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Feds Looking at Chrysler Minivans for Stalling Problem

Agency claims eight complaints, but could be more than 100.

by on Sep.12, 2014

NHTSA is looking into eight complaints about 2007 Dodge Grand Caravans that stall after refueling.

Federal regulators opened probe into a potential problem with Chrysler minivans stalling after a man complained about the problem with his 2007 vehicle, and since then they have found others about similar problems.

After the initial complaint, the query expanded to include seven more 2007 model year vehicles. No injuries or fatalities have been reported.

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However, an analysis by Reuters suggests that thee are more than 100 complaints about the problem dating back to 2008. (more…)

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…)

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.


Consumer Reports Trash Talks Toyota, Honda

Call Prius C, Civic “Cars to Avoid.”

by on Aug.07, 2012

The latest Honda Civic takes some more hits from Consumer Reports magazine.

If the well-regarded Consumer Reports has taken some criticism, over the years, it’s for being too import friendly, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell from the non-profit publication’s latest issue – where it takes the Toyota Prius C and Honda Civic to task as two of “Five Popular Cars to Avoid.”

That could be bad news for the two makers as CR does, indeed carry significant weight among more affluent, import-oriented buyers.  The Civic is a critical model in the Honda line-up but has already taken sharp criticism since its 2011 redesign, while the Prius C is the newest member of Toyota’s expanded hybrid family.

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“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,” warns the magazine.

The two Japanese makers aren’t the only ones coming under fire in the September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports, however.  The magazine also targets three domestic models: (more…)

First Drive: 2012 Mazda5

Mini to the max.

by on Feb.28, 2011

For 2012, the Mazda5 gets its most complete makeover since its '05 introduction.

American waistlines aren’t the only things getting bigger and bigger by the year.  Perhaps fittingly, our automobiles have steadily grown in size, so many models that once fit comfortably into the compact category are now classified midsize – or even larger.

That’s especially true when it comes to minivans, today’s models having grown to such massive proportions that the modifier, mini, no longer accurately applies.

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Parked side-by-side, Mazda’s newly redesigned Mazda5 seems downright puny compared to industry mainstays like the Honda Odyssey or Dodge Grand Caravan.  But, in reality, the 2012 Mazda5 remake is a full four inches longer than the original 1984 Caravan and just one inch narrower.  And like those early minivans, Mazda’s offering makes surprisingly good use of its seemingly limited space.

Packing in three rows of seats, and plenty of cargo – including some trick storage beneath the sliding center row seats – the Mazda5 puts a premium on flexibility.  But it also emphasizes styling in a segment where form usually takes a back seat to functionality.


First Drive: Honda Odyssey

The driver's minivan still offers a sublime driving experience.

by on Feb.17, 2011

The 2011 Honda Odyssey features an interesting "lightning bolt" design that improves the view for third-row passengers

The minivan wars are on. All of the major players are either making major updates to their boxes or introducing completely new models. The timing could be a good right to push minivans. With the possibility of rising fuel prices on the horizon, many car buyers will be looking for better efficiency. But they still need the space to carry a junior hockey team, not to mention their gear. They still need to be able to fold down the seats and help a teenager move up to college. They still need to bring home a new couch.

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Love them or hate them, minivans offer the most space for the least money with the best fuel mileage and handling of any vehicle type on the planet. Period. (more…)

Chrysler Will Build a Maserati SUV

Dodge Caravan minivan to be downsized; Liberty replaced.

by on Jan.11, 2011

Chrysler will produce a new high-line SUV for Maserati based on the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Auto executives are normally guarded about future product plans but Chrysler/Fiat Chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne let several cats out of the bag during a discussion with a small group of reporters from the U.S and Canada, during the Detroit Auto Show.

Marchionne confirmed he has approved a rumored plan to produce a new high-end luxury sport-utility vehicle for Fiat’s Maserati brand that will use the new Jeep Grand Cherokee’s underlying platform.

The Maserati SUV will be produced at the Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit, alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee and its sibling ute, the Dodge Durango.

Marchonne had earlier hinted he might turn to the Jefferson  North plant to build a new Maserati  ultra-luxury SUV – one of a variety of projects that will share platforms and components between the trans-Atlantic partners. The decision has now been made to go ahead with the project.


First Drive: 2011 Toyota Sienna SE

All minivan and proud of it.

by on Dec.10, 2010

The 2011 Toyota Sienna SE has a sporty vibe. Will it encourage would-be crossover shoppers to consider a minivan?

Maybe they’ve gone too far, this time. In the never-ending attempt to make the minivan cool, Toyota has taken the Sienna over the top.

At least it doesn’t look like a minivan trying to look like an SUV. Nope, this box is minivan through and through. But hung on that box are all sorts of air dams, spoilers, creases and shapes. The result is a minivan that looks like it had a makeover by one of those TV vehicle makeover shows.

To be fair, this is the SE  – sport edition in Toyota nomenclature. It’s meant to be sportier and edgier. For those buyers who can’t see themselves driving this hipstermobile, Toyota offers three other trim levels – base, LE and XLE – which have less razz matazz.

At least Toyota is making an effort. Minivan sales have lagged for years while buyers opt for sexier SUVs and crossovers. But for most buyers, minivans would actually make the most sense because they offer more space, cost less, handle better and some get better fuel mileage.

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SE or not, Toyota has given the new Sienna added visual interest with arcing creases, a shapely grille and bigger wheels.

For the core group of minivan buyers, exterior styling hardly matters. They care about what’s inside. On that front, Toyota made some interesting choices, some good, some not so good. More in a moment.

Chrysler Might Finally Be Awakening From Long Slumber

Automaker has a raft of new products ready to hit showrooms.

by on Nov.08, 2010

The 2011 Dodge Avenger is restyled and has new engines and a recalibrated suspension.

For the last four years, there didn’t seem to be much happening on Planet Chrysler. There was a dearth of new product and the ones that it did introduce were largely panned as poorly designed, engineered and styled.

In that time, three masters ruled the company – Daimler, Cerberus and now Fiat – all with their own thoughts on how to run the company.

And in the middle of the whole charade, the automaker came very close to shutting down altogether before the government stepped in, pumped it full of cash and arranged the shotgun marriage with Fiat.

Even though there hasn’t seem to be much outward appearance to show for it, the folks in Auburn Hills were busy. Busy as elves in Santa’s workshop getting ready for Christmas, as it turns out.

Even better than feverishly working to bring these new products to market, it would appear that the stuff might actually be good. So far, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has been getting rave reviews. Some of the other vehicles show that the automaker has finally come out of its styling funk.

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And now it would appear the smallest of the Detroit Three automakers is ready to reap the benefits of all that work. Chrysler has so much product that has recently hit the street or will go on sale in the coming months that it would be hard to keep track of it all without a scorecard.

And that’s just the first wave. Next will come the new cars that are based on Fiat DNA, plus engines using Fiat technology.

Here’s a quick look at some of the products that have recently been introduced or will be available in Chrysler showrooms in the coming months.

Prices for Some Used SUVS Up More Than 30%

Overall used vehicle sales up more than 10% since July 2009.

by on Aug.20, 2010

Used vehicle prices for the Cadillac Escalade rose more than 35% between July of 2009 and July of 2010.

Prices for used cars are up about 10% overall, fueled in large part by a dramatic 30% increase in prices for some used sport utility vehicles, particularly large ones, according to a study released Friday.

“Consumers are generally paying considerably more for used cars this year compared to 2009,” stated Joe Spina, a senior analyst for “A lack of confidence in the economy is driving more people to used cars, putting upward pricing pressure on a limited supply of vehicles.”

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Certainly part of the issue is the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program where car buyers were offered incentives to dump their inefficient old cars for more fuel-efficient new ones last summer. The ability to buy a new car at a significant savings last summer certainly depressed the market for used cars. The program, technically known as Cars Allowance Rebate System (CARS), gave car buyers up to $4,500 to trade in a used car for a more fuel-efficient one.

But the dramatic price increase for some large SUVs in particular was shocking. For example the average price of a used Cadillac Escalade went from went from an average for all model years of $25,600 in July 2009 to $34,715 in July 2010, a 35.6% increase. The value of a used BMW X5 jumped from $30,711 to $40,843, a rise of 33%.

As has happened in the past, buyers appear to have quickly erased their memories of gasoline prices shooting well past $4 per gallon during the summer of 2008 when many big SUV drivers abandoned the gas-guzzling vehicles for smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles. With gasoline holding steady at less than $3 per gallon in many parts of the country, even during the busy summer driving months, buyers appear willing to return to bigger vehicles.