Dodge Grand Caravan and Avenger to be Replaced with a Single Crossover: Marchionne Speaks About Future Dodge, Chrysler Lineups
The Dodge Grand Caravan and Avenger won’t be back after this generation, says Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. Speaking with Luca Ciferri of Automotive News, Marchionne explained that the Grand Caravan and Avenger will be replaced with a single crossover model. That means that when Chrysler’s next full-size van hits the market for 2014, it will be sold exclusively under the Chrysler Town & Country banner, although its platform will be the one to underpin the Dodge crossover. Marchionne explains that Dodge’s products can no longer overlap with those of Chrysler, saying with his typical candor that the company “cannot have the same type of vehicle in the showroom because the consumer is not stupid. We’re not going to create the confusion and conflict in the showroom.”
While we’re impressed in principle with Marchionne’s willingness to shake up Chrysler product lines, this decision is incomprehensible to us. The Chrysler and Dodge brands are different enough in image and product execution that they attract different customers into showrooms. The Grand Caravan name has a tremendous amount of equity and recognition, and the current iteration is usually among the top three minivans in the U.S. in sales. Further, during the first nine months of 2011, almost 86,000 Grand Caravans were moved, which beats both the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. It’s possible that Marchionne’s idea of a crossover is more akin to the General Motors “sport vans” from a few years ago—unpleasant products like the Pontiac Montana SV6, Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay, and Buick Terraza that were crossovers in PR-speak only. If this is the case, the Grand Caravan name could even hang around.
But a crossover/SUV/minivan can’t replace a D-segment family car like the Avenger, no matter what the spin. From what we’ve seen so far, the Alfa-based compact Dodge sedan isn’t so compact; maybe there is a feeling inside Chrysler that the compact sedan and Charger will cover Dodge’s needs for four-door cars. But dealers and customers alike appreciate having products that sit squarely in their segments. In the early 2000s, there was another plan to leverage Dodge’s tough, truckish image that led to the Caliber and Magnum, and the absence of a full-size sedan; the Charger had to be rushed to market to meet dealer demands for a traditional four-door.
The Chrysler corporation and Mr. Marchionne’s Fiat have made a number of surprising revelations—both when they were independent of one another and after they became fused at the hip—about future products that didn’t come to fruition. You no doubt can recall the Chrysler ENVI electric vehicle program and the infinitely delayed U.S. return of Alfa Romeo, proof that automakers often make product announcements that end up going nowhere. For Dodge’s sake, we hope that’s the case here.