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Redesigned Chrysler minivans a year out?

by Andrew Ganz

A new report suggests the next-generation version of Chryslers vans could go into production late next year.

A production schedule sent to union bosses at Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario, assembly plant suggests that the automaker's next-generation minivan lineup could be in production by the end of 2014.

Such a timeline would likely indicate that the replacement for the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country will debut as early as next fall's Los Angeles Auto Show before hitting the market in early 2015 as a 2016 model year vehicle.

While Chrysler has remained mum on the situation, Canadian Auto Workers vice president Mike Lovric to the Windsor Star that the Windsor plant is "in position for new products" and that he is "waiting for an official announcement that could come any time now."

Although the minivan market has declined in North America, Chrysler remains a dominant player. Its Chrysler and Dodge division vans account for about 40 percent of those sold in the U.S. and nearly 60 percent of those sold in Canada. However, fleet sales for vans remain high - especially for the Grand Caravan. More than 300,000 vans are assembled in Windsor annually.

Chrysler has also built versions of its vans badged as Volkswagen Routans, Lancia Grand Caravans and Ram Cargo Vans in Windsor.

Next-gen vansNot a lot has been confirmed about the next generation of Chrysler's people haulers. It's widely expected that the Dodge variant will get the axe, even though it's the stronger seller.

While that might seem like an odd decision, it's because the vast majority of Grand Caravans are sold to rental fleets. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is said to be a proponent of consolidating product overlap - and since the Dodge and Chrysler are essentially identical other than minor trim changes, the higher margin Town & Country would be allowed to stick around.

Chrysler's deal with Volkswagen is over, meaning the Routan won't be reprised. And the Ram Cargo van is expected to give way to a Fiat-derived unit aimed at the Ford Transit Connect.

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