Chrysler’s recipe for success in the minivan market
Chrysler calls its minivan models its “bread and butter” cars — so with typical showmanship Chrysler president Tom LaSorda donned an apron at the recent auto show in Detroit and joined well-known American chef Bobby Flay in presenting the “recipe” for its latest-generation family haulers.
LaSorda helped Flay cook up recipes representing the Dodge and Chrysler versions of the new 2008 minivans — a spicy pork dish for the sportier Dodge Grand Caravan and a rich chocolate cake for the smoother Chrysler Town and Country.
The pun-laden presentation contained another major ingredient — cheese, and LaSorda raised a laugh from those watching when he joked that “the kitchen’s been pretty hot lately” in the minivan sector.
The vehicles are significant for Chrysler — more than 11 million minivans have been sold since the company’s first Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager models were launched in 1984. The new versions are the fifth-generation on this design theme and are all-new inside and out, with three new V6 gasoline engines and a six-speed gearbox, a first for the segment.
The 2008 minivans go on sale next autumn, with many of them being built at Chrysler’s Windsor, Ontario, facility. The rest will come from a plant in St. Louis, Missouri.
LaSorda said there were 35 new features on the minivans, including swiveling second-row seats, dual DVD systems so passengers in the second and third rows of seats can watch different programs, a one-touch power-folding rear seat, and a flex-fuel capability of the smallest 3.3-litre V6 so it can run on clean E85 fuel (a mix of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent gasoline).
Chrysler design vice-president Ralph Gilles said the new minivans had more upright side windows, giving greater headroom and allowing fitment of “yummy interior features” including ambient interior lighting in the roof liner which, Gilles said, gave a “Zen-like halo of soft green light over the rear seats.” He also pointed out a sliding centre console between the front seats designed “like a Swiss Army knife” and allowing cupholders and storage compartments to be accessed by passengers sitting in the second row of seats.