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Spy Shots: 2017 Chrysler Town & Country

Down to one.

by on Jan.05, 2015

Chrysler has some big changes in its minivan plans, with a new Town & Country coming for 2017. Photos by Jim Dunne: Autospy.

Chrysler is hard at work preparing an all-new version of the Town & Country van, set for introduction as a 2017 model.

The much-anticipated debut will cap some major changes at Chrysler. At one point, the maker offered a variety of different – though largely badge-engineered – minivans, including not only the T&C but the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, as well. From 2017, only the one model will remain, the maker developing a very different sort of “people mover” to replace the Dodge offering.

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The big challenge for FCA US LLC – the new name for the merged Fiat-Chrysler – will be to maintain demand for even its one remaining classic minivan. Once controlling more than two-thirds of the market, it has come under withering assault from a handful of foreign competitors, notably the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. At the same time, the minivan market itself has shrunk drastically since its mid-1990s peak.


With Loss of Dodge Grand Caravan, Minivan Market Keeps Shrinking

Departure means possibilities for others in segment.

by on May.07, 2014

FCA is going to phase out the Dodge Grand Caravan in 2016. The minivan segment has been shrinking for some time.

Confirming longstanding rumors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says it will end production of the Dodge Grand Caravan in 2016 as part of a broad product and brand realignment that will leave the U.S. side of the automaker with only the Chrysler Town & Country in its model line-up.

That’s a big shift for a manufacturer credited with inventing the modern minivan in 1984 and who once offered the family-friendly vehicles under a variety of different badges. But it reflects not only the changes coming as Fiat Chrysler (FCA) rejiggers its brand strategy, but also the long and steady decline of a once-popular market segment today largely disdained by American motorists.

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Minivan sales shrank by 4.0% in 2013, according to industry data, to 532,357. That’s still enough volume that the industry can’t completely write off what critics have dubbed “mom-mobiles,” but it’s a far cry from the 1.4 million minivans manufacturers like Chrysler sold at the segment’s peak in 2000. (more…)

VW Axes Routan Minivan

Move comes as last Microvan rolls off the line. But new CrossBlue Model in the works.

by on Sep.24, 2013

Gone -- and largely forgotten -- the VW Routan.

Volkswagen has taken the axe to not one but two of its minivans. Just days after confirming the end of a 60-year run for the aging Microbus, the legendary Hippie Van of the ‘60s, the German maker says it has also pulled the plug on the newer – but far less successful Routan minivan.

The Routan was the product of a joint venture between VW and Chrysler, and was little more than a slightly revised version of the American maker’s Dodge Caravan minivan. First introduced during the 2009 model-year, the three-row people-mover failed to generate much demand, sales averaging barely 11,500 a year, barely a quarter of the 45,000 and 50,000 units VW had originally hoped to sell annually.

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Only a handful of 2014 models have been produced and none will be sold to the public, according to Volkswagen.

Introduced at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, the Routan was actually a holdover project originally conceived between Volkswagen and the former DaimlerChrysler.  It came to market about the same time the German and U.S. auto arms of that ill-fated alliance broke up.


Dodge Not Going Away, Insists Brand Boss

No “master plan to consolidate brands,” insists Kuniskis.

by on Sep.16, 2013

Dodge has a "very solid future," says brand chief Tim Kuniskis, as it launches new Durango.

Despite some uncertainty over its future product program, the Dodge brand isn’t going away, insists the man in charge of coming up with its long-term strategy.

Having dropped such brands as Eagle and Plymouth over the years, there’s been growing speculation in recent months that Dodge would also be sent off to the automotive rust heap, especially after documents leaked out suggesting some of the brand’s key products might not be around for more than a few years.

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But that only suggests that Dodge, like the rest of the Chrysler Group, is trying to get a better handle on its overall line-up and end product duplication – badge engineering, in industry-speak – insists Tim Kuniskis, the President and CEO of the Dodge brand.

Getting rid of Dodge, “is not a part of a master plan to consolidate brands,” the executive said during a media preview of the new 2014 Dodge Durango in suburban Los Angeles.


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.


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.


Ford Back in the Minivan Game with New Transit Connect Wagon

But new 7-seater is 1st in segment to top 30 mpg.

by on Nov.13, 2012

Ford will offer a minivan of the updated Transit Connect in 5- and 7-passenger configurations.

Ford has had a troubled history when it comes to minivans – first rejecting the design that instead became Chrysler’s industry game-changing Voyager and Caravan models, then fielding a fleet of me-too designs that never caught on with consumers.

Now, after being out of the segment for a half-decade Ford is making its return with a 7-passenger version of its European van dubbed the Transit Connect Wagon. It will provide a more traditional, van-like alternative to Ford’s bigger “people-mover,” the Flex.

“Transit Connect Wagon gives young families and people on the go the fun-to-drive and efficient vehicle they’ve been looking for,” said Mark Fields, recently named Ford’s new Chief Operating Officer and the outgoing Ford President of the Americas. “It’s an all-new, smaller seven-seater that has better mileage than larger vans and creates a segment of its own. Customers also will love the unique combination of style, adaptability and affordability this wagon brings.”

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The Transit Connect has been offered in the U.S. market for several years but until now, the focus has been on commercial and fleet users, rather than on retail buyers. The personal use market becomes a major target as Ford rolls out an all-new update of the Transit Connect previewed several months ago at a company-wide product event in Amsterdam.  European buyers have had the option of buying a van-like Transit Connect called the Tourneo.


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.


Chrysler Developing “Hydraulic” Hybrid Drivetrain

Maker also planning more conventional hybrids for new 300, next-gen minivans.

by on Jan.19, 2011

Chrysler's minivans will get a new hybrid driveline in 2013, said CEO Marchionne.

With the help of the EPA, Chrysler plans to develop an unusual “hydraulic” hybrid system that could prove particularly effective at bumping up the fuel economy of its larger passenger cars and light trucks.

The maker intends to have the new technology ready to demonstrate by 2012, about the same time it will begin rolling out a new, more conventional battery-electric hybrid system that will first appear on the new full-size 300 sedan and various Chrysler minivans.

“Hydraulic hybrid vehicle technology is one more promising path worth pursuing in the effort to reduce our carbon footprint, and we are excited to partner with the EPA to push forward on this track,” said Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, during an appearance at the Environmental Protection Agency lab in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he met with EPA Director Lisa Jackson.

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Hydraulic hybrid systems are not entirely new, having found use in industrial applications, including large delivery trucks.  Where conventional automotive hybrid systems recapture energy normally lost during braking, storing it in an onboard battery pack, hydraulic hybrids use a pump to store energy in a special accumulator, at pressures of up to 5,000 psi.


First Drive: 2012 Ford C-Max

Getting the max out of the minivan.

by on Dec.20, 2010

Ford introduces a hands-free liftgate system on its new 2012 C-Max.

When it’s time to set up a joke on late-night television, there are several things that will always get you a laugh.  Mention New Jersey, for one.  Or minivans.  The much-maligned people mover is seemingly a stand-in for everything worth jibing about with suburban American life.

Which is funny because, when it comes down to practicality, perhaps no vehicle more serious about doing its job than the classic American minivan.  They’re roomy, safe, practical, efficient and, well, try to squeeze nearly as much stuff into the back of an SUV, or simply get the kids in and buckled up without that signature sliding door.

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Which is why, despite the most dire predictions, the minivan market hasn’t dried up and blown away. If anything, it’s regaining strength after hitting last year’s segment low – and giving hope to Ford Motor Co. that its newest offering will finally help the maker capture a solid share of what it prefers to call the “people-mover segment” with the all-new 2012 Ford C-Max.

Call it what you will, but this compact 7-seater could finally give Ford a shot at buyers who have long ignored offerings like the Windstar and Freestar (Click Here for more.) And if we see the serious run up in fuel prices many predict, the C-Max could become a serious alternative to the bigger minivans that currently comprise the vast majority of what’s available in the U.S.

The 2012 Ford C-Max is surprisingly roomy, despite its compact footprint, attractive, affordable and fuel efficient.  It also offers a number of interesting innovations – including a new hands-free liftgate that we expect competitors like Chrysler, Honda and Toyota racing to reverse-engineer.