Dodge is cutting off one of the hands that has fed it well for the past quarter century.
In an interview with Automotive News, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne revealed that the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan will die in 2013 and be replaced by a crossover utility vehicle. The decision is part of a larger plan to eliminate duplication of vehicles among Chrysler’s four brands – Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram. The Grand Caravan is currently the top-selling Dodge model.
A more upscale version of the Grand Caravan is also sold as the Chrysler Town and Country, which was the best-selling minivan in the United States in 2010. The two combined for over 225,000 sales last year, double that of their closest rival, the Honda Odyssey. The Town and Country will live on as the automaker’s only minivan offering.
In 2008 Dodge replaced the standard, short-wheelbase Caravan with the Journey crossover, a vehicle that sells about half as many units as the Grand Caravan does today. The new crossover will be built on the same platform as the Town and Country, so it should be similar in size to the existing Grand Caravan, but with a very different look and swing-out doors, rather than sliding ones. However, details have not yet been revealed. The vehicle will also serve as a replacement for the Dodge Avenger mid-size sedan in the brand’s lineup.
Marchionne adds that Chrysler’s long term plan involves eliminating nearly all of its dealers that sell only one brand and that, “we cannot have the same type of vehicle in the showroom because the customer is not stupid. We’re not going to create the confusion and conflict in the showroom.” He added that Chrysler’s long-term plan involves eliminating nearly all of its dealers that sell only one brand.
Chrysler is credited with creating the modern minivan segment in the 1984 model year when the first Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models went on sale. The great success of the vehicles helped allow the company to repay the $1 billion government loan that helped the company avoid bankruptcy in 1979 several years ahead of schedule. Although it has lost market share in the years since, Chrysler still dominates the segment that Ford and General Motors exited in recent years as they switched their focus to the type of crossover utility vehicles Dodge is now planning to sell.