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The Future of Dodge Minivans

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Listen up, Dodge enthusiasts… we have some great news! We know you’ve been having nightmares about the Grand Caravan’s reported retirement, but we’re happy to pass along that these dreams may not be realized after all!

If you’ve been considering purchasing a new Dodge vehicle, hold up before you visit a local Dodge dealer. First, check out our guide to the immediate future of your favorite American-made minivans…

When Dodge brand chief Tim Kuniskis announced in 2013 that the Grand Caravan would be dropped from the lineup within three years, it was assumed that it was the end for the nameplate. However, Larry P. Vellequette of Autonews.com recently reported that that may not actually be the case.

Grand Caravan Retirement Put on Hold?

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According to internal company documents, Fiat Chrysler manufacturing plants will continue to produce the popular Grand Caravan until at least the 2017 model year. The 2016 model (assumed to be the final vehicle in the nameplate’s history) already began production this August, and it will presumably stay on the market until at least August 2016. At that point, the brand’s engineers are set to begin building the 2017 model, with production scheduled to begin on August 23, 2016. Based on those suggested dates, it seems unlikely that Kuniskis’ 2013 announcement regarding the Grand Caravan is going to stand up. However, as Vellequette notes, that could just be an indication that the vehicle is set for a very short 2017 model run, although that seems rather unlikely to me.

The Dodge Brand Chief hadn’t only made those declarations in 2013. In May of 2014, Kuniskis again announced that Chrysler would be dropping the Dodge Grand Caravan in 2016, with the executive citing a desire to “purify the brand.” How was Dodge going to go about doing that?

It’s believed that Chrysler would be the brand focused on competing with the Toyotas and Fords of the world, while Dodge would be solely responsible for producing sporty, performance-oriented vehicles (like, for example, the reported three-row crossover the brand was planning on using to replace the Grand Caravan). Clearly, the Grand Caravan wouldn’t fit into this mold, but it appears that Chrysler may have been willing to keep the van around in spite of this.

It seems odd that the company would suddenly back off from their previous statements, but there’s a belief that this may have all been a misunderstanding from the first place. At the Fiat Chrysler Automobile Investor Day in 2014, CEO Sergio Marchionne told the crowd (including CarAndDriver.com’s Andrew Wendler), “I never said the Caravan nameplate was going away.” When asked to elaborate, Marchionne replied, “I think you’ll be pleased with the decision.”

History of Grand Caravan

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Ford Motor Company employees Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich were responsible for inventing the minivan back in 1974, but the idea was promptly rejected by Henry Ford II. The duo eventually switched to the Chrysler Corporation, where they engineered the ‘T-115 minivan,” which would eventually transform into the Grand Caravan and Voyager.

Based on the Chrysler S platform, the Grand Caravan was originally introduced back in 1987. Since then, it’s been the best-selling minivan in the United States. The Honda Odyssey recently took the top spot on the list of best-selling minivans, which could confirm the company’s declaration that the market for such a vehicle is declining.

The Future of Grand Caravans

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Not many details or specs have been reported about the future Grand Caravan, but we do have a basic understanding of what we should expect. We’ve learned that the body will likely feature the same flat design that’s featured on the 2016 model, as this will allow for increased cabin space without compromising the vehicle’s sleek look. The minivan will still have the appreciated class-leading power, as the 3.6-liter V6 engine can already produce 283 horsepower (and it should only get stronger).

Considering the Caravan is considered a family-oriented vehicle, safety features are often a priority for prospective minivan buyers. Luckily, the Grand Caravan is committed to producing one of the safest rides on the road. There’s dual front airbags, blind-space monitors, parking sensors, rear mix-path recognition… the list is practically endless.

Buyers can also opt to customize their minivan with all of the latest innovative technology, including a 40-gigabyte hard disk, Bluetooth compatibility, USB ports, and multiple nine-inch video displays (or, by 2017 this technology may be standard). Even if it is the minivan’s final year in production, Dodge will still be operating under the same mindset: their customers deserve the best. This will certainly be the case with the upcoming Grand Caravan.

Offering 17 city and 25 highway mpg, the 2016 minivan is estimated to cost in the vicinity of $21,000 (for the basic package) and $30,000 (for the R/T models). We can expect a similar price range for any future models.

The Future of the Town and Country?

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The Grand Caravan will be produced alongside the updated version of the Chrysler Town and Country, which is set to begin production on February 29, 2016 at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plan in Windsor, Ontario. That version of the Town and Country will be a 2017 model, with the 2016 model being produced on a short run from early-August of 2015 to mid-February of 2016.

Speaking of the 2017 Town and Country, AllPar.com has some details on the future minivan. Instead of the standard 3.2-liter V6 engine (as featured in the Jeep Cherokee), this minivan will include a Pentastar V6 engine to compensate for the added weight. Furthermore, the Town and Country will all have a 948TE nine-speed transmission, which should produce an eye-popping amount of torque. This will also reportedly be the first nine-speed automatic transmission available among minivans.

The most exciting detail of the 2016 Town and Country has to be the reported intent to produce a hybrid version, which will be capable of delivering an estimated 75 miles per gallon.

The Future of Dodge Minivans

2014 Chrysler Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition

As Vellequette notes, extended production of the Grand Caravan would mean that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles would be capable of filling minivan requests for fleet customers, while at the same time continuing sales in Canada. The Grand Caravan is tops among minivans in America’s neighbor.

In the United States, however, minivan sales have fallen across the board. Due to restrictions placed on fleet sales (as a result of the Windsor, Ontario plant’s three-month shutdown), Grand Caravan prices fell 51-percent this year.

Of course, the higher-ups were generally pretty quiet in regards to the story, with a company spokesman saying, “While we’ve announced the Grand Caravan will eventually be the minivan that goes away, we’re not going into more detail at this time.”

 

For Dodge and minivan enthusiasts (do those exist?), this would likely fall under the ‘any news is good news’ category. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for all of our favorite models. We probably won’t be seeing the Avenger anytime soon, as production has officially ended, and the car’s “successor” has already been named in the Chrysler 200.

In regards to the Grand Caravan, you still have more time to purchase the stylish minivan. Similar to any retired vehicle, the demand and price for the minivan will likely shoot up once it has officially been pulled off the market. However, it certainly sounds like the nameplate will be deemphasized over the coming years, even if it does stay on the market. Still, there’s no denying that the Grand Caravan is one of the best minivans on the market.

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