By Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press –
DETROIT — Chrysler Group LLC, the inventor of the minivan, plans to discontinue the Chrysler Town & Country minivan and keep the Dodge Caravan as its only minivan in 2014 and also plans to discontinue production of the Jeep Compass.
The news about the minivan plans was first reported by Automobile Magazine in the July issue now hitting newsstands and was confirmed by a person familiar with Chrysler’s plans.
Chrysler and Fiat SpA CEO Sergio Marchionne has previously said the company would offer just one minivan in the future, but most expected that the Town & Country would survive. Now, Marchionne has revealed that the Caravan will remain and the Town & Country will be replaced by a new crossover. It is unclear if the Town & Country name will continue.
The new Dodge Caravan will be “sportier, more emotional and less utilitarian,” according to Automobile.
Marchionne decided that Dodge should retain the minivan because the minivan was first introduced as a Dodge Caravan in 1983 by then-Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca.
By having two minivans, Chrysler has been able to cover a wide price range for consumers. The Caravan sells for about $20,000 to $30,000 while the more upscale Town & Country sells for $30,000 to $40,000. With both models, Chrysler captured 50 percent of U.S. minivan sales in 2011 and 75 percent of Canadian minivan sales.
Through April, the Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker has sold 45,865 Dodge Caravans and 38,507 Chrysler Town & Country minivans. Both minivans are produced at Chrysler’s Windsor (Ontario) Assembly Plant.
Both the Compass and Jeep Patriot are made at Chrysler’s Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant from the same platform. Marchionne told reporters in Belvidere last week that the Compass would be phased out.
The same plant will be the home of the Dodge Dart, an all-new compact car. Marchionne also said at least one new car or crossover will be built at the plant.
Marchionne has been working to eliminate models that compete with each other. Last year, Chrysler discontinued the Dodge Nitro, which looked similar to the Jeep Liberty.