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2013 Dodge Grand Caravan (Chrysler)
2013 Dodge Grand Caravan (Chrysler)

Driving It Home

Minivan stigma affects Dodge Grand Caravan sales Add to ...

Chrysler, suffering the minivan blues, is being coy about future plans for the family vehicle it created in the 1980s.

Last month, Canadian sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan plunged 21 per cent (to 5,944) despite generous offers aimed at staunching the slide and perhaps giving demand a little jolt. Yes, you can get a nicely equipped Grand Caravan for less than $20,000, though such bargain pricing does not seem enough to spark great interest in what is surely the most practical and affordable family transportation available. Such is the stigma associated with minivans in general and Chrysler’s in particular.

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No wonder the Chrysler Group is so nervous about its next-generation minivan. Will it be a Chrysler-branded rig or a Dodge? Will it be so long for the Chrysler Town & Country or sayonara for the Dodge Grand Caravan?

Chrysler’s design chief, Ralph Gilles, has the answer and he’s keeping it to himself for the time being, reports the Detroit Free Press. Yes, Chrysler has made a decision about the future of its bread-and-butter model, and no, he’s not saying what the decision is, he told the hometown newspaper, “We are down to one and we are having a good time with it,” Gilles told the Free Press. “I can’t tell you the brand. All I can tell you is that we are deep in development.”

As the Free Press notes, we have seen a concept version of a minivan, though. Chrysler showed a vehicle called the 700 at the 2012 Detroit auto show. It was quite radical and therefore unlikely to show up in production form. When the next minivan will hit showrooms also remains a mystery, though Automotive News is suggesting 2015. Sagging sales suggest the sooner the better for Chrysler.

My bet is this: the Dodge brand will get a re-engineered and re-styled minivan and the Chrysler brand will get some sort of crossover wagon. That plan fits the brand strategy at work within the Chrysler Group – the Chrysler brand is heading upmarket, while Dodge is all mainstream and affordable.

Hurry up, Chrysler, before buyers lose interest in minivans entirely.

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