It was 25 years ago this Fall when the Chrysler Corporation shook up the automotive industry by introducing a trio of small vans, dubbed minivans, for its Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth brands. The Chrysler Town & Country, Plymouth Voyager, and Dodge Caravan were instant hits, helping Chrysler to carve out a new automotive segment and defining the term “people hauler” in the process.
Today, Chrysler still leads in this important segment, offering two models: the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town & Country. Both minivans seat seven passengers and are powered by a 4.0L V6 engine that is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The transmission, new for 2009, is the first of its kind: the only six-speed automatic available on a minivan.
The new engine-transmission pairing has given the automaker a needed boost, by providing best in class fuel economy of 17 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. “Chrysler and Dodge minivans continue to lead the segment,” said Larry Lyons, Vice President – Car and Minivan Product Team, Chrysler LLC. “With an improved 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine and a minivan-first six-speed transmission, no other minivan has better fuel economy. We optimized both the engine and the transmission to give our customers the fuel economy they want, and the power and responsiveness they expect.”
Chrysler has managed to hold firm in the minivan market even while Ford and General Motors exited the segment. The Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are its chief competitors, but Chrysler still holds 40% of the market, with the Dodge Grand Caravan continuing as the best selling minivan on the market. Since it was first introduced, Chrysler has sold more than twelve million of its minivans.
When it comes to passenger safety, the Chrysler and Dodge minivans are at the top of their game, receiving five-star crash test certification for front and side impacts. Both minivans have been technological leaders down through the years, by offering Swivel ‘n Go seating, minivan-first dual DVD players and uconnect studios SIRIUS Backseat TV with family programming channels that include Nickelodeon, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network Mobile, and best-in-class aerodynamics, Cd of 0.33.
For 2009, a third version of the Chrysler minivans is now available, the Volkswagen Routan, a vehicle which shares the same platform, engine and transmission as its Chrysler and Dodge cousins. However, the Routan uses a unique suspension and the minivan has its own interior and exterior to help differentiate the model from its American competitors.
(Source: Chrysler LLC)