It’s not unexpected, but it still comes as a blow. The impending loss of the Dodge Grand Caravan stands to sadden lovers of the industry’s longest running, most inflation-resistant minivan, but it’s a truly bitter pill for workers at Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant.
As reported yesterday by Canada’s Financial Post, the Grand Caravan — darling of Lee Iacocca, chariot to young soccer players for decades — will cease production at the end of May.
The minivan as we know it is not dead. Credit for the minivan segment’s still-beating heart belongs in large part to the disappearance of most contenders – so few competitors remain that a handful of remaining minivan nameplates may well still sell in six figures in the United States in 2019.
Most automakers determined years ago that sticking their forks into this pie isn’t worth it; the pie was just too small. The absence of GM, Ford, Hyundai, and Volkswagen, along with the steady rise of the family-oriented crossover, caused the pie’s shrinkage to continue. Nissan and Mazda left, too, and the pie kept shrinking.
In fact, the rate at which the minivan pie is shrinking has picked up speed. Auto sales are slowing, to be fair, but U.S. minivan sales volume in 2019 is slowing nearly seven times faster. And no, for FCA and Toyota and Honda and Kia, the whole “bigger slice of a smaller pie” argument just isn’t holding water these days.
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.
Union officials in Windsor, Ontario were blindsided Thursday afternoon by Fiat Chrysler’s announcement of job cuts at the company’s minivan plant. The automaker plans to cut a third shift at the plant, home to the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Pacifica, putting 1,500 out of work.
It will be the first time the plant has operated on two shifts since the early 1990s. According to properly pissed Unifor officials, lackluster Pacifica sales may be to blame for the move.
At this point in history, minivans have become an acquired taste. Just like fine scotch and the silkiest of smooth jazz, there are those who appreciate the minivan and those who don’t — likely due to some tragic flaw within their genetic makeup.
However, Fiat Chrysler still gets the minivan and, as a reminder to normal people everywhere that they also still sell them, has seen fit to release celebratory editions of the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan. Proud to issue a refresher that Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant gave the world its first modern minivan back in November of 1983, both of FCA’s family haulers receive special 35th Anniversary Edition models for 2019.
Granted, the math isn’t perfect. But you can’t waste time celebrating a segment that’s only slightly healthier than your average retirement home resident.
The only minivans coming out of Detroit these days aren’t actually rolling out of Detroit, but a plant a stone’s throw from the Detroit River, on the Canadian side. Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant, home to the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan, will go dark for two weeks starting on New Year’s Eve, presumably to manage inventories.
Short-lived shutdowns are commonplace at the plant, where workers assemble one of the newest and undoubtedly the oldest minivans on the market. The latter vehicle, while likely not having much of a future, certainly has a fan base. It’s not giving up on the model, and sales figures show it.
You don’t need a family to own a minivan, it just helps avoid a series of awkward follow-up questions. However, regardless of whether you’re riding with your complete progeny or your only friend in the world, you probably hope your vehicle has your back in the event of an accident.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test separated the wheat from the automotive chaff ever since its introduction in 2012. The test imagines what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an stationary object, focusing an immense amount of energy on a small area of the automobile. It’s a worst-case scenario for the structural integrity of a model and makes for a great viewing experience, as it really does a number on the test car.
Despite fielding a rather pathetic number of vehicles, the minivan segment performed pretty well in the IIHS passenger-side small overlap front crash test on the whole. However, while no outright deathtraps revealed themselves, the group still saw some mixed results.
Fiat Chrysler will idle production of both the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan for over a month in autumn. But with the latter model seeing impressive sales in the United States last month, can FCA afford to hit “pause” on assembly?
Not really, but that doesn’t matter — the Grand Caravan has to meet updated U.S. safety standards if Dodge wants to keep selling them. Unfortunately, FCA only has a 19-day supply of the minivan in reserve after an exceptional August depleted inventories. On the flip side, Chrysler’s objectively good but slower-selling Pacifica has a 108-day vehicle surplus. Wait, that’s also bad news.
At least the line workers at FCA’s Windsor Assembly Plant have have some time off to look forward to.
Would a minivan with all-wheel drive, added ground clearance, and wheel arch cladding ever stand a chance of being called an SUV?
It’s not so far-fetched. There was a time when the Subaru Outback was perceived as nothing more than a wagon, but times changed.
What about the other way around: does the Chevrolet Tahoe Grande’s sliding doors necessitate a minivan designation for America’s top-selling full-size SUV? In other words, is a full-size SUV with sliding doors no longer an SUV?
It’s all about product, they say.
Product, product, product.
When in doubt, add product.
New product, they say, will reinvigorate the American midsize sedan categor y. New product, one might have imagined, would provide an ample boost to America’s minivan segment.
Yet in August 2017, only the third month on the market for Honda’s fifth-gen 2018 Odyssey, overall minivan sales increased for just the second time in a year despite another sales decline from that very same new product, the Honda Odyssey.
Eight years ago, American consumers, businesses, and governments acquired only 10.4 million new vehicles.
Sound like a lot? The U.S. auto industry generated an average of 16 million new vehicle sales in the five years leading up to 2009; 16.3 million annually over the last half-decade.
With the overall market’s collapse, it’s not surprising to hear that very few minivans were sold. Claiming only 4.3 percent of the industry’s volume, minivans collected only 448,000 sales.
At the current rate of decline through 2017’s first seven months, this year won’t be quite that bad. But it’s on track to be almost that bad, and the worst year since.
Each week, TTAC’s basic car correspondent Matthew Guy brings you an Ace of Base article. Matt’s carefully selected examples are base models which tick many desirability boxes, proving you don’t need thousands of dollars in engine upgrades, brakes, pieces of trim, or tech packages to have good and enjoyable transportation. Overall, the Ace of Base series is positive and uplifting, presenting us with the best of the best of base. The other half of the basic coin is being ignored, however, and that’s where you come in.
Today we seek your nominations for the new vehicle which best represents a Waste of Base.
(Update: A previous version of this story stated that the Honda Odyssey was the top-selling minivan in the U.S. in 2016. The number one spot actually goes to the Toyota Sienna.)
After being granted a stay of execution, the Dodge Grand Caravan’s hazy, undefined lifespan remains a controversial topic in Auburn Hills.
The Moses of minivans continues to trundle off Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Windsor, Ontario assembly line, alongside its far-more-advanced Chrysler Pacifica stablemate. Compared to the tech-laden Pacifica, the venerable Grand Caravan offers an acceptable level of content at a lower price point, and its reprieve was in keeping with FCA’s tendency to keep money-making models around for extended periods of time. Together, the two models span the segment’s price range.
The unavoidable question for FCA is: how long can the Grand Caravan stay in the lineup?
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Windsor, Ontario, minivan factory will reportedly suspend Dodge Grand Caravan production in mid 2019.
Seats delivered from Magna International’s Integram Seating facility to the minivan assembly plant will no longer be delivered as of July 2019, according to a letter sent from Magna to Unifor. Automotive News Canada suggests that the Grand Caravan will be replaced by a crossover.
Budget priced, the Dodge Grand Caravan is currently America’s best-selling minivan. Together, the Grand Caravan and its Chrysler siblings own 45 percent of the U.S. minivan market. On its own, the Grand Caravan generates 56 percent of all Canadian minivan sales.
A long ways from the 1.1 million minivans sold in 2005, U.S. sales of sliding-door people carriers are on track to rise to a nine-year high of more than 600,000 units in calendar year 2016.
Through the first eight months of 2016, year-over-year minivan volume is up 19 percent in the United States, though an industry-wide slowdown stalled the minivan sector’s expansion in August.
More than a year after a plant shutdown in Windsor, Ontario, enabled retooling for a new generation of Chrysler MPV product — and severely cut into fleet sales — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles currently owns 45 percent of the American minivan market, up from 33 percent in the first eight months of 2015.
A portion of the credit for FCA’s resurgence belongs to the all-new Chrysler Pacifica, a direct Town & Country replacement that we’re testing this week. After forming only 25 percent of Chrysler brand sales at this stage of 2015, minivans are suddenly responsible for half of all volume at the fading Pentastar brand.