WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) - Chrysler is debating the future of its minivans.
"We need to completely rethink the minivan," CEO Sergio Marchionne said Jan. 18 at the Canadian plant where Chrysler's minivans are made. "We need to retain all its functionality but make it much more versatile."
Marchionne said that could mean new products that can still carry a lot of people but won't look like traditional minivans. A team within the company is also studying whether to continue both the Town and Country, which is more upscale and starts at $30,000, or the Grand Caravan, which is about $7,000 cheaper. Both are made on the same frame.
At the Detroit auto show last month, Marchionne said offering both minivans in Chrysler dealerships is confusing to customers.
Marchionne said Chrysler Group LLC is developing a new frame that can be used for minivans or other kinds of vehicles and will come out in 2013 or 2014. That will allow the company to build smaller minivans, crossovers, or cars depending on what buyers want.
That's a similar strategy to Ford Motor Co., which released a new small minivan at the Detroit auto show. The company's seven-seat C-Max minivan is built on the frame of a Ford Focus small car. The van will go on sale at the end of this year. Hybrid and electric versions will follow.
Now, only minivans can be built off Chrysler's minivan frame. Chrysler also plans a hybrid minivan by 2013, Marchionne said.
Chrysler said the 2011 versions of its minivans have a new V-6 engine with improved fuel economy. One amenity is an optional heated steering wheel, a first among minivans.