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Windsor third shift keeps going—what does it mean?

by David Zatz on

The Windsor Assembly Plant, original and current home of Chrysler’s minivans, has 1,500 employees who depend on the plant running three shifts.  Now, after months of rumor that the third shift would be dropped on September 30, FCA Canada has promised to keep it going until the end of 2019.

The plant can make nearly 1,500 minivans per day, with all three shifts. In April, the union announced a $355 million investment in the plant, with reports claiming the company intended to produce the Portal (though probably not quite like the concept shown above).

The extension does rely on sales continuing at a reasonable pace, which may be aided by the new Chrysler Voyager. Essentially a Pacifica with lower trim and fewer features, the Voyager has already been announced and shown, taking the price points of the current Dodge Caravan. The Caravan itself is expected to be produced into mid-2020, but its survival depends largely on the Voyager; if the latter is a huge hit, the Caravan may be dropped (indeed, the Pacifica could be renamed to Voyager to build on the success).

The Voyager name started with full-size Plymouth vans, moved to Plymouth minivans, and became the Chrysler Voyager in Europe when the company started selling minivans there. The final versions of the Chrysler minivans sold in Europe were badged as both Chrysler Voyager and Lancia Voyager, long after Plymouth was dropped.

FCA did provide its own explanation for the extension from September to the end of October: a large fleet order. In addition, the plant recently closed for five weeks to upgrade the conveyors and add new tooling.  What’s more, there is probably demand for the Caravan, from dealers at least; as of August 1, Automotive News reported that there were only around 5,000 Caravans on dealer lots, around 19 days of supply (up from 13 days on July 1).  That compares with 18,000 Pacificas (67 days).

The plant is reportedly producing a roughly 50/50 mix of Caravans and Pacificas; according to an inside report, they’ve shifted to 2020 Pacificas and Voyagers but are still doing 2019 Caravans.

The reason for the third shift’s continued life may simply be additional sales, perhaps to conservative fleet buyers who would prefer to stick with the Caravan as long as they can—and know the end is getting closer. Indeed, it’s possible, though perhaps unlikely, that there might be no 2020 Caravan after all.

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