Though the architecture for the next-generation Chrysler minivans has been finalized, the actual vehicles have not, as Chrysler wrestles with customer desires and market issues. CEO Sergio Marchionne has said numerous times that he intends to whittle the two minivans, which were nearly identical from 2008 to 2010 and are now differentiated largely by price and features, down to a single van. This could make it easier to continue winning the #1 sales position over Toyota and Honda; while Chrysler has always had the highest combined minivan sales (Dodge plus Chrysler), Honda has (though not in 2012) grabbed the #1 sales spot for Odyssey over either Caravan and Town & Country. But which would be turned into a crossover, and which would stay the minivan?
In Canada, the Dodge Caravan is king of the minivans; in the US, the Dodge is more of a fleet standby, with Chrysler Town & Country getting most of the retail sales. While the company could opt for a split solution — Chrysler Town & Country in the US, Lancia/Chrysler Voyager in Europe, and Dodge Caravan in Canada — that would be messy, as the crossover in the US would likely be the Dodge Caravan. It would complicate near-border ad campaigns, production, and more — since styling would also need to be different.
One solution, of course, would be keeping both as minivans, but making the Dodge much more of a Dodge — increasing its sportiness in look and feel, and making it a niche vehicle in the US, with more options in Canada. In both countries, the Chrysler minivan would be what it is now — an upscale, conventional minivan. By giving the Dodge more of a performance emphasis, the company could also bias the Chrysler towards comfort rather than cornering.
That brings up the resurrection of the Dodge Dakota as a lifestyle pickup. While it would take quite a bit of work to build a pickup truck using a minivan chassis, if engineers started with that goal from the start, they could work out ways to adapt the chassis and, equally important, the platform (dimensions) to accommodate a “lifestyle pickup.”
The idea of a reasonably sized vehicle with a pickup form, an El Camino (or Rampage) for the modern age, has been bouncing around Chrysler since the launch of the final Dakota, and building one at the minivan plant has been discussed internally as a possibility for some years. These days, though, there’s a single minivan plant, and it’s not as likely to spawn a pickup, given capacity constraints and hopes that the next-generation vans will sell well enough to keep Windsor humming full-time. A pickup might be sketched out, though, to take up the slack if the minivan market fails. JackRatchett accordingly developed this drawing of a possible “lifestyle pickup” based on the Caravan above.
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