- Chrysler Group is rethinking its minivan strategy.
- Got-to-have styling is the key element to quash the soccer-mom image.
- Either the Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town and Country will be dropped, replaced with a seven-passenger crossover.
DETROIT — Chrysler Group's design chief is confident that the redesigned minivan arriving in 2015 will be something buyers will lust over, Edmunds learned at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
"Is it possible to make a minivan something that you covet, something that you want to be seen in?" said Ralph Gilles, Chrysler Group's head of design, said in an interview. "I think you can."
The automaker, which invented the minivan in 1983, is now the process of reinventing the minivan. The reason is that minivan sales have slid over the past decade as families switched to sport utility and crossover models.
"If you are a soccer mom who is terrified of minivans, I want to make it so compelling that you can't even see straight," Gilles said. "You just have to give it a shot or at least test drive it."
Yet to be determined is whether the Dodge or Chrysler brand will offer the redesigned minivan, he said. Rather than offering two minivans in the future, Chrysler Group has said the Dodge Grand Caravan or Chrysler Town & Country will be dropped from the product line. In its place will be a seven-passenger crossover. The automaker's rational is that since most dealers sell both brands, only one minivan is needed in the showroom.
Gilles said the automaker is ready for either scenario.
"I am hedging my bets and designing all of the above," he said. "We have not decided because both nameplates have huge recognition, great consideration and good legacy to them."
The No. 1 selling minivan last year was the Grand Caravan with about 141,000 sales. That was followed by the Honda Odyssey, 126,000; Toyota Sienna, 115,000; and the Town and Country, 112,000. The Nissan Quest tallied approximately 18,000 vehicles.
Gilles said there is no other vehicle that offers the functionality of a minivan. The challenge is coming up with a compelling design.
"I believe a minivan, if styled well, can be a romantic car just like anything else," he added.
Edmunds says: The minivan's reinvention carries risks that might alienate repeat buyers.