New Chrysler mini-vans have everything
And people thought Honda was on to something with fold-won seating in the Odyssey.
Chrysler has shown off the new 2008 minivan line, and it blows the Honda away.
Maybe it’s what you get when the guy designing your minivan races minivans as a hobby.
The mini-van segment isn’t as popular as it once was, but it is still a very large part of the business to Chrysler, which invented the minivan and has been dominant in minivan sales for years. As Ford and GM have both discontinued their minivan lines, and all but one Japanese manufacturer’s brands slipped into minivan oblivion, only Honda has actually mounted a threat against the Chrysler and Dodge minivans.
For 2008, Chrysler has made it abundantly clear that it does not intend to be beaten in the minivan market.
Earlier, it had announced across the board price cuts – an average cut of $2,000 - for the 2008 models, over the prices of 2007 models, and announced that the 2088s would be better equipped than the previous year’s models.
The Caravan and Town and Country are available with a second row seat that can rotate 180 degrees to face backwards, where a plastic topped table can be fitted between the second and third rows of seats, so everyone can sit around the table. The second and third row seats all stow beneath the floor with a touch of a button. The swivel seats are called “Swivel and Go,” echoing the “Stow and Go” name for the disappearing seats. Or, the third row seats can be electrically reversed to face backward, so they make a convenient way to tailgate.
Interior overhead LED lighting adds to the ambiance, while a “conversation mirror” folds down in the front compartment to enable the driver to see the kids in the back conveniently. Each row of seats is separately channeled on the entertainment system, so each row can watch, or listen, to something different.
You can even get satellite television.
Ralph Giles, design chief at Chrysler and the man responsible for the new minivan line, is also the man who created the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, drives minivans. He’s had eight in the last eleven years. And one of them happens to have seats from a Viper and a modified, much more powerful engine. He makes it a point to stress that most of the engineers and designers working on the van project were car guys and gals who also are younger parents, so they designed the new line with both backgrounds firmly in mind.
Even though the minivan market is seen as declining, it’s still a big one. Almost a million new minivans were sold last year, though the market has shrunk a bit in the current year, as buyers wait for the new Chrysler product. However, as gas prices rise, the large SUV becomes a less attractive way to haul a family, costing more to fuel and depreciating more than before because it does.
The minivan still has one very important thing going for it: as a vehicle, there has never been a more practical design. With the second and third row seats removed or placed beneath the floor, the average minivan can easily haul a large snow blower or the proverbial 4 x 8 sheet of plywood – plus, it can do it in the rain and without having to lift three feet to clear the bumper. Then, with the seats returned to position, everyone can be off to school. All this without sucking the pocketbook dry at the gas pump.
Chrysler is clearly trying to add some sex appeal to the new mini-van, to make it more luxurious and more competitive. The new Town and Country and Caravan are priced below both the Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna, both of which are hold-overs from previous years.