Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) continues to hold the reign when it comes to the minivan segment. The American side of the company were the original creators of the segment back in late 1983 when they launched the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. The vehicles along with the popular K-car from which they were based on, saved the former Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy in the 1980s and established the popular segment throughout the rest of the century and into the beginning of the next. Now with the segment shrinking overall, FCA is looking at improving their ultimate utility vehicles to keep their buyers from switching over to crossovers.
With the introduction of the 5th generation minivans (RT platform), FCA did away with an option of offering all-wheel drive. This decision was based on the fact, that the Stow & Go seating located in the second row blocked access for a rear driveshaft towards the back of the vehicle to propel the rear wheels. While the minivan lineup offered the all-wheel-drive (AWD) option, the front-wheel-drive models outsold the AWD option by a large margin.
Fast forward a decade and the automotive industry is in a crossroads. People are switching from passenger cars to crossovers, trucks, and SUVs in the North American market. Most of the vehicles that people are going in to offer an AWD or four by four (4×4) option. The minivan segment has also changed, the aged but popular 5th generation Dodge Grand Caravan continues to be sold offering function for a great value and is outselling its much newer 6th generation Chrysler Pacifica sibling.
While the minivan market continues to be solid sales for FCA, the numbers are nothing like the 1980s and 1990s. The minivan market has all been stereotyped as the “soccer mom’s” vehicle of choice. While the minivan still features much more utility and function than a run of the mill SUV or crossover, people still like the confidence of having an AWD system (especially people in the snow belt).
Well according to our sources as well as the Automotive News, Chrysler is pushing forward on bringing an AWD version of the Chrysler Pacifica to market during its mid-cycle refresh. The vehicle would feature some technology we have yet to be seen in a minivan platform.
Recently, FCA pulled the wraps off of the upcoming Jeep Renegade and Compass PHEVs at the Geneva International Motor Show. The Jeep crossovers showcased a new AWD system called electric all-wheel-drive (eAWD). The eAWD system provides traction to the rear axle without the use of a prop shaft but through a dedicated electric motor. This allows the two axles to be separated and to control the torque independently in a more effective way than a mechanical system.
Why would this system be important to the Chrysler Pacifica? It would allow the minivan to offer an AWD system with the additional use of the class-exclusive Stow & Go seating option, as well as for the Pacifica Hybrid models that ditch the Stow & Go seats for a battery pack system stored in the same space as the Stow & Go bins. This system offers even more functionality than ever before.
Offering as much function as possible is what Chrysler is basing the future of Pacifica on. With an AWD option, the Pacifica can not square off just against its minivan segment rival the Toyota Sienna AWD, but provide a good enough argument to sway customers from moving into a crossover or SUV.
We have been told to expect to see prototypes of the Chrysler Pacifica AWD out testing soon. Stay tuned to MoparInsiders.com as we will continue to bring you the latest up to date news, rumors and information on the Chrysler Pacifica.