misguided to invest this much money into a platform that surely will have diminishing sales.

        Now what becomes of the Dodge Journey that has relatively the same MSRP?

        • 0 avatar
          gearhead77

          I see even less Journeys than Value Package Caravans. I think I see less Journeys than I ever saw of the SWB minivans when they were built.

          I think the first Journey was so mediocre (especially the awful interior) that it was immediately dismissed by everyone. Even the substantial refresh it received can’t help.

      • 0 avatar

        Due to economies of scale, 100,000 Caravans sold at little profit margin boosts the profit of every T&C sold. Halving the production quantity could easily halve the total profit of the entire line even if you stopped making only loss making vehicles.

        There is also the “$23k specials” which get a family into the showroom, only to be up-sold to the T&C with it’s plusher seats and DVD infotainment for only $50 more a month.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          The R&D costs of a new model change the math of the amortization. That probably doesn’t favor the current pricing structure, particularly if there are other vehicles in the lineup that can be used to take up some of the slack.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          “Halving the production quantity could easily halve the total profit of the entire line even if you stopped making only loss making vehicles.”

          As I pointed out, the VP vans don’t make up half the volume.

      • 0 avatar
        akatsuki

        But the strippers and the loaded ones share a bunch of costs.

        This is a hugely dumb move. Beyond belief.

        Even more importantly, nobody in their right mind will buy a Chrysler over a Honda or Toyota at cost parity.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “Huge mistake. Chrysler/Fiat is walking away from nearly 200,000 units sold per year in North America.

      People buy the Caravan based on 1) price 2) utility. If the price of the T&C is equivalent to that of an Odyssey or Sienna, then based on re-sale and reputation the Honda and Toyota will become the preferred choice.”

      I agree. From what I recall, very few T&Cs are sold versus Caravans. Giving up on the near-$20K Caravan essentially means ceding this market to Honda and Toyota because, frankly, no one who can pay Odyssey dollars is going to opt for a Chrysler.

      The only reason the Caravan even sells is the price point. It’s fine if FCA is saying that they can’t make money on Caravans—it’s likely true—but going it alone with the T&C, which no one buys, is not wise.

      Possibly they’re avoiding a price-war with the Koreans that they really don’t want to get into in the first place?

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Agree. No one is going to buy those things at a premium unless it’s through a sweet lease deal or the boss is buying. Kiss that retail segment goodbye.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Foolish move, and just in time to give KIA a boost.

  • avatar
    Speed3

    It sounds like the real issue is that FCA won’t be able to manufacture the next-gen minivan for $22,000 and make any profit. I guarantee they would not be walking away if there was money on the table. There are a lot of variables that go into these decisions and I am sure we don’t know the whole story.

    My understanding is that Dodge will get a crossover built on the T&C chassis as a replacement. Hopefully that will help mitigate some of the volume loss and sell at better margins. Either way, how many of the Caravan sales were going to fleets anyway? Volume just for the same of volume isn’t always great.

    My solution would be to keep the current Caravan on sale to fleets and with the American Value Package for the duration of the switchover. Then FCA can decide if that package makes sense for a 2018 model.

  • avatar
    EMedPA

    Chrysler seems to be on a roll lately, but I’m not sure that losing the ability to compete on price will prove to be wise.

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      Really, they’re still pretty unreliable and Chrysler isn’t a premium brand, even versus Ford. I understand why $22K vans aren’t doing FCA’s balance sheet any good, but $40K? Sergio is getting too big for his britches.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Their first order of business should be to design a transmission that will last longer than 12K miles in ordinary, non-abusive service:

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ttac-readers-call-town-country-troubles/

    • 0 avatar
      Sloomis

      “design a transmission that will last longer than 12K miles ”

      You’re making a big deal out of a one time freak occurrence. Why, all the Caravan/T & C owners I know have easily been ably to get 30-40k miles out of their transmissions before catastrophic failure.

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      Personal vehicle: 2010 Routan, 62TE transmission, 171,000 trouble-free km so far. Regular maintenance.

      At work, I have a fleet of 7 2009-2014 DGCs, some with the 41TE, the rest with the 62TE. Only one transmission failure, and that was on one of the ’09s with the 41TE and 130,000 km of brutal urban fleet use. Chrysler does have a well-known history of transmission issues on the Ultradrive/A604/41TE, but my own experience with my personal vehicle and a cross-section of RT DGCs from various model years has been positive. They are generally well-built vehicles with good reliability records. As always, YMMV.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        That is certainly enoucraging TCragg. I love to hear the fleet operators’ feedback since they see so many and in gritty mechanical detail.

        Last time I was in Vegas, I heard one of the newer Caravans with a really scary tick, did the early run pentastar vans suffer from burned valves? As I recall a few of the early 2011 Grand Cherokee and Wrangler adopters got ‘burned’ so to speak :p

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Some of the early pentastars had valve guide issues on the left cylinder head. Chrysler extended the warranty on that head to 10 years or 150,000 miles on those vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            Firestorm 500

            The salesman started up a 17,500 mile used 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Pentastar V-6 last week while I was shopping for a vehicle for my wife.

            It had a lifter rattle for about the first 3 seconds. I was standing outside the Jeep, so it was very obvious. When I said to the salesman, “Lifter rattle” he said “They all do that.”

            I laughed at him for 10 seconds at least.

            Ended up buying a new Acura MDX Technology Package the next morning. Can’t even hear it running. It doesn’t rattle anywhere.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            Several people in our neighborhood have FCA vans, mostly of the last two generations.

            Every one of them sounds like somebody at the factory forgot to lubricate something.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Firestorm, I suspect the ‘rattle’ you heard at start up was simply the timing chain tensioner coming to after an extended period of disuse. I wouldn’t necessarily write the car off for that, but I would make sure that oil changes were done at the proper intervals.

            My neighbor’s 2006ish Xterra has a nasty case of tensioner rattle on startup in the cold, I’m afraid he’s in for an unpleasant surprise as those are notorious Achilles heels on the older VQ40s. I just don’t have the heart to tell him.

            Congrats on the MDX, there’s a very good reason they are so popular in the luxury-SUV field. They trade approach/departure angles for superior packaging and interior room, which is reasonable given how this class of SUV is used.

        • 0 avatar
          TCragg

          We have had the usual brake issues that have plagued these vans since launch. The 2013 and ’14s have been better for brakes. We do brakes annually on the older vans. The other issue we have had is corrosion of the rear A/C lines and condenser, leading to refrigerant leaks and system failure. Our vans spend a lot of time idling, and with roof lights, laptop, GPS equipment and other peripherals, endure heavy electrical loads. We use the standard electrical system with few issues. We keep buying Chrysler vans a) because we want fleet commonality, and b) whenever we go to market for new vans, the competition can’t touch Chrysler on price. We are a fleet buyer, and the Odyssey/Sienna option is always substantially more expensive. We are also not buying strippo models. We opt for the Crew model, which gives us full factory tinted glass, second row Stow and Go (which, by the way, none of the competition even offers), and a power driver seat. We keep that vans for 3-5 years, and still get decent money at auction given the life they’ve led.

          • 0 avatar
            Firestorm 500

            @gtemnykh: It was close. The JGC Limited 2014-15 has an extremely nice interior. It rode and drove very well. The ’14 model I drove had not been there very long. I have 2 XJ Cherokees and a 2006 Grand Cherokee at home, so I’m not lacking for a 4 X 4. I am a big Jeep fan, and have had many over the years. The MDX got the win for the car-like entrance and exit, the great visibility all around, and the dash was lower and not as bulky as the Grand. My wife is not tall, and she had to boost herself up into the Jeep. The MDX has more interior room and more cargo area especially with the 3rd row folded. If we have to carry a lot of people, I’ll use my Expedition.

            I had a ’99 Accord, and still use my ’02 Accord as a most-of-the-time driver for myself. I already appreciated Honda’s user friendliness and reliability, which is a strong reason I looked carefully at, and she eventually chose, the Acura.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Chrysler will be adding a three-row crossover to the lineup to replace the Dodge. One would hope that they build the minivan on the same line as other vehicles that share the platform and that the volumes can be varied to match demand.

    It seems that the minivan causes them to leave a lot of money on the table. I am guessing that a lower trim level of the crossover will be the new fleet favorite and that minivan volumes will drop accordingly (which is probably appropriate.)

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I feel like they don’t want to axe the Durango, but they don’t know what to do with it or how to use it in other ways. They needed the Grand Wagoneer version of it two years ago, and something else to build on the van platform besides the useless Journey.

    • 0 avatar

      They are going to be built on the same platform, and likely at the same plant (Windsor).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        So the Journey and Durango die? Or the Durango gets transformed into a new crossover, while the platform gets used for the Grand Wagoneer?

        I also feel like Chrysler is less forthcoming with product plans than other manufacturers. But maybe that’s just me.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          That sounds close to right. Something tells me that Jeep won’t want anyone else hogging their Grand Wagoneer platform.

          And I like that at least one manufacturer is stingy about their future plans. Keeps us guessing.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          It’s just you. Chrysler has issued a long series of press releases and five-year plans announcing its intentions.

          You should keep in mind that FCA is still relatively cash-strapped and needs to balance its priorities. There will be delays and changes mid-course as a result.

  • avatar
    Silence

    KIA are thanking their lucky stars that Uncle Sweater got put in charge of FCA.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    One word to describe this move.

    Nuts.

  • avatar
    eManual

    As an owner/maintainer of a 1992 Voyager and a 1994 Grand Caravan, I find minivans more useful than pickups. With the rear seats removed, minivans have more cubic volume than a pickup without a bed cover, and can carry 6-7 people when needed. The AVP package, without the complete Stow-and-Go, still easily replaces what’s needed in a minivan.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    The Mazda 5 could become the new Caravan then. This is the perfect timing for Mazda to roll out a slightly larger Mazda 5 priced at what the Caravan used to be.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I wonder what the margins are like on the current AVP vans? Perhaps their original purpose was to be the loss leaders to get people in the door with that low price and the hope was that most would step up to a “Crew” or R/T or something. And when it turned out that many buyers stuck to their guns and insisted on the cheap AVP, FCA wasn’t very happy. Throw in some in-warranty transmission work and some visits back to the dealer and that slim margin could turn into a loss. Again this is just thinking aloud.

  • avatar
    jameslhb

    I owned a 2012 Grand Caravan CVP with Plus and Climate options, and the OTD price is 23k CAD in Ontario. Without the options, I could have got it for just over 21K, including 13% HST.

    I liked my van so far. At 50,000 KM the only problem I had is the sticking caliper piston on one wheel, which caused the pads and rotor to be replaced prematurely (under warranty). I think the power train is solid. It is the seats that lack refinement. I would pay $3000 more to get more comfortable seats and better quality wear items (brake pads, wiper blades, tires), but would never pay Odyssey money for it. The odyssey is much more refined: quieter, MUCH more comfy seats, better MPG, better resale, etc. The panel gaps on the Caravan is also large for a modern vehicle.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    They should keep the caravan going as-is with minor exterior and more extensive interior refreshes. Keep it cheap, too. Losing the caravan nameplate is a huge blow.

    Redo the t&c as upmarket.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Definitely a big mistake, people buy Chrysler minivans over Toyota and Honda almost exclusively because of price.

    The resale of Chrysler products is justifiably horrible, they have a problem with quality and they don’t seem to care.

    Some people just like to buy new every few years, and they could justify it with a cheap Chrysler minivan, but now if you pay a bit more and get double the resale value? I expect sales will plummet.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Having shopped the Chrysler (and Dodge) vans with the imports, the value package was out there for the FCA vans, at least three per lot. But most Caravans were SE or better, with quite a few SXT’s with varying option packages. Very few R/T’s. Most Town and Country were L trim, around 33k sticker.

    Our Honda dealer had two LX model vans, but there were more EX-L or higher (35K+) than anything else. We leased a ’14 EX-L, because it was the best value versus features and was more refined than the Chryslers. Toyota and Nissan lots weren’t much different, more mid trim than low trim vans. Kia wasn’t out then.

    So if Chrysler isn’t going to offer at 21k ‘Merican special (or a Dodge model) it seems like a decent if bold plan. LX Odyssey starts at 29k with about the same equipment as a Value Package Dodge. It’s rare to see an LX on the road.

    I’m sure there is a market for people who just need a new, bare bones minivan.

    Very strange place though. Moving the T&C downmarket to replace the Dodge will be a challenge, while also being able to do the premium trims at 40k plus. But Honda, Toyota and Nissan don’t build two different vans either.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    What a bad decision, Pete Carroll’s decision yesterday pales by comparison, there are tons of Caravans at rental agencies, they will have to be replaced by something else, I don’t think this will include a “high end” Chrysler T/C

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I like that Pete Carroll comment.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Yeah, well, Wilson chose to throw the ball and he threw it ahead of his guy which allowed Butler to jump the route and make his play.

      IF Seattle scores on that play – the story is what a bunch of geniuses they have in Seattle because *everyone* was expecting Lynch to run it in.

      Wilson made a poor decision and a poor pass, he’s as much to *blame* as anyone. Butler also made a heck of a play and deserves credit for making the play.

      • 0 avatar
        James2

        This is not The Truth About Football, but a wise coach once said there are three things that can happen when you throw the football –and two of them are bad.

        Run the f***in ball! (I’m not a Seattle fan, btw)

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    They can’t stand fleet, cheapskates and bottom feeders. Look at how many words they could’ve saved by saying so. Theses are killing the segment, what’s left of it. It’s the same reason midsize pickup OEMs killed the regular cab. There’s not enough volume at the top to float the bottom end loss-leaders.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      And my question would be, why would buyers choose a T&C with Odyssey, Sienna and Sedona out there? If someone has to pay upscale money for a minivan, why not go with the best value for the money?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        If only half step up and the other half go for something else, FCA could still be ahead with less gross profits.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        It was a really close call between the Chrysler and Honda. Didn’t like the styling/ packaging of the Quest (and I could have had a decent deal since I was ending a Nissan lease.)

        The Toyota was very smooth but boring, even for a minivan. I would have liked the SE, but I don’t like 19″ wheels or the faux suede/leather in the interior. Plus the interior wasn’t that great quality-wise (though I was in a ’15 LE recently and the improvement in the interior is vast)

        The Town and Country had standard leather and other items I like having in the prime family mover. A simple $700 convenience package for the standard van that included heated seats, steering wheel and mirrors was elusive though. You had to move to the L trim for that to be common, but you couldn’t find them without the video system, which I didn’t want. So we looked at an L and rented a standard van for a week.

        The Chrysler van was pretty darn good. The steering had a nice feel to it, if a bit heavy at low speeds. The ride was quiet and Pentastar punchy. Stow and Go was nice, but my kids are in car seats, so the benefit would have been negated by the car seats. We were nearly ready to get the Chrysler until we really looked at the Honda.

        The Honda was just more refined in all regards. It’s not as quiet on the wind/road noise as the Chrysler, but the engine is more refined. The steering is lifeless, but the Honda is more maneuverable and has a better ride. I still don’t like the Honda transmission, as it can be very indecisive and slow witted, plus rather harsh. I like the more traditional style of the Chrysler, but I think the Honda looks good, if a bit lumpy. These vans are so close it really comes down to preference and price.

        But the Honda will always have better residuals, making it a better bet for either leasing or buying. Maybe the new Chrysler vans, by removing the Dodge and moving the price point up on the T&C can narrow that gap. If the Chrysler comes with hybrid technology, mild or full blown, it will be a game changer. More so if they shove a diesel in the nose (diesel electric hybrid?) but I won’t hold my breath for an oil burner.

        • 0 avatar
          86er

          Oh come now, nobody here believes you cross-shopped a Chrysler and a Honda, why, Chrysler wouldn’t sell a single unit weren’t it for their giveaway pricing structure.

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            Well, believe it or not, it’s not about the price. We could have gotten the Chrysler cheaper, but we couldn’t live with it compared to the Honda. And that was from the wife and it’s her car and her payment.

          • 0 avatar
            86er

            I know, my comment was facetious based on some of the more outrageous things I’ve read in these 100 or so comments thus far.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            86er, maybe not facetious after all when applied to the real-life situations of my daughter and daughter-in-law.

            They both shopped everything that was out there before committing to a 2013 Odyssey and a 2014 Sienna AWD.

            Chrysler/Dodge made nice minivans those years but lost out in their consideration because of well-documented reputation for pre-mature breakdowns and failures, AND the lack of retained value at trading time.

            No one likes to make a visit to the dealership for a warranty repair, no matter how minor.

            KIA lost out because of well-documented problems, cheap construction and zero retained trade-in value. Warranty was excellent but why would anyone want to test its coverages?

            A better bet would be to buy something that rarely breaks down from day one, like Odyssey or Sienna. They earned their reputation of dependability. That’s why they sell so well, even for the big bucks.

          • 0 avatar
            gearhead77

            My sarcasm detector must be frozen and snow covered, 86er ;)

          • 0 avatar
            86er

            Quite alright, gearhead – my brain feels frozen – as such, my verbal acumen leaves something to be desired.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    What this really means is that the T&C will have to move downmarket, but just it just won’t be as far down as the “$19,999” AVP Caravan. They won’t be able to sell at the same transaction price of a Sienna or Odyssey though. Expect that $26,000 starting price to have some cash on the hood.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      T&C moving down market? Unlikely! But I’ll believe it if it ever comes to pass.

      With the Dodge AVP Caravan being the best value, my guess would be that KIA will fill that void. And KIA has come a long way since day one. The contractor who delivers our mail has several minivans in his fleet, and the old Sedona is one of them.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        RAM pickup trucks come with $9K (and more on the hood). Dodge Avengers are being literally given away. I expect T&C will be discounted considerably more than the current ones in order to maintain some semblance of volume.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Nothing like throwing in another towel to the Asian minivans. Either Chrysler sees some writing on a wall that we don’t see, or they’ve developed sudden amnesia.

    Time will tell.

    Not that it matters, but I’ll never buy a minivan, anyway.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I think it’s time to re-boot the whole minivan category and make them really smaller, like the original Chryslers and not the behemoths they have become.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Prius v, c max, and a few others,can all fill that role, I think minivans are perfect as is. I also like that the Mopar vans are super cheap on the used market. They make the perfect family and utility vehicle all in one.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      As a Mazda 5 owner, it’s just not practical enough as a full service “minivan”. Granted some practicality was given up for style/packaging, but it’s a people or stuff preposition in the Mazda. Our Odyssey does everything our 5 does, but it does it better. We can go to Costco or an amusement park with the grandparents in one car because adults will fit in the third row and still allow space behind the seat. We can put all of our vacation stuff in it without needing a roof box or anything like that. The Honda is comfortable, it will cruise 80 mph effortlessly and still get 22-25 mpg doing it.

      The Mazda can, but it’s working much harder. The downside is the Honda is larger, but still fairly maneuverable. Fuel mileage is worse on the Honda, but the 2.3 in the Mazda isn’t that efficient. Not in town and not in the hills where I live. And the third row in the Mazda is kids only, plus there is little space with the third row up. The Mazda is noisy and much stiffer than the Honda.

      Besides, the 5 didn’t sell well, neither did the closest competitor to it in the US, the Kia Rondo. In this age of the CUV, it’s a limited market at best, unless the stigma of the sliding door goes away.

      Point is taken about our large vehicles, but I parked our ’14 Odyssey next to a first generation Odyssey. As a family man in the age of distracted driving, I’ll take a bit more vehicle for protection.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Agreed with nickoo, the market has spoken in favor of 200′ long minivans. Remember the small minivans? Chrysler SWB, 1st gen Honda Odyssey, 1st gen Toyota Sienna, 2nd gen Kia Sedona SWB, Mazda MPV? All kaput, and the Mazda 5 (best thought of as a 4+2 slow station wagon) goes goodbye later this year.

      The current US minivans are just right, not too long nor wide, yet large enough on the inside to fit 7 or 8 + luggage. They all have 250+ hp V6’s. You want a small 3 row vehicle? that’s the Nissan Rogue, minus the spare tire.

  • avatar
    gasser

    Makes sense only if the new crossover is built on the same platform in the same new, expensive plant. Otherwise you’ve increased your fixed costs and lowered your volume…..not the best formula for profitability.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Abandoning your 1 channel of non-Jeep volume to pitch minivans as aspirational vehicles… now I’ve seen it all.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    There goes my dream of a low options V6, AWD, 9-speed Caravan to be Daddy’s “MAN VAN.”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    According to the “Good Car or Bad Car” website which tracks sales figures the sales figures in the USA for 2014 are respectively Town & Country 140,054 and Grand Caravan 134,152. Add in just 8,900 T&C’s in Canada to make 148,994 and 51,000 Caravans to make 184,152 total North American sales for each. So the Caravan does outsell the T&C.

    Chrysler will probably be saying good-bye to at least 50% of those Caravan sales in the U.S. plus an even greater percentage in Canada. So good-bye to nearly 100,000 unit sales per year?

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    The Journey was built to replace the Dodge Caravan (last model year: 2007). Since 2008 the Grand Caravan has been the only minivan product from Dodge. If you can believe it the Caliber was the replacement for the Magnum, even though it’s market position was the Neon nogomobile. Women still frown on minivans like you may expect but perhaps a wise, stylish redesign of the GC on the new T&C platform will suffice. Ford no longer makes the “Windstar/Freestar/Monterey” and seems to have settled well on their new “edgier” designs. Even the Flex gets more approval than a minivan!
    You would think a major manufacturer would never walk away from a proven seller but then look at Cadillac and understand why I just bought a 2000 Eldorado ETC.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Is it just me, or has everyone forgotten about the upcoming Ram Promaster City (aka Fiat Doblo)? Like the competing Ford Transit Connect, the City will come in a wagon version with seats and side windows. Quite obviously, Chrysler doesn’t want an overlap of minivan models, with the City covering the lower end of the market, and the next T&C the upper end.

    The City is the replacement for the bottom-feeder Dodge Caravan.

  • avatar
    86er

    The Dodge Grand Caravan is an institution in Canada. It is the #5 overall seller. For scale, imagine if tomorrow Honda stopped selling the Accord in the U.S.

    This cannot be transcended by a three-row crossover offering from Chrysler Canada.

  • avatar
    DougD

    2007 base Caravan Canadian owner, I can’t blame them if they’re walking away from an unprofitable market, but they can’t blame me for passing over the T&C for the most cost effective way to get the job done. When we’re done with this one it’ll be Sedona or Journey, or ???

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      Somebody has to buy a Sedona; they sold a grand total of 708, versus 51,759 Grand Caravans.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        Most of the reviews for the new Sedona say it’s a nice vehicle, but it lacks quite a few of the convenience/storage features of the other vans. It sounds like a trivial thing, until you try to find places for stuff and there aren’t any.

        Plus, every review has said that the Sedona still suffers from the Korean car parts bin feel. The ride isn’t sorted, the handling still clumsy and nothing is tied together well. But it looks nice (subjective)

  • avatar
    hf_auto

    As a new parent, the minivan market doesn’t make any sense to me. Chrysler/Dodge had the only product that did make sense, thanks to the price. Good job screwing that one up.

    Let’s consider the customer segment. Family just added a kid and:
    * Maybe needed to rent/buy housing for one more head (avg. ~$1000/mo IIRC)
    * Depending on insurance, likely just dropped $2-4k on hospital bills
    * Incremental increases in food and utility bills
    * Either started daycare ($1500/mo for 3 days/wk for us) or one parent quits work

    If these vehicles are targeted at families with young children, it blows my mind that they’re priced in the $40-50k range (with mediocre fuel economy to boot). I’d love to see a safe, barebones option in the mid-to-high $20s.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “I’d love to see a safe, barebones option in the mid-to-high $20s.”

      It seems that very few are actually reading the story here, because that’s exactly where they’re going with the next gen van.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “It seems that very few are actually reading the story here, because that’s exactly where they’re going with the next gen vans.”

        I’m not optimistic about that outlook. I don’t think Fiatsler can de-content the T&C to where it will compete head-on with KIA. And offer KIA’s warranty, too? That’s where the Dodge Caravan AVP was the loss-leader — and they sold a ton of them!

        IMO, the KIA Sedona is where the future low-to-mid-$20Ks minivan will be, and I would not be surprised if KIA will corner the market in that price-point with a fully equipped minivan that has an automatic transmission, AC, cruise control, electric windows and door locks, pleather interior and Key-less entry to reduce potential theft.

        There still is a market for minivans, albeit smaller than it used to be as SUVs and CUVs encroach on that domain.

        • 0 avatar
          dtremit

          I’m renting a Sedona this week, and to be honest — I don’t know that Kia can pick up this traffic.

          The example I’m driving is an LX, which is the second lowest trim. With a few notable exceptions (chief among them an infotainment system which, while not particularly premium, is of this century), it’s got equal or lesser equipment compared with the Dodge Grand Caravan SXT I rented a few weeks back. And it lists for $29k — $2k more than the Dodge.

          I don’t think there’s enough content Kia can take out of these to capture the low end business that the AVP represents. They’re still built in Korea, too, which can’t help with the economics.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        ‘danio’ You seem to be the only one defending Fiat/Chrysler’s position but you aren’t supplying any facts.

        You say that the VP are not the largest part of the problem and that most vans are in the $30k range (as below). Do you have the numbers to support that? Quote: “The issue is that there’s clearly very little margin in the strippers, and they don’t actually account for the biggest part of the volume. They aren’t walking away from much as most vans go out the door in the 30k range anyway.”

        Now you say that the T&C will be in the mid to high $20k range? (as below): Quote: “I’d love to see a safe, barebones option in the mid-to-high $20s.” ” It seems that very few are actually reading the story here, because that’s exactly where they’re going with the next gen van.”

        So which is it? Will they de-content the T&C to the mid high $20’s?

        If most of what they sell is now in the $30k range then why and how?

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I’m not defending anything per-se, just stating the facts to clear up the apparent misconceptions. Just because I’m not linking you to an outside source doesn’t mean they aren’t facts. Take it at face value, or don’t. I don’t care.

          Yes, they will have de-contented T&C vans to cover the lower end of the market, reaching down into the 20s, like the post above says. The vast majority of buyers don’t buy the base model. Even poor people don’t want to be seen in a Value Package, untinted, hub capped model. The core of the market is vans priced in the high 20s to mid 30s. With a few popular options, like full Stow N Go, comfort group, decent radio etc. it’s not hard to get there.

  • avatar
    86er

    “The reality is that the [American Value Package] is a very difficult price point to get if you’re going to build the technology, the content, the vehicle, the *platform* [emphasis mine] that we want to build…”

    So they’re subtly admitting the problem is theirs, not the market?

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Things cost what they cost. If it were easy or even doable at an acceptable profit margin, you’d think at least one other manufacturer would provide it. The fact that no one else does should suggest there’s no money in it.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    It is easy to declare this a mistake but very hard to argue with the success the Fiastlyer brands have been having since the American taxpayers gave the bones of Chrysler to the Italians.

    Ya – I went there.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      Maybe it’s your Hypnotoad avatar, but there’s truth here. FCA products have only been getting better since 2011. Hopefully with all the vast improvements in interiors, powertrains,etc. came reliability and longevity improvements. The renaissance of Chrysler in the early 90’s with the success of the LH and “Cloud” cars was squandered quickly with mediocre everything.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Here’s what the Canada Value Package Grand Caravan MSRP of 19,995 has included as standard equipment. Hardly a stripped or poverty level vehicle.

    Powertrain:
    1. 3.6L PentastarTM Variable Valve Timing (VVT) V6 engine with 6-speed automatic transmission
    2. Touring suspension

    Exterior Features:
    1. 17-inch wheels with wheel covers
    2. P225/65R17 BSW Touring tires
    3. Body-colour fascia
    4. Black/Chrome grille
    5. Black, power heated mirrors, manual folding
    6. Black door handles and sill appliqué
    7. Quad-halogen headlamps
    8. Black bodyside moulding
    9. Compact spare tire

    Interior Amenities
    • Cloth low-back seats
    • Second-row bench seat with third-row Stow ’n Go® 60/40 split-folding seats with tailgate seating
    • Uconnect® 130 multimedia centre with four speakers
    • Three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets
    • Luxury steering wheel with audio and cruise controls
    • Air conditioning with dual-zone temperature control
    • Tilt/telescoping steering column
    • Power locks
    • Power front windows, driver one-touch down
    • Overhead console
    • Dual glove boxes
    • Sliding door alert warning
    • Rearview day/night mirror
    • Outside temperature display in odometer
    • Fuel economizer
    • Tinted windows
    • Front courtesy/map lamps

    Safety & Security
    • Advanced multistage driver and front-passenger air bags
    • Supplemental front-seat-mounted and rear-seat side air bags, all-row side-curtain air bags
    • Driver’s knee blocker air bag
    • Enhanced Accident Response System
    • Electronic Stability Control with All-Speed Traction Control, Trailer Sway Control and Brake Assist
    • Four-wheel disc antilock brakes
    • Active front head restraints
    • Child seat anchor system (LATCH)
    • Remote keyless entry
    • Sentry Key® antitheft engine immobilizer
    • Tire pressure monitoring warning lamp
    • Engine block heater

    If Mr. Marchionne actually believes that they can increase the cost of these by $10k grand and sell enough to make them and the new plant profitable, well then I have a car factory in Northern Ireland that he may be interested in buying.

    • 0 avatar
      seth1065

      That is a lot of van for that price in canada !! Maybe Canadians are more fugal than their friends in the states and do not trade up to higher models.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        The sub $20k price for that model is in Canadian dollars. I’m not sure about the rules regarding purchasing a vehicle in Canada and registering it in the USA (as the vast majority of transfers go in the other direction) but with current exchange rates, that would bring the price in US dollars to under $16k(?) and you would get real daytime running lights included (required in Canada).

        Granted this may show why they are leaving this particular segment as the margins must be razor thin. But a re-badged Caravan will have a great deal of problems with too high a price point.

        And yes, Canadians are more frugal than our American cousins. The Civic has been the top selling car in Canada for eons, we buy far more Caravans, hatches, small wagons and diesels per capita than in the US which is why we still get vehicles like the Kia Rondo and Chev Orlando.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    So Chrysler Canada has been spending buckets on TV ads for the value priced Grand Caravan, only to walk away from the market? Bizarre. Considering Marchionne’s connections to Canada, his lack of understanding of our market is remarkable.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I think there’s some logic here. FCA wants to re-cast Dodge as the “performance” brand, a-la Pontiac. However, I can agree that a Dodge performance brand needs a minivan as much as the Pontiac brand needed one. The meat of the market is moving to CUV’s, it makes a lot of sense to put the effort into a good CUV. While the re-do of the Journey was substantial, it’s bastardized Mitsubishi/Daimler bones really haven’t made for a competitive CUV. The re-imagined Durango is no best seller, although I suspect the Jeep Grand Cherokee pricing may have something to do with that.

    Once the minivan model is dedicated to the Chrysler brand a couple of things come to mind. One, is the model name Voyager, which is what the pre-FCA Euro version Chrysler minivan was called. I think they’re using that name for a Lancia variant, but I’m too lazy to Google it right now. A revived Voyager could be your equivalent to the GC AVP package, if FCA decides to offer one.

    Additionally, what prevents FCA from either offering a ProMaster City with nicer seats and windows or re-skinning a Fiat 500L a-la Jeep Renegade? To be honest, the ProMaster City looks too much like a plumber’s van to be convincingly tarted up without a lot of money thrown at it. But a 500L with sliding doors would be tauntingly close to the original Voyager/Caravan in size and spirit. I know I’m not the only one who would like a mini minivan again.

    I’m not really a fan of Sergio. Most everyone gives the guy credit for vastly improved interiors in a bunch of placeholder cars (which took place before Uncle Sam whored out the remains to Fiat). I think the Dart launch, in particular, was a tone deaf disaster and total misread of the small car market. That car should have crushed it’s USDM competitors, and if nothing else taken a huge chunk out of the then-weakened Civic and the then-stale Corolla. The Cherokee launch was an improvement, but it still had issues. But every launch and every new product seems to get better each time. I think the Renegade (and it’s cousin the 500L) will make a pretty good splash.

    FCA has options, but unlike the GM of about five years ago, they’re smart enough NOT to put all of their cards on the table. I can’t imagine they will walk away from an opportunity to make a buck (or loonie).

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Maybe, just maybe Nissan could take advantage of this with there next redo of the Quest.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      The 1st & 2nd gen Quest was the joint venture with Ford, with both the Quest and Villager built in Ohio.

      The 3rd Quest was Nissan only and built in Mississippi, and generally regarded as a flop.

      The 4th Quest is a widened JDM Elgrand, and its sales aren’t any better than the prior generation.

      http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/nissan-quest-sales-figures.html

      Not to mention the lousy IIHS crash testing, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nissan throws in the towel.

      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/nissan/quest

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • peteski: how can that be legal even?
  • AK: Not much of a review and even less of a photo shoot. Since the comments are carrying this post, I guess...
  • Turbo Is Black Magic: Can confirm the two best all season tires currently on sale are not on this list. Continental...
  • redapple: No. NO F ing way will i take the 16 inch center screen. I want the real knobs. No sale. I May need to get a...
  • Daniel J: I just don’t see the interior being 14k more than my Mazda 6 grand touring reserve.

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber