Dodge Grand Caravan – The Value Leader:

The Budget Minivan Continues To Be A Sales Success....

The Dodge Grand Caravan is a legend. When Chrysler first introduced the Caravan in the 1984 model year, it revolutionized the entire industry. The front-wheel-drive box provided amazing interior volume and functionality that previous station wagons couldn’t keep up with. Pretty soon, competitors General Motors (GM) and Ford were coming to market with their truck-based minivan alternatives that couldn’t stop the Caravan (and its stablemates the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Mini Ram Van work vans).

1989 Dodge Grand Caravan. (Dodge).

In 1990, Chrysler added the Chrysler Town & Country minivan to the lineup. The Town & Country, using a name Chrysler put on some of its luxury sedans and wagons of the past brought new luxury standards to the minivan segment. While GM and Ford continued developing all different types of minivans during the 1990s, no one could touch Chryslers offerings.  It wasn’t until the introduction of the second generation Honda Odyssey that Chrysler had a competitor worthy enough to compete with their minivan lineup. It forced Chrysler Group to back to drawing board and come up with more innovative features like Stow & Go seating to allow the Chrysler Group to lead the minivan segment again.

Today, the minivan segment is very different than it was in the 1980s. Minivans aren’t like they used to be, and other automotive companies have gotten out of the segment altogether. Dodge and Chrysler now compete with Japanese and Korean automakers in the minivan space. The segment has also shrunk drastically as buyers have moved over to crossovers and SUVs. However, the company now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) still invest heavily in the segment they created, some 35 years ago.

Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan on the Windsor Assembly Line. (FCA).

In 2015, Dodge announced that the Grand Caravan nameplate would end production and that the next generation of minivans would be badged as Chryslers only. This decision sparked a massive backlash against the brand for saying it was going to end one of it’s best-known nameplates. FCA decided to extend production of the Dodge Grand Caravan into the 2017 model year, to help dealer inventories during the launch of its 6th generation minivan replacement the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

With the tooling and development of the 2008 to present Grand Caravan paid off, the Grand Caravan became a value bargain for those looking for a full-size vehicle for their family. While the new Chrysler Pacifica showed revolutionary modern styling and technology as well as vastly improved build quality using better materials, Dodge Grand Caravan continued to sell better than its much newer stablemate. The Grand Caravan’s budget-based value pushed it to surpass the all-new Pacifica in its first full year on the market, by almost 7,000 units.

2019 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT Blacktop Package. (Dodge).

After minivan buyers complained that the all-new Chrysler Pacifica was too expensive for the wallets, Chrysler went back and added several new trim levels for the 2018 model year that were more value-focused and offered new standard features on the returning models. But these changes didn’t stop the Grand Caravan continuing its success of outselling the Pacifica not just in the United States, but Canada as well.

While the Dodge Grand Caravan is well paid off and has become a “cash cow” for FCA. FCA decided to reinvest in the Grand Caravan and update the production line in order to install new airbags that met U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 226. This regulation called for larger and more robust side-impact air curtains, as well as for them to deploy in the event of either a side-on collision or a rollover.

2017 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. (Dodge).

The budget-friendly Grand Caravan then went into the 2018 calendar year, guns blazing. It continued to dominate sales in the minivan segment and by the end of the year, sold its best total of Grand Caravans since 2014 (when FCA had initially announced the nameplate was going to be cut). It also outsold the Pacifica by over 33,600 units. It is showing that people still prefer value over the newest high tech option.

Many people also don’t realize that the Grand Caravan is by far, the best selling nameplate in the Dodge lineup. 

With the Dodge brand moving more towards rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive performance cars and SUVs, the Grand Caravan and its brand mate the Dodge Journey continue to sell better than anything else in the brand’s lineup with little to no marketing to push sales.

2017 Chrysler Portal Concept. (Chrysler).

FCA has realized that the Grand Caravan will need to be replaced soon. However, its replacement is likely to be a Chrysler brand product. Our sources, have told us that a production version of the 2017 Chrysler Portal Concept will be coming to market. The production-based Portal (or whatever it is named) would be more or less a smaller entry-level minivan that is based on the Pacifica architecture. It would offer a lower cost than the Pacifica, continuing a more pocket-friendly option to the Pacifica itself.

Until then, the Dodge Grand Caravan continues to be a sales machine. A fully-loaded Dodge Grand Caravan SXT in the U.S. costs less than $36,000 US. while a fully-loaded Chrysler Pacifica Limited cost around $50,000 US. Yes, you do get a lot more features, safety technology, and a more comfortable ride, but is it worth $14,000 US. more? The sales number suggest it’s not!

Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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