For generations Chrysler has been king of the minivans with the Town & Country. When it was first introduced, Chrysler (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles or FCA) offers two versions of the minivan, the Dodge Caravan and the Chrysler Town & Country which was similar to what GM was doing with the Chevrolet minivans that were offered as a higher model under Pontiac, GMC, or Buick brand names. Along the same lines, GM and FCA dialed back their minivan offerings based on sluggish sales, the expansion of SUV’s, and the need to cutback when government bailouts were necessary.
Why, if all this has been scaled back, and Dodge no longer has a minivan after the Grand Caravan finishes its current generation, would there be any confusion? The simple answer is the spy testing that has been seen in the southwestern part of the U. S. Currently dubbed the “Mule” this new minivan, which may be the new Chrysler model scheduled to debut in Detroit in 2016 is expected to be a hybrid model and appears to be so. The confusion comes in as this new “Mule” model does not have any Chrysler badging attached to it, but more Dodge flair.
Two FCA representatives have vehemently denied any plan to offer a minivan in the U. S. under the Dodge brand after the current generation has expired, but will continue to offer the Dodge brand of minivans in Canada rather than the U.S. Maybe that was what was seen testing in the Southwestern part of the country rather than the actual new model of the Chrysler minivan, which will be a hybrid model. These reps also stated the Dodge brand is being moved to more of a performance oriented brand rather than the mass market, with Chrysler becoming the mass market brand for FCA in the U. S.
This confusion is also partnered with the fact the Windsor Assembly plant in Ontario is shutdown for retooling prior to the next-generation minivan which will head into production in early 2016. That has made it difficult to get a good idea as to what is going on at FCA regarding the minivan lineups.
Taking Chrysler from the near-luxury line to the mass market branding seems to be right on track with the competition from Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet who have all done basically the same thing, except for the movement to a mass market for what was a premium brand. The recognition of Chrysler as a brand that offers exceptional quality, now moving to a brand that will be affordable to all will have many consumers looking for their vehicles to drive.
Moving Dodge to a performance brand hopefully will give us more and more high-powered vehicles such as the Hellcat lineup of Challenger and Charger vehicles. As for the minivan called the “Mule” we will have to wait and see what FCA shows us and how we get to experience the next lineup from Dodge and Chrysler vehicles.