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You may not have noticed it, but in the people mover segment of the auto market, what the car makers refer to as “family,” there is something of a war.

On the one side, you have General Motors and Ford. And a bunch of Japanese, such as Nissan.

Their rallying cry is “CROSSOVER.”

On the other side, you have a much more muted crowed, whose rallying cry is, “God, please don’t call it a ‘minivan.”

On that side you have, of course, Chrysler and Dodge.

And, now, you add Volkswagen.

(more after the jump)

It is an interesting match. At the Chicago Auto Show, VW introduced their new minivan, the Routan.

It’s a Chrysler minivan. Chrysler builds it. Chrysler engineers did the work to modify it to VW standards.

And, it’s awesome.

If you want to know what is right and what is wrong with Chrysler, LLC, all you need do is pick up the Detroit Free Press newspaper and look at this minivan.

This thing is an absolute winner.

First of all, as a van, it’s drop dead gorgeous. Perfectly executed. Restrained chrome, but enough to let you know that you’re looking at a quality product. Then there is the paint. The van they displayed at Chicago was done in a deep black. Black is not a minivan color. But this thing was done in a deep black that would make the average hearse envious. It has this certain Germanic perfection look to it – an aesthetic balance that is alien to every expression of the minivan, until now.

Did you ever think of the minivan as elegant?

Well, now you should.

It is somewhat bizarre, but this thing is the perfect minivan. It is entirely a Volkswagen, in fit and in execution.

The decision to display this van in black must have been calculated. Of course, partially it’s that German cars are often done in black. But – reality – it was done because VW knew that the world knows that this is a Chrysler produced vehicle. Chrysler quality is suspect. Black is a paint color that any detailer will tell you shows every – EVERY – imperfection.

If what Volkswagen intended to do with that paint color was impress, they succeeded.

But, they left lingering questions.

After the reveal, I walked over to see the Dodge and Chrysler minivans.

In profile, it is easy to see that they’re the same vans. According to the technical people, the only real differences are the front and rear quarters.

But, you can’t get around the fact that the Chrysler vans, like all of the Chrysler products at the Chicago Auto Show, looked cheap.

The VW van looked quality.

It looked Wolfsburg.

Apparently, the problem at Chrysler isn’t its engineers, who designed the VW van, or its production people, who build it.

The problem appears to be the people running the company, who have decided to build a better vehicle for someone else than they will build for their own customers.

What do you think?


  (380) posted on 09.27.2010

Every time someone talks about the Routan, Chrysler’s name will come up. Ugh!

  (462) posted on 08.5.2010

And don’t forget the Tiguan off-roader, and the Suran too (the minivan/wagon version of the Fox). The Suran is called SpaceFox in Brazil, SportVan in Mexico and Fox Plus in Algeria... that’s worse than the Touran/Routan duo.

  (274) posted on 05.6.2010

For me Chrysler’s minivan works well for my family. Did you know that the Chrysler Town & Country comes in three trims: LX, Touring and the premium Limited

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