Death of Dodge Grand Caravan minivan ‘overblown
Death of Dodge Grand Caravan minivan ‘overblown,’ says Bigland
Mar 03, 2015 -
Reports of the “death” of the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan have been greatly exaggerated, according to FCA Canada CEO Reid Bigland.
“The media have been speculating about the future of the Dodge Grand Caravan for three years,” Bigland said in a recent interview. “The Dodge Grand Caravan is still here, it’s going to be here throughout all of 2015, 2016.
“I’m not going to give any time frame, but at the launch of the next-generation Town and Country we will continue to have the Grand Caravan and I have not speculated as to when or even if the Dodge Grand Caravan will go away,” he said.
At the Detroit auto show in January, CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested the current minivan models would cease production around 2017 because of changing government regulations. Bigland would not confirm that timeline. The Caravan, which is the lower-priced model of the two FCA minivans, is not only the top-selling minivan in the country, but the fifth highest selling vehicle in Canada, he said.
“This thing is a volume juggernaut,” Bigland said. “So, if you have that in your portfolio, you’d look to keep it around for a while as well.”
The all-new Town and Country is slated for launch in the end of the first quarter of 2016. But Bigland reiterated comments by Marchionne who said the Windsor Assembly Plant will continue to build both the current models and the next-generation minivan at least until 2016.
Bigland said the automaker’s $2 billion-plus investment in the new minivan and the plant’s retooling includes an “all-new industrial platform that has potential for other vehicles down the road.”
“It is a state-of-the-art platform that will provide superior fuel economy, all-wheel drive capability, plug-in hybrid electric capability, so the opportunities with that platform are quite significant,” he said. “The minivan will be the first vehicle in the FCA portfolio to benefit from all of that new technology.”
The plant is currently in the midst of a 90-day shutdown as it retools for the next-generation Town and Country, and is slated to resume full production May 25.
Bigland said FCA will continue its “dominance” of the minivan segment in the U.S. and Canada by continuing to offer both nameplates.
“We will have an all-new Chrysler Town and Country that will compete in the higher end of the market where consumers are more apt to pay for that technology, and we will continue to build the Dodge Grand Caravan to play at the lower end of that segment.”
FCA minivan sales mixed picture
A 40-per-cent plunge in Dodge Grand Caravan U.S. sales last month is being blamed on the Windsor Assembly Plant shutdown.
U.S. fleet sales fell as the automaker focuses marketing efforts on retail sales of both the Caravan and Chrysler Town and Country models. The automaker wants to ensure dealers in Canada and the U.S. have enough minivans for retail customers during the 90-day retooling of the Windsor plant. U.S. sales of the Town and Country fell four per cent in February compared to the same period last year. In Canada, sales of the Caravan fell 18.6 per cent, while demand for the Town and Country soared 84 per cent.
Udo Kiewitz, general manager at Provincial Chrysler in Windsor, said higher incentives for the Town and Country are likely behind the stronger sales.
“The manufacturer hasn’t clawed back on any of the incentives on the minivans,” said Kiewitz, who was among dealers stocking up on minivans to carry them, over the plant shutdown period. “We have a five-month supply of each minivan. It looks like there will be enough supply for all of Ontario.”
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