Make us your home page
Instagram

Chrysler still minivan champ, but must adjust to changing market

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Almost 30 years after the minivan was introduced, after attacks from all sides, Chrysler Group remains on top. Now, CEO Sergio Marchionne will have to decide how best to sustain the success.

So far, the moves made by Marchionne, who is preparing to merge Chrysler with majority owner Fiat, have paid off. The choice he faces now: whether to merge Chrysler's two remaining minivans into one and whether to dramatically redesign one or both. Either way, Marchionne and his dealers are committed to Chrysler's signature product.

"I don't care if the minivan market shrinks, as long as I'm King Kong in it," said Chuck Eddy, a Chrysler dealer in Austintown, Ohio. "That is Chrysler's attitude, too. The minivan is here and the minivan won't ever go away."

Just four years after a 1979 government bailout, Chrysler chief executive officer Lee Iacocca introduced the Dodge Caravan, and minivans soon joined Ram pickups and Jeep sport utility vehicles as the company's most important product lines. To some extent, Chrysler created the minivan and the minivan saved the company.

Three decades later, Chrysler maintains its sales lead in minivans. It's one of the longest runs atop a vehicle segment in the United States, along with the 35-year pickup reign of Ford's F-Series line.

Chrysler has kept the title despite entries from Ford, Toyota, Honda and the predecessor of General Motors. Ford and GM eventually quit the segment, and Chrysler has claimed at least 40 percent of the U.S. minivan market since 2007.

Marchionne is closing in on deciding whether Chrysler still needs two entries for the U.S. minivan market. He led a complete overhaul of Chrysler's lineup in the 19 months after its bankruptcy in 2009, introducing 16 new or refreshed models. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300 sedan have drawn praise from critics, including Consumer Reports.

With its minivans, the company is "studying all options," including eliminating one of its models and then broadening the target market for the other one, said Saad Chehab, president of the Chrysler brand. Right now, the company aims to sell the Dodge Grand Caravan for less than $30,000 and its Chrysler Town & Country, which has more equipment standard, for more than $30,000.

Marchionne would have to decide which will survive.

"If it is one, you have to look at if Dodge can go up to the upper-market world of minivans, and same thing, can Chrysler really go down to capture the markets that Dodge Caravan does?" Chehab said. "It's a difficult answer."

Toyota's Sienna goes for $33,032 and Honda's Odyssey for $32,949, according to Edmunds.com data. Grand Caravans sold for $27,151 on average.

Chrysler still minivan champ, but must adjust to changing market 05/07/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 7, 2012 10:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Bloomberg News.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel

    Business

    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.

  2. Tampa International Airport morphing into a mini-city unto itself

    Airlines

    TAMPA — By the end of the 2026, Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport to function as its own little city.

    Artist rendering of phase two of the $1 billion construction expansion of Tampa International Airport. The airport is transforming 17 acres of airport property that will include at least one hotel, retail and office space and a gas station, among other things.
[Courtesy of Tampa International Airport]
  3. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    State data shows FHP troopers are not writing violations for speeding or other infractions like they did back in 2011, even though there's 1 million more licensed drivers in Florida.
  4. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  5. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times