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FCA to keep producing Dodge Grand Caravan

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

The Dodge Grand Caravan will live to drive another day, as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will let sales decide how long it keeps producing the well-known minivan.

The vehicle was scheduled to be discontinued this year with the introduction of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan, which will replace the Chrysler Town & Country nameplate when it arrives in U.S. dealerships by March.

Tim Kuniskis, Fiat Chrysler-North America head of passenger car brands, said the Grand Caravan is a “good car that sells extremely well,” so the company will continue to produce it until market demand fades.

“Why not let the market decide?” Kuniskis said. “So we’re going to bring the new one out and keep the old one at the same time, covering the price classes and let the market decide how many they want to buy and how long they want to buy them.”

Sales of the Grand Caravan have remained extremely strong, outselling the Town & Country in the U.S. in 2015. The sister minivans have each represented roughly 20 percent — or more — of the minivan segment since 2008, according to Edmunds.com.

That’s excluding 2015, when the Ontario plant that produces the vehicles was shut for retooling for roughly three months.

The Dodge minivan is considered an affordable, entry-level vehicle starting between $22,000 and $31,000. The Chrysler was a bit pricier, starting between $30,000 and $41,000.

Stephanie Brinley, IHS Automotive senior analyst, said with the introduction of the Pacifica and discontinuation of the Grand Caravan she worries that Fiat Chrysler is forcing some Dodge customers out of the minivan segment.

“The buyer that seems to me to be getting squeezed out of this whole deal is the family that wanted a $25,000 minivan,” she said.

“I’m not too sure how long they’ll be serviced.”

Fiat Chrysler has not announced pricing for the 2017 Pacifica’s eight trim models, including two hybrid versions. Bruce Velisek, director of Chrysler brand product marketing, said the vehicle will cover a majority of minivan price segments.

Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Akshay Anand said it makes sense for Fiat Chrysler to let the market decide when to stop producing the Grand Caravan, as the company can easily produce both at the Ontario plant.

“It has brand equity. Any time you think about sun-setting a vehicle, you have to keep brand equity in mind,” he said. “There’s still room for it.”

mwayland@detroitnews.com

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