The Dodge Grand Caravan (Caravan) has been a staple in the American car culture since it’s introduction in the 1984 model year. The Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager set the car culture in North America on fire, making families turn in their gas guzzling station wagon keys in for something that was practical, fuel efficient and provided great interior space. As the years went on, sales continued steady and the minivan has always been a key factor in the amount of profit to the company. Even when other manufacturers started bailing on offering minivans, because they were criticized as being a “soccer mom’s vehicle”; both the Chrysler and Dodge brands stayed with their formula and currently own 53% of the segment.
When the Chrysler Pacifica (RU) debuted for the 2017 model year, it featured segment leading options in almost every category. No one would have guess that in the year and half it’s been on the market it would be playing second in the FCA US minivan stable to the Dodge Grand Caravan (RT). A platform the debuted a decade ago and received its last major update in the 2011 model year. But to this date, currently Dodge Grand Caravan leads all minivans sales for the year and is on pace to pass last year sales. The Chrysler Pacifica on the other hand in second place in the segment, which equals out to about 12,300 units behind the Dodge Grand Caravan.
So how can a vehicle that has been on the market for over a decade leading the minivan market in sales? The answer is value. A top of the line 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan GT goes for the sale price of a lower equipped 2018 Chrysler Pacifica LX. This has made the Grand Caravan an extremely hot seller on the market. In fact, because FCA US got done paying off the Grand Caravan (RT) program such a long time ago; the vehicles are extremely profitable to the company compared to the newer Chrysler Pacifica.
FCA US, originally planned to kill off the Grand Caravan after the 2016 model year. However, backlash from customers about killing the name and a sales spike in the 2016 model year because of the announcement, FCA US decided to keep the vehicle in production and have it run down the same assembly line as the new Chrysler Pacifica. This caused the Chrysler brand to put a hold on their all-new full-size crossover to be based on the Pacifica that was due to launch a few months after the Pacifica was launched.
FCA US, stopped production last year for a few weeks to allow the 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan models to get updated side curtain airbags that met U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 226 that allows the airbags to cover the full windows and be inflated longer. While the Chrysler Pacifica met these standards when it was launched, Grand Caravan needed to be updated to continue sales. As a top seller, it made sense for FCA US to do so.
It has been publicly announced that after the 2019 model year, the Grand Caravan (RT) will no longer be able to be produced for sale in the U.S. market due to it not meeting certain requirements for federal safety requirements. A lot of rumors since then has been that Dodge is rushing to relaunch a new minivan based on the Pacifica. However, our sources say something a little different.
Dodge has been transitioning its brand into a performance brand. A minivan doesn’t fit in the brand that is based on muscle cars and performance SUVs. Dodge will do away with the Journey and the Grand Caravan after the 2019 model year to make way for two new products that will fit more with its brand identity.
FCA US’ “mainstream” brand, Chrysler will pick up for those two vehicles. Chrysler has been struggling to make a more affordable model since the launch of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica to absorb the Grand Caravan buyers. They have a couple of packages as of late like the “L” package (a bare bones Pacifica), that seem to be helping the Pacifica sales a bit. Chrysler have also launched “S” models of the Pacifica Touring and Limited models, with a heavy advertising campaign and sales of that model are really picking up. So much so that last month, FCA US announced they were introducing a similar themed package for the Pacifica Hybrid called the “Hybrid Special Appearance Package”. However, it’s not enough to pull sales away from the aging Grand Caravan.
Instead, a source close to MoparInsiders has been hearing Chrysler is working on a new vehicle based on a shortened wheelbase of the Pacifica that is similar-to the Chrysler Portal Concept shown at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. A smaller minivan would help lower the price for customers. Being based on the same platform, it too could be assembled at the Windsor Assembly Plant like the Grand Caravan and Pacifica.