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Marchionne: Chrysler Will Get Two “People-Movers,” but Only One Minivan

Maker will respond to shifting market with 2015 roll-out.

by on Jan.17, 2013

The Chrysler Town & Country may end its long run in 2014, when one of the maker's two minivans is expected to get a radical makeover.

The company that invented the modern minivan still sees a place for “people carriers” in its line-up, but only one will be the classic soccer mom-mobile, according to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The maker currently has two models, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, that will continue in production through at least 2014, but it has been sending mixed signals about whether they will both remain in the line-up going forward as sales continue to tumble, buyers looking for hipper alternatives. Now, it appears, only one will remain, the other brand getting an alternative approach.

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“People grow out of minivans,” Marchionne concluded during a meeting with reporters at the North American International Auto Show. The challenge is to find an alternative that can maintain its appeal – something Chrysler thinks it may have come up with.

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Routan to Remain in VW Line-Up

Production to restart by next summer.

by on Dec.19, 2012

The VW Routan has failed to generate much interest in the weak minivan market.

Despite having scuttled plans to produce a modern-day interpretation of the legendary Microbus, Volkswagen hasn’t given up on the U.S. minivan market – but odds are that many potential buyers don’t even know about the VW Routan.

The maker’s current minivan model, assembled for VW by Chrysler, has certainly not set the market on fire, leading to a shutdown of production earlier this year. But the German maker insists the Routan will be back, with new models set to roll out of Chrysler’s Windsor, Ontario minivan plant by next summer.

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Volkswagen’s plan is “to offer the 2013 model year Routan,” spokesman Scott Vaizin told Automotive News, though for now there’s apparently enough inventory to satisfy the market’s limited demand. He added that it’s “a safe bet” production will resume in 2013, as well.

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Chrysler Testing Waters for Next Minivan

Four concepts but only one model, one brand will likely survive.

by on Dec.17, 2012

Chrysler tested the waters for a more radical minivan alternative with the 700C concept unveiled at last year's Detroit Auto Show.

Chrysler is testing the waters to see which of four minivan concepts will best resonate with consumers – a critical challenge if the maker hopes to retain its lead in a segment it invented 30 years ago but which has come under increasing assault from foreign-owned brands like Toyota and Honda.

The Detroit maker has seen its lead steadily erode in recent years and has been forced to sharply reduce production capacity and the number of individual minivan models it offers. Likely only one will survive the shoot-out in the design competition, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press.

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“We know not all of them will see the light of day, but we spend a lot of time studying scenarios, trying out designs that could work in each scenario so we’re ready whichever way it goes,” said Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s design director.

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Chrysler Killing Town & Country, Keeping Dodge Caravan

Chrysler model to be replaced by new crossover.

by on May.30, 2012

The Chrysler Town & Country is likely to end its long run in 2014, leaving the maker with just one minivan.

With the market for minivans steadily declining Chrysler will kill off one of its two remaining models and replace it with a more trendy crossover vehicles, according to company sources.

But the automaker has apparently reversed its original plan and will now drop the more upscale Chrysler Town & Country model and keep the mainstream Dodge Caravan, one of the original models the maker introduced to much fanfare back in 1984.

According to comments made this week by CEO Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler will also abandon the slow-selling Jeep Compass, the brand’s least traditional SUV offering.

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The apparent 2014 demise of the Town & Country underscores several dramatic changes that have occurred in the U.S. automotive marketplace over the past three decades.  When former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca revealed the original Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models revolutionized family transportation with their vast interiors and easy access sliding doors and tailgate.

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Chrysler 700 Concept Tests Minivan Alternatives

Getting people back into people-movers.

by on Jan.11, 2012

The Chrysler 700 concept hints at a radically different approach from the company that invented the modern people-mover.

They’re the vehicles Americans love to hate.  Few automotive products do their job more efficiently than the minivan.  Yet they’re much maligned and have become something that even the most dedicated soccer mom is likely to trade in as soon as the kids are old enough.  So, the once huge minivan market segment has shrunk to near-irrelevance.

Is it ultimately doomed to disappear? Unlike, industry analysts suggest, though few expects sales to recover significantly – at least not without the sort of breakthrough that helped launch the original minivan boom when Chrysler rolled out its first offerings in the mid-1980s.

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The maker, which has suffered an especially sharp decline in recent years, is hoping to find a way to recover its past glory and rolled out an extreme design, dubbed the Chrysler 700, that could point the way to a very different look for the future.

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Chrysler Recalling 250,000 Minivans

Vehicles could stall unexpectedly.

by on Mar.04, 2011

Chrysler recalls 2010 Town & Country, Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan minivans.

Chrysler is recalling more than 248,000 minivans and crossovers due to problems that could lead the vehicles to unexpectedly stall out – an issue already linked to dozens of complaints and at least two accidents.

The issue appears to be a key that may at times slip out of the “On” position, shutting the vehicle off without warning, Chrysler says, and that could lead to a crash if the problem occurs in traffic.  At least two rear-end collisions have been reported to the company, which has also received 32 direct customer complaints and another 465 warranty claims related to the defective ignition switches.

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The maker says it will formally issue a recall notice to owners of 248,437 2010-model Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan and Grand Caravan minivans.

The maker has told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as many as 3% of the minivans it produced between August 2009 and June 2010 might experience the defect, which was tracked to a part produced in Mexico.

Recalls will be made free of charge, the maker says.

Automotive recalls have been on the rise lately, last year reaching the highest level since 2004.  Part of the problem has been the crackdown at Toyota, which has experienced a variety of problems, including unintended acceleration, excessive corrosion and braking defects.  But a number of other makers have also experienced a rise in recalls, Ford so far this year recalling nearly as many vehicles as during all of 2010.

A major reason, industry analysts say, is that makers are now feeling pressure to take aggressive steps to correct issues that might not have triggered recalls, in the past, but just resulted in less public moves, such as Technical Service Bulletins.  In such instances, dealers will often make free repairs but makers won’t specifically advise customers to come in for servicing.