Junkyard Find: 2009 Volkswagen Routan

Badge engineering! Always near the top of my search list when poking through car graveyards, obscure examples of marketing-inspired rebadgitude will jump right out from the ho-hum ranks of Elantras and LaCrosses in any yard. I haven’t managed to find a discarded Suzuki Equator yet, sad to say, but I have documented such rarities as a Mitsubishi-badged Hyundai Excel, an Isuzu-badged Chevy Colorado, and a Dodge-badged Renault 25. Today we’ll visit one of the most puzzling examples of badge-engineering history in the North American automotive marketplace: the Volkswagen Routan.

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Is This Dodge Caravan Pickup the Worst Custom Ever Built?

There aren’t too many vehicles that can really heat up the bile in your stomach like a botched custom. The Plymouth Prowler isn’t for everyone and the Mustang II is an acquired taste, but neither elicit the negative response of a customized El Camino donk riding on 27-inch wheels with a Dora the Explorer paint job.

However, donk culture includes a community of enthusiasts who love their vehicles dearly. Some people see a malaise-era classic cruising on wagon wheels and representing their favorite candy, soft drink, or television show and think it’s glorious. Loads of donks and hi-risers are tastefully executed each year. You can make a case for almost any custom, no matter how heinous it is to your own sensibilities.

There are, of course, exceptions, and the Caravan Pickup custom abomination seen above is assuredly one of those. I was getting coffee when news of this abomination reached me. My phone vibrated to indicate I had received a text message from a friend who shares a mutual interest in cars. “Dude, you’ve got to see this thing,” it read. “But I hope you’re sitting down.”

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Minivans Sales Show Some Buoyancy in the U.S., but Only Because of Two Automakers

You’d think the advent of dedicated electric vehicle platforms would breed a new era of flat-floored minivans, but most automakers just aren’t interested in going that route — internal combustion or otherwise. There’s no electric Chevrolet Venture on the horizon, nor will Ford resurrect the Aerostar in EV form and name it after a late ’60s muscle car.

Even in our clean, green future, SUVs reign.

The present, however, hasn’t abandoned the minivan, even if the segment is a shadow of its former self. March minivan sales in the U.S. topped that of last March, and year-to-date sales are up compared to 2017, despite the disappearance of two nameplates. Unlike SUVs and crossovers, however, there’s just not enough demand to put wind in every minivan model’s sales. It’s easy to imagine a near future where Fiat Chrysler and Honda own the segment.

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QOTD: Were There Any Lustworthy American Cars Built Between 1979 and 1989?

Earlier this week, our Junkyard Find was a totally rad 1989 Chevrolet Camaro RS, complete with interesting personal touches applied by an owner who was quite familiar with taste and elegance.

In the comments, things quickly turned to the nature of the automobile during a dark and Malaisey period — 1979 to 1989. A question bubbled to the surface for me: Were there any lustworthy American cars made in that period? Let’s find out.

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FCA to Dealers: Better Stock Up on Grand Caravans Now

Chrysler’s minivans have been a never-ending beacon of purity and goodness for over thirty years. Less so lately, but the segment remains an important part of the FCA lineup. Intended to replace both the Chrysler and Dodge minivans, the Pacifica did not outsell either at launch. While Pacifica deliveries eventually eclipsed the Town & Country, it was really only due to the venerable model’s extermination. Meanwhile, Dodge’s Grand Caravan continues as the stronger seller and remains a popular option for rental fleets.

This has convinced Fiat Chrysler to extended the Caravan’s death date more than once, but it won’t last forever. In fact, it’s about to suffer a sort of prelude to non-existence as production will go on an extended hiatus in mid-August and won’t resume until December, when the 2018 models appear.

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Piston Slap: Upgrading The Fleet?

Anonymous writes:

I have a question about fleet replacements. Currently, we have a vehicle fleet that includes:

  • 2010 Ford Explorer, 103k miles
  • 2006 Ford Crown Vic, 78k miles
  • 2006 Buick Lucerne, 82k miles
  • 2005 Chevy Impala, 76k miles
  • 2014 Ford Explorer, 40k miles
  • 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan, 65k miles
  • 2008 – Ford Crown Vic, 70k miles
  • 2011 Chevy Impala, 18k miles
  • 2014 Jeep Patriot, 28k miles
  • 2014 Jeep Patriot, 18k miles
  • 2014 Jeep Patriot, 23k miles
  • 2011 Chevy Impala, 46k miles
  • 2007 Dodge Caravan, 123k miles
  • 2012 Chevy Impala, 24k miles
  • 2012 Chevy Impala, 22k miles

Our budget only allows to replace nine vehicles with a 2014 equivalent version of each.

What would you decide to keep and replace? What guidelines would you consider?

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NAIAS 2016: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica - This Is (All of) It, a Caravan for Town & Country

Persistent rumors of the Chrysler Town & Country’s demise have proven true. Going further, the House of Marchionne has dug through its list of historical nameplates to pick a moniker for the minivan’s successor

Chrysler is resurrecting the Pacifica name to affix to the derriere of the next-generation people hauler, a name we last saw on the short lived three-row crossover from 2004 to 2008. Thankfully, the new Pacifica shares nothing with its earlier namesake, and only the good stuff with its Chrysler and Dodge predecessors.

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Santa is Real And He Delivers Toys in a Dodge Caravan Sleigh

Myron Benford has been delivering toys on Christmas Eve to children around Detroit for more than four decades. The 71-year-old man converted a Dodge minivan to look like a sleigh, complete with reindeer welded to the front, that seemingly “floats” on snow. He hands out 200 to 250 toys to children who need Christmas, he told the Detroit Free Press:

Oh, it’s a year-round commitment. People think it’s just for one day. I’ve been preparing for this all year long. The day after Christmas I start packing up more toys, trying to wrap up more toys. Trying to find closeouts and so forth and all. So that when I come here, I’m ready to service any kid I see out there on the street.

Benford is Santa.

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Doug Drives: Is Old-School Rebadging Dead?

So I got up behind a Dodge Grand Caravan the other day and I started thinking about my youth. This is because, in my youth, the Dodge Grand Caravan was an acceptable vehicle to drive, and not something you were stuck with when Enterprise ran out of full-size sedans.

There are two reasons for this: 1. Back in the day, the Dodge Caravan didn’t really have any competitors, so we didn’t really know that there were better options out there. Honda had the hinged-door Odyssey. Toyota had the weird-ass Previa. It was a mess; more importantly, 2. There were so many different versions of the Dodge Caravan that you were pretty much stuck buying a Dodge Caravan even if you actively avoided buying a Dodge Caravan.

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Chrysler Vans Sitting Idle As Oil Boom Robs Rail Capacity

Several hundred Chrysler minivans are stuck indefinitely on a piece of prime Detroit real estate, unable to be transported across America. The reason? The fossil fuel boom in Canada and the United States is hogging much of the available rail capacity needed to transport the vans.

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Chrysler Changes Product Plans Again, Extends "Sell-By Date" Of Avenger, Caravan, Wrangler

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.

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Trackday Diaries: You Should Buy a Minivan.

Chrysler’s Pentastar-powered minivan is, truly, madly, deeply, one of my favorite vehicles. My first meeting was with the high-buck Town and Country, followed by a very long drive in a Caravan SXT. Great vehicles, both of them, and worth the money.

Unfortunately for Chrysler’s profit margins, however, the economic outlook in this country for actual working people continues to nose-dive. The company’s fighting back with a $20,000 (after incentives and discounts) “America Value Package” Caravan. That’s right: for the price of a Honda Civic EX, there’s a 283-horsepower, seven-seater van with keyless entry available. To get a sense of whether such a proposition holds any interest for those of us without five children and a slim budget, I rented a 2012 Caravan with slightly less equipment than what you’d find in the 2013 Value Package, and took a little thousand-mile Tennessee excursion.

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Report: CAW Will Target Chrysler For Strike

The Canadian Auto Workers union is expected to target Chrysler in the event of a strike, but will reportedly wait until Labor Day before taking action.

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Can 187,586 Buyers Be Wrong? Consumer Reports Thinks So

“Just because a car generates a lot of buzz or is a best seller doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice for you. The five models here may be on a lot of buyers’ shopping lists, but we suggest you steer clear…”

So says Consumer Reports with respect to their list of “Five popular cars to avoid”. CR says that the vehicles “…didn’t perform well in our testing or they suffer from subpar reliability,” and that’s reason enough to stay away. I’m not entirely convinced.

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Piston Slap: Come and Dance With…who???

Chris writes:

Dear Sajeev,

Love the website and love your reading your column. My question is I am looking to get a minivan within the next 6 months to a year. I am only looking to spend around 8 grand on one. I am leaning heavily towards Chrysler’s vans, and found some really great deals on older ones with low miles. But then I read your article about how it’s not always good to go with older, low mile automobiles. So would I be better to get say, a 2002 model Town and Country, with a little over 100 hundred thousand miles? Or should I not even bother with Chrysler at all? I was leaning towards a Windstar as well, but then there’s that whole rear axle breaking thing, and I quite enjoy living. In your personal opinion what is the best minivan for my budget.

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  • Zipper69 It worked in London, because the center of that city is a medieval layout ON TOP of a Roman layout, both designed for horse drawn traffic.Manhattan's grid and the available public transport options are a different matter.
  • Jkross22 To give a sense of priorities, Oakland has had a 50% jump in car thefts from last year. 40 cars per day are stolen in Oakland. Also in Oakland.... the city has a shortage of 911 operators so if/when you call, you're SOL. That is because they are saying no one is applying to the open 911 jobs. When an audit was recently done, over 1000 applicants applied to the 911 jobs, but no one had contacted them. Any of them. HR still earns the term "human remains". After Xi Xingpeng returned to China from his SF visit, all of the homeless people returned to the streets of San Francisco. They were all magically whisked away for his visit, something our governor was quite proud of doing. Makes you wonder why SF residents can't get that kind of treatment everyday. With all of the big problems solved, CA reps can focus on the real problems in the state.... making those MAGA rural volleyball team buses go all electric no matter whether EV buses make sense or not. And this guy wants to be president.....
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh Dear whiny people .. keep a small number of diesel busses. replace the rest .. my god people like sticking poles in their own bike spokes...
  • Canam23 I moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and the air was barely breathable. Thanks to the mandating of pollution controls and the work of the Air Quality Management District, it's 100% better today. When the first pollution targets were set in the 70's, Detroit moaned that it would be impossible to achieve, meanwhile the Japanese sat down and figured out how to do it. As a result of the constant strengthening of the anti pollution laws, our air is much less dangerous for our children. Furthermore, engineering has now created very clean, powerful and efficient engines. So Stellantis, I'm not buying it.
  • Random1 So several of the interboro crossings are cheap: Brooklyn bridge, Manhattan bridge, Madison Ave, Willis/3rd Ave. One or two others I think.$18 is weirdly cheap, but "early bird" all-day parking is easily under $25 at many, if not most, places. That garage is actually on 62nd St, so I might be able to still drive in post-congestion, but I can't imagine they won't jack up that rate when the time comes, they're gonna be over run.