What do you do when you have two vert successful minivans recognized as leaders in their segments? If you’re Chrysler, you think about killing one of them. Combined sales of the Town and Country and Dodge Caravan make Chrysler the clear leader in the segment it first pioneered in the 1980s.
The most recent update to the two models focused on addressing shortcomings in the interior. Despite being badge engineered, the two models have different characters. Normally we are against rebadging. In this case though (along with GMC at General Motors), we think it makes a lot of business sense.
For instance, we have never liked the Caravan and instead prefer the Town and Country. This is the case for many people; two vans sell to different buyers. Recently, the Chrysler Group has been talking about eliminating one of the models in favor of a crossover. The Detroit Free Press reports that Chrysler still hasn’t made its decision. According to the newspaper, Chrysler is showing off four concepts to its customer clinics. They include a new Dodge minivan, a new Chrysler minivan, a new Dodge crossover and a new Chrysler crossover. Our opinion is to leave the existing setup in place.
Who is to say that buyers of the Caravan will move over to the Town and Country and vice versa? Cut the Caravan and you lose a lot of volume, cut the Town and Country and you lose volume as well as higher margins. In addition to leaving the existing set-up in place, we think Chrysler should green-light the crossover. Does Dodge really need another crossover? No.
The difficult situation with Chrysler is that executives have signaled their intent to make Chrysler more of a luxury brand. The problem with that is they need to wholeheartedly commit to that decision, and that means no more cars like the 200 or fleet specials.
And like it or not, the T&C minivan is part of Chrysler’s image for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see what decision they make. Clearly they are hesitant about making a major mistake. We’ll see how this all plays out soon enough.