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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…)

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.

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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.
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