By on August 15, 2019

Home to the Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Pacifica, and now the lower-tier Chrysler Voyager, Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly won’t see an expected shift cut next month. Instead, thanks to an uptick in volume, company brass has decided to ride out the year.

Originally scheduled to shed a shift (and along with it, about 1,500 jobs) at the end of September, Windsor Assembly will continue with its current workforce until at least New Year’s, Driving reports.

According to Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy, who met Wednesday with FCA bigwigs, the sales picture isn’t as dire as it once appeared. “This is a good news story,” Cassidy said. “We live to fight another day.”

He added, “Sales are better. They have some numbers coming in for minivans that will allow us to maintain the third shift until at the end of the year.”

The announcement of a shift cut came in March, with FCA claiming the move aimed to align production with global demand. FCA employs about 6,100 workers at the minivan plant. In the face of the crossover explosion (some might call it an epidemic), minivans have taken a hit. Those which remain in the segment struggle for any sales headway, though most are on the decline.

While Cassidy welcomes the news, he cautioned that a new model — and not just the Voyager, a low-trim variant of the Pacifica ⁠— is needed to ensure the survival of the threatened shift. The uptick in sales covers both the Pacifica and Grand Caravan, he said, as well as fleet sales.

Thanks to FCA’s decision to move to quarterly sales reporting, we don’t know just how many Americans and Canucks sprung for a minivan last month. However, June showed U.S. Pacifica sales rising 10 percent, year over year. Grand Caravan sales were down 25 percent for the month.

In Canada, the opposite was true. Buyers of the old Dodge brought about a 14 percent uptick in the model’s sales, while Pacifica volume fell 18 percent. With the Voyager not yet on sale, it remains to be seen how the strategy of splitting a van into two models works for the brand.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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35 Comments on “Beleaguered Minivan Plant Granted a Reprieve...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    She ain’t fancy, but we do love our 2016 Grand Caravan. We bought it specifically for the stow-n-go seating, as my daughter has taken to showing our dogs. I believe this is an untapped stream of advertising and sales, as the majority of us (who don’t do this professionally and don’t have vast sums of client’s money to toss around!) seem to own Dodge/Chrysler vans to haul our pups and associated gear around. Glad to see there is still life left in their production line for minivans, at least hopefully for the next five or so years until the kid goes off to college and we no longer require the vast open cargo space the GC provides.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    What with the potential stormclouds on the horizon, the GC may keep going on even longer.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Wife has a 2013 manual transmission Forester that has been excellent for 80K miles, with the exception of using 1.5 qt of oil consistently since new every 5K miles.

    When it comes time to replace it, we think we’re getting a minivan, but I cannot decide which one.

    The pricing on these Caravans is very tempting. Stow & Go seems like the best system of all the minivans. The consensus on the Pentastar seems to be overall favorable. I see them all over the place, even old ones. But can we take the FCA plunge? Is the Mopar lifetime warranty worth it?

    Then there’s the Kia Sedona. Looks the nicest IMO, pricing is also tempting, and there’s the 10 year 100K powertrain warranty. I don’t know much else about it.

    Then there’s the Toyota/Honda. I’m a fan of both companies and have owned a few vehicles from both, never had any issues with any of them…but are they really worth ~$10K more?

    After having such a good, reliable experience with her Subaru, I really don’t want to get something that ends up being a headache.

    It’s going to be a tough decision.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Yes, the Pentastar has racked up a great record. It is a thoroughly modern design, good on fuel, makes good power, and used to power literally millions of Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep vehicles world-wide. I would not have concerns about that engine.

      Another factor for you to consider is serviceability. GC is a known quantity. You will never have any problem finding a mechanic who can work on it, or have any difficulty with parts availability. In fact, you will likely have 5 different vendors competing to sell you parts for a GC. This not always the case with imports.

      As a 50 something guy who is 6ft and 230lbs, my prime decision making attribute has become seat comfort. Does the vehicle allow me to get in and out easily, and is the seat all-day comfortable? Each person’s body will respond to each vehicle differently.

      When I cross-shopped Mazda6 and Honda Accord, I found the Honda easier to get in and out of, but I found the Mazda most comfortable once I got in the damn thing. As such, I bought the Mazda. My guess is if you compare those competing vehicles based on seat comfort and ease of entry/egress, you will be happy with your final decision..since all the other comparable attributes mostly cancel each other out.

    • 0 avatar
      Brumus

      The Pentastar won’t give you any trouble, and no, the Toyota & Honda aren’t $10,000 better.

      In fact, I had a friend shopping for minivans and the Caravan he opted for was about $12K less expensive than a similarly equipped Sienna.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Stow and Go seats are less comfortable to sit in than the non-“Stow and Go” version but 2nd row passengers do not get a vote on such things.

        Given what minivans mostly get used for and that I just want a big dang box to haul people and stuff (were I to purchase a minivan) I could buy a lot of extended warranty for the price gulf between the Dodge and its import competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        Thanks guys, what about the transmission in the Caravan? How are those?

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          ” what about the transmission in the Caravan? How are those?”

          The 62TE has very low failure rates.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            They are not without failures (Tom K here on TTAC had a freak low mileage failure, another fella over at CC did too), and cracks in flexplates are not-unheard of, but statistically, they are just fine.

          • 0 avatar
            johnds

            I know 2 people who had to replace the transmission. One was covered under an extended warranty. However up in the salt belt area, everyone has had to foot the bill for the rusty A/C line that costs about $1000-1200 to repair/replace.

        • 0 avatar
          jalop1991

          @nels0300: “Thanks guys, what about the transmission in the Caravan? How are those?”

          Does it matter? Because, even the vaunted Honda can’t figure out transmissions. Or cylinder deactivation. Or turbos. Or…

          Seriously. I learned about 10 years ago, after Honda told me to go blow with respect to my transmission (they pulled completely back on their goodwill warranties after the economy crashed), that I might as well have bought a Dodge. Or a VW.

          So 20 months ago I bought a VW. GTI. No regrets. There’s absolutely nothing Honda brings to the table anymore.

          And if you’re buying because of their reputation, remember, they made that with cars built in the 80s and 90s. Come 1998, they went down the toilet.

          That Honda is still selling cars based on that reputation, speaks to the sheeple who can’t be bothered to investigate how they spend their $30K-$40K.

          Hondas are, at best, leasemobiles. Ze Germans have nothing on them for being leasemobiles.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            I think TrueDelta and CR would dispute your premise regarding Honda’s tanking reliability based on actual data points.

            But maybe that’s just me….

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “The Pentastar won’t give you any trouble”

        My grand daughter has a Pentastar V6 in the used 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee we gave her for her wedding in 2015 and it has been absolutely trouble free for her with well over 160K miles on the clock, as a daily driver in the Surprise, AZ area. Talk about heat!

        It still has the original plugs, serpentine belt and coolant hoses. Really!

        No reason to expect different if installed in a Grand Caravan.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      There are a few non-engine quality issues with the Grand Caravan that won’t leave you stranded, but may result in minor repairs or headaches every now and then. The Sienna is pretty much bulletproof, but the price difference will pay for a lot of minor repairs.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        dal that’s my impression generally speaking. My squeaky blower motor is a prime example. Cheap chinese lowest bidder crap, but my local dealer had the part in stock, replaced without any questions in a morning and I was on my way. My brother’s friend runs a 2012ish C/V variant all over Staten Island for his mobile diagnostics rig, over 200k real CITY miles, hours and hours of idling, all original drivetrain (although it is now making a bit of lifter noise…)

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I test drove and researched the heck out of the whole field before settling on a lightly used ’16 Town&Country Touring L with a bit of remaining bumper to bumper warranty, and an aftermarket extended warranty out to 4 years and 85k miles. No regrets so far, had just a few trivial things looked at while I had factory coverage (squeaky blower motor replaced, remote start doesn’t work below -5F or so due to an overly sensitive pre-start battery health check, noisy driver door hinge “fixed” with some lube).

      Honda and Toyota were my assumed end point at the start of shopping, but I couldn’t get over how cheap and ugly a lot of the Honda’s interior was, the Siennas have very inconvenient second row seat removal and a non removable front center console, finally both of these in EX-L/XLE trim were in the $24-26k range for 3-4 year old vans with 40-50k miles.

      I really wanted to find a clean 2nd gen Sedona (final year was 2014) and I do think that would have been a good fit, but I gave up waiting for a low mileage EX to pop up.

      3rd (current) gen Sedona was a good value in terms of quality for the money and used ones were priced right. But I couldn’t get over the stupid lack of removable second row, and the huge center console was obnoxious as well.

      I love how Pacificas look and drive but Touring Ls were likewise in the $24k bracket for ex-Fleet ones with about 40k. All of the forum chatter about some of the quality issues as well as poor TrueDelta/CR ratings spooked me off.

      That basically left us with the Caravan/T&C. I was (and remain) leery of the quality of these, and make no mistake there is some truly lowest-bidder parts in it, things like HVAC blend door motors crap out, AC lines leak early on, a few people have had transmission flex plates crack. But the Pentastar has proven to be a tank after the first few years of valvetrain/head issues, the 62TE trans has occasional failures but at very tolerable rate. The paint job is pretty laughable in a few spots with several obvious runs, but on the whole presents well. Shut lines are a bit hit or miss but at this point I really don’t care. We settled on a Chrysler just because I liked the way they look more, the interiors seem just a bit better in terms of door card materials (I think?), and it’s easier to find a non-fleet ex-lease car. Our was a one owner with 34k miles, paid $18k even, plus the extended warranty for $2k (I overpaid for that in hindight).

      I looked at a few 2017 Caravan GTs (ex fleet), and I could find them with heated leather seats and steering wheel for $17k, so even cheaper.

      We’ll see how it holds up through the next 45k of warrantied driving, we absolutely have been loving it so far. In idling-heavy city driving it can really slurp fuel down at the rate of 15mpg, but cruising on the highway even at extralegal speeds 25-26mpg is the norm, fully loaded up for vacation.

    • 0 avatar
      2drsedanman

      The Pentastar V6 has proven to be a great engine. I’m a fanboi/brand whore for Toyota so I’m biased though. Had a 2006 Sienna for 10 years with zero issues. Traded it in on a 2016 Sienna and zero issues with this one, too. I like the stow-n-go seating on the Caravan. But in order to make this happen, the seats are thinner and not nearly as comfortable to sit in. The seats in the Sienna are very comfortable, although heavy when you remove them. Also, even with the seats out, the tracks are still there, not making a completely flat floor like the 2006 Sienna or the Caravan. We only have one kid left at the house but friends are always coming along. Plus it is great to travel in.

      When the time comes you could always rent one and see which one suits you best. I’m just glad to see someone else have an interest in vans. Hopefully they hang around for years to come. Not everyone wants a pickup.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “I’m a fanboi/brand whore for Toyota so I’m biased though”

        I’ll ‘fess up, so am I. But that is solely because I have owned and experienced the rest – now I just want the BEST.

        Toyota! Nothing else like it for quality, value, content, durability, reliability and retained value, if it is Japan-made.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @Nels and @Gtem thanks for the postings. As mentioned numerous times, I have had 4 Caravans since 1992. All purchased new. 3 had multiple issues. The cheapest was bullet proof, but it had the old 3 speed transmission.

          I love the theory behind the Caravan. Love driving them. Whenever I rent I try very hard to get upgraded into one. In the GTA Caravans are often the most expensive vehicle on rental lots. More than full sized pick-ups or ‘luxury’ cars.

          My concern is that after my past experiences, I still worry about FCA parts durability.

          At my age and stage in life, I really don’t need a mini-van. And I plan on keeping my next purchased vehicle for approximately 10 years. But deep down, I still appreciate their price/cost, their utility, their ease of entry/exit and the fact that they are manufactured in Canada.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          “Toyota! Nothing else like it for quality, value, content, durability, reliability and retained value, if it is Japan-made.”

          Tell that to the Toy truck owners that have no frame.

          There are/were some serious rust issues on the frames on their trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Those frames were made by the UAW workers at Dana Corp, who delivered parts with skipped galvanization prep. The alternative is to buy a truck where you hope the UAW made important parts instead of China.

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          I’ve seen plenty of 500,000 mile toyotas come out of the Kentucky plant. Please stop with the false Japan only built news.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          My Indiana-made Highlander has impeccable build quality, comparable to either of my Japan-built flagship Lexuses. I have the complete service history for the car and, literally, nothing has ever failed on it.

    • 0 avatar
      ekaftan

      I have a 2011 Town & Country. First year for the Pentastar (at least in my country).

      It has about 80.000 miles. Check engine light is on permanently for a fault in the torque converter because the previous owner flushed the tranmission with Dexron V oil (facepalm). It still runs fine and check engine on is not a failure in our yearly safety and emissions inspection.

      The engine has performed flawlessly. We have it since 60k. It does eat thermostats and the plastic coolant connectors fail. There is plenty of space to work so its a 20 minute job to replace the thermostat and hoses and Amazon is full of cheap parts.

      We have shopped around looking for something to replace it with and always agree that nothing is as good as this for our 6 people family and all the stuff you carry around with small children.

      Down here Kia Sedonas are called ‘Grand Carnival’ and hold value much much better, but they are not as nice to be in.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    This is proof that FCA’s strategy of continuing to build vehicles on fully amortized platforms makes good financial sense.

    While GC earns lots of guffaws from enthusiasts, the fact remains that it delivers most of what families need in their haulers. GC also seems to be a great fit for the rental industry, as I see vast numbers of them in that world. Having rented three this year alone, I agree. I found GC comfortable, versatile–on the whole, “Good Enough.” I would be curious to see the P/L for each model car in rental fleets. I am fairly certain FCA moves them cheap (yet profitably) to the fleet operators, who are then able to invoice them at “Premium” daily rates, then sell them after 40k miles for about $18k. I bet these GCs are profit generation leaders!

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Thanks for all the responses. sounds like the major mechanicals are pretty sturdy but there are little nitpicky things that may crop up.

    That Mopar lifetime warranty covers a lot of that stuff so it sounds like it might be worth it. Especially if there’s air conditioning issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Unfortunately in Canada we don’t get the same warranties as in the USA.

      I have been told that is because in Canada the warranty applies to the vehicle and therefore is transferable at no cost to subsequent owners and that this is not the case in the USA? Is this true?

      • 0 avatar
        jack4x

        The original factory warranties follow the vehicle in the US and are transferable.

        My experience with the optional, additional cost warranties like the Mopar lifetime, (which are really insurance policies) is that they are technically transferable but this is not easy or automatic. I think most people just cancel for the prorated refund. Then the buyer can decide if they want to open a new insurance policy on the vehicle.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    C/SUV epidemic?!

    More like pandemic!

  • avatar
    JREwing

    I was pleasantly surprised by both the Grand Caravan and the Pacifica after driving them. The Pacifica is clearly the superior drive, but the GC isn’t a bad drive, particularly for the price. Both are the leaders in cargo and passenger flexibility. Really, it just comes down to reliability and cost of ownership. Having the GC in the mix makes the case for vehicles like the Transit Connect a lot harder.

    I will say that the 9-speed’s calibration, a sore point on other Fiat Chrysler models, is bang on here. I tend to be impatient with automatics in general and frequently resort to manually shifting as needed; I didn’t need to do that with the Pacifica’s transmission. I would’ve liked paddle shifters; “L” doesn’t give you much to work with, but the transmission never seemed to be in the wrong gear.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I thought the 9spd in the 42k mile Pacifica rental I had was spectacular. Can’t say the same for the 62TE in my own Town&Country, even when not in eco-mode it will upshift prematurely when accelerating at mid-throttle, do weird flare-ups (by design) when upshifting, and at low speeds “clunk” into 2nd gear. All I hope is that it holds up in terms of reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        johnds

        I test drove one at my dealer, a 17 Pacifica Touring L and the paint on the hood was coming off really bad. The dealer said they would repaint it for free before sale, but it appears this is an issue because Car and Driver had their paint flake off too.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Yep I saw that issue pop up on the forums when I was researching, hopefully the got it sorted. Hondas have had issues with localized paint failure on newish cars in the recent past as well. 1st gen Honda fits where the rear bumper meets the quarter panel and on ’13 Accords as well as I recall.

  • avatar
    ChevyIIfan

    Just bought a ’19 Pacifica Touring L+ last weekend. It was a demo model for a Chrysler executive around here, and has been in service since March. Old lady only drove is 2229 miles since March, and we got it for over $6k off sticker, when the best rebate we would have qualified for on a brand new one would have been about $3500 to 4000. Wife loves it so far.

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