Report: Stately, Ancient Chrysler 300 to Be Replaced by an Electric Minivan

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The appearance of the unabashedly traditional, square-rigged Chrysler 300 in the mid-2000s inspired high-fives among car lovers sickened by the 1990s Ovoid Era. It’s unlikely those same revellers feel the same way about the 300 biting the dust to make room for a tech-savvy, electric minivan.

And yet, that’s what we’re hearing. In 2020, the last Chrysler passenger car will reportedly give way to a second Chrysler minivan, keeping the shrunken brand’s two-vehicle lineup intact. If only we could say the same for its heritage.

According to Automotive News Canada (subscription required), the Chrysler brand’s dropping of the dwindling 300 opens the door for a production version of the Chrysler Portal concept car — a highly configurable, six-passenger, zero-emission, minivan-like vehicle based on the Chrysler Pacifica. The concept debuted at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.

There’s more evidence to support the claim than refute it. For starters, FCA execs, including former CEO Sergio Marchionne, were loathe to discuss the 300’s future. Discussions about the future of its platform mates, the Dodge Challenger and Charger, failed to include the Chrysler sibling. (It seems the next generation of those vehicle will likely adopt a revamped version of the existing platform, rather than a modern Italian architecture, as had been long rumored.)

Bolstering this report, in June Marchionne said the Chrysler division would become a “people mover” brand under the automaker’s new five-year plan, with Dodge continuing on as a purveyor of performance vehicles (and Journeys). Also, the extremely long-in-the-tooth Dodge Grand Caravan needs to take that eternal slumber. It was only expected to kick around for another couple of years after the appearance of the Pacifica, which rolls out of the same Windsor, Ontario assembly plant. Go figure, buyers still love the Grand Caravan.

Suffice it to say, no one expects another generation of 300. Year to date, 300 volume in the U.S. is down 14 percent, and the model’s sales barely register in Canada, its country of origin. Last year’s U.S. tally of 51,237 vehicles pales in comparison to its first full year on the market (2005), when some 144,048 Americans stopped at a dealer to pick up their retro ride.

There’s equal evidence that the Portal is a vehicle FCA wants to build. Despite its concept car trappings — doors that slide open from the middle, retractable steering wheel — the Portal served as a Millennial-focused, tech-laden showpiece. Its electric drivetrain was something all OEMs feel people desire in a futuristic new car, while features like voice and facial recognition, plus the capability of Level 3 autonomy, covered the personalization and safety angles. No one expects a production Portal to boast all of these features.

Marchionne himself claimed he wanted another front-drive, minivan-type vehicle built in Windsor to replace the Grand Caravan, using the same architecture as the Pacifica. Also, FCA needs a serious EV (that isn’t the Fiat 500e) to save face with other automakers and placate the EPA.

For now, FCA isn’t talking about future products, so this report remains under the heading of “unconfirmed.”

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Oct 03, 2018

    So basically this is the vehicle that Chrysler should have saved the Pacifica badge for.

  • CanadaCraig CanadaCraig on Jan 13, 2019

    I wouldn't count the 300 out just yet. [No matter how sure of the rumors you may be] It basically owns the full-sized 'American' sedan market. And sales are UP for 2018.