Minivans Here to Stay.

Well, I for one was happy to read Alissa Priddle’s story in the Detroit Free Press about Fiat Chrysler continuing to offer the Chrysler Town & Country Minivan; and maybe even hold on to our favorite, the Dodge Caravan.

As square as it may be, the Minivan-whoever makes it-is the smartest car on the road. Our favorite among all vehicles offered. I can hear you now: “What is she nuts? Surely, she jests.” No, I’m dead serious. And I am a car buff, with a T-Bird and Corvette in my garage. The best car I ever owned, though, and I’ve owned a few, was a 1998 Dodge Caravan. Wish I still had her.

I bought the Caravan pre-driven with 67,000 miles on it. Drove it for 5 years, and sold it again to an eager buyer at 80,000-some thousand miles. I’ve regretted it since the day I watched it drive away. I have a few dogs and it just made things so much easier. Supporting a stable of cars, though, isn’t cheap.

I suspect that in the future, I will again add a minivan to my fleet. Which is why I’m so glad to hear the news that Fiat Chrysler will continue building these practical vehicles.

Chrysler, according to the big wigs at Fiat Chrysler, wants to be the first to offer a plug-in hybrid minivan. If sales of minivans are down, we don’t think it’s because there is no hybrid version. Doubtful. Trends, are more than likely the reason. Well, and I suppose a little stigma for some. Ha!

Woodie Minivan

Woodie Minivan

Adding a hybrid version doesn’t seem to make sense since just last week it was reported that the sale of hybrid vehicles, in general, was down; and in some cases, some hybrid cars were being discontinued by major automotive manufacturers for that reason. But then, I’m no analyst or statistician, and could be surprised at how many hybrid minivans will sell.

Come January, Chrysler’s 2017 minivan will makes its global debut at the infamous North American International Auto Show in Detroit. As Priddle notes, the hybrid version will represent the future. Apparently, CEO Sergio Marchionne isn’t a big electric vehicle fan, but has agreed to assign the 2017 minivan the job of ‘test ground’ for consumer acceptance of hybrid technology.

It was in October of 1983 that a blue wood-trimmed Plymouth Voyager rolled off the assembly line at the Windsor Assembly Plant. I remember it well, as my sister, just beginning a family at the time, bought a brown Voyager. Then traded it for a blue Voyager and a tan one…..

FCA is making an investment in a new generation of minivans, just when other automakers are no longer offering one. Apparently, Honda and Toyota still have a market. Head of passenger car brands at FCA, Tim Kuniskis is excited about the launch of the next generation minivan. With the discontinuation of the Chrysler Pacifica in 2007, Chrysler hasn’t had a full-size crossover vehicle for some time.

The new Town & Country will be its own minivan, no longer competing with the Dodge Caravan. It’s Marchionne’s mission to stop duplication among brands, notes Priddle in her article. The Grand Caravan will continue to be built and offered for sale so a lower-priced minivan can be offered.

Chrysler admits, notes Priddle, that ‘minivans are personal’ for them. After all, it was Iaococca’s 1983 minivan that rescued Chrysler from financial collapse, bringing in billions in profits, and selling over 1 million units. The Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge minivans led the market, selling for 12 years.

Creators of a new and different segment-go Lido-the minivan was a one-of-a-kind vehicle, and oh-so-practical. According to Priddle’s article, within one month, a four-month backlog had been created. From 1983-2005, more than one million minivans were sold A YEAR-yes, A YEAR. However, in 2009, reported sales fell to 424,000 units. For 2015, sales are at about 452,000 units through November, down nine percent from 2014.

It is no secret SUV’s have taken over the road, and drivers’ hearts. I don’t get it, but then my driving preference-beside the minivan-is a performance car. Besides, who wants to be like everybody else?

With a delayed intro of the next generation minivan, Chrysler has kept to the three shifts at the Windsor plant. Apparently, which minivan brand to keep was a difficult choice for Chrysler to make. While the Dodge Caravan remains the popular choice in Canada; the Grand Caravan favored in the U.S., even though pricing was much higher.

After much thought and consideration, with input from design chief Ralph Gilles, Marchionne decided to keep the Chrysler Town & Country nameplate. The upcoming 2017 minivan will be built at the same plant as the current Dodge, with the addition of new features to accommodate the hybrid powertrain and foot-operated sliding door.

A whooping $2 billion has been dropped for the minivan remake, including a three-month shutdown to retool the plant. About 600 workers will be added to the already 4,500 workers. Chrysler’s most formidable competition is and remains the Honda Odyssey. With the best fuel economy in the segment, the Odyssey has led the minivan segment since 2007. The Town & Country and the Odyssey have been dueling back/forth over the years, only to be moved to second and third place by the Toyota Sienna. Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest also make up some of the share.

The 1983 Chrysler Minivan

The 1983 Chrysler Minivan


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