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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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Opinion: Can C-Max Succeed Where Other Ford Minivans Have Failed?

Domestic maker struggled for alternative in segment increasingly dominated by imports.

by on Dec.20, 2010

Coming to America - under the Ford C-Max nameplate, the European version of this "people mover" carries a Grand C-Max badge.

More than a quarter-century after Chrysler launched the first truly mainstream minivan, Ford Motor Co. remains a company in search of its own alternative.

It’s not that Ford hasn’t tried; far from it.  It has tried repeatedly to crack a segment of the market that once generated sales of well over one million vehicles annually – most notably with the long-running Windstar.  The first time out of the box, Ford boasted that its approach offered 99 advantages over Chrysler’s competing entries, which then included such models as the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan.  But buyers would have nothing of it.

Time and again, Ford fell short, finally abandoning the classic minivan segment after the abortive Freestar fell flat.

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If you can’t dominate an existing market segment, automakers have come to believe, the best approach is to create a new segment of your own – which Ford tried, two years ago, with the introduction of the Flex “people mover.”  Flex is a solid and impressive vehicle, all the more so after you spend some time behind  the wheel.  But its long, boxy shape and the lack of sliding doors – a minivan staple – have hurt it in the market, where Flex continues to lag far behind the two current Chrysler minivan offerings, as well as the various Japanese competitors that have increasingly gained strength over the years.

But Ford will be back, even if the company does continue to stick with the term, people mover, rather than minivan, for the 2012 C-Max that it formally unveiled in Europe, earlier this year – and which will get its first American showing at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.

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