Sales in the US Minivan segment grew by 1.5 percent in the third quarter of 2016, as growth slowed down from the +21 percent in Q2, which was artificially boosted because of the plant shutdown at FCA in the second quarter of 2015, which hampered sales of two of the best selling models in the segment. In Q3 of 2016, five out of the eight models in the segment lost volume, although that needs a sidenote that two of those are discontinued nameplates. One of the most important questions about the minivan segment is whether the all-new Chrysler Pacifica is able to fill the large shoes of its predecessor, and so far the signs are positive. [Read more…]
With production of the Chrysler 200 midsized sedan set to end next December, the illustrious brand will be down to just two models: the now almost elderly 300 large sedan, which shares its platform with the Dodge Charger and Challenger, and the brand new minivan Pacifica. That means the two namesake brands of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are also its weakest volume brands in the North American market. And considering Chrysler cars are sold almost exclusively in the US and Canada, the brand doesn’t seem all that relevant anymore. That’s unfortunate for a brand which used to be one of America’s most innovative brands with a number of important technological breakthroughs to its name and which of course is credited with the creation of the minivan. However, for the past decades Chrysler has let its image crumble by selling mediocre cars and ongoing financial uncertainty under multiple owners as it has gone through a number of (near-)bankruptcies.
Sales in the Minivan segment grew by 21 percent in the second quarter of the year – this continuation of the unexpected performance from the first quarter of the year made the segment the only mainstream segment to grow in the second quarter, and the second-faster growing segment over the time period (only the Subcompact SUV segment grew faster). Remarkably, almost every model in the segment contributed to this growth, though ultimately it’s the renewed market popularity of the outgoing FCA twins, Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, that really drove this segments to such fast growth. [Read more…]
Recently I’ve been looking to buy a car capable of carrying more than the usual five passengers, which got me thinking about the way this market has developed over the past few decades, and how it will change in the future. However, rather than spend time retreading the topic that’s been covered thousands of times, namely the history of the minivan and SUVs, I want to focus on the the interesting efforts by carmakers to offer those looking for space something genuinely new and potentially market-changing. In the first of a series of articles, I look at the brief history of the family-haulers, and then dive into the American experience of looking for the middle ground between the unsexy minivan and the gas-guzzling and compromised SUVs.
The future of mobility looks quite different from how we know it today, and most automakers are hedging their bets to make sure they’re part of that future, where they may no longer be called automakers but mobility providers. Autonomous driving, car-to-car communication sharing information like traffic conditions and a (at least partial) shift from ownership to a shared economy are among the most likely developments to become mainstream as soon as the next decade. And it’s not only the established automakers that are trying to establish their place in the future, it’s no secret that Apple and Google are aiming for a piece of the mobility pie as well. Although Google is testing with their own Google car, as well as with autonomous versions of existing models, their ultimate goal is not to produce their own cars and become a full-blown auto maker, competing with the likes of Ford, General Motors or Toyota, but rather to become a technology supplier and a mobility supplier, offering self-driving cars that would rival Uber in the ride-sharing business.
However, to test and eventually showcase its capabilities in autonomous driving, Google will have to forge a cooperation with an existing automaker and get its system built into one or more of that company’s cars. Such a tie-up would combine Google’s experience from millions of miles of autonomous driving by its fleet of a few dozen self-driving cars with the manufacturing and development capabilities of a large automaker. [Read more…]
1. Chrysler Pacifica
A huge return to form for Chrysler, not only in terms of styling but in terms of innovation: it’s the world’s first plug-in minivan. Looks good enough to lure some people away from their family SUVs.
Earlier today Chrysler revealed its crucial new model, the Pacifica minivan. “Wait, isn’t this the new Town&Country?” I hear you say? Yes, the name change is pretty surprising, given that the Town & Country and Voyager were pioneers of the segment and enjoy great name-recognition, but Chrysler’s logic is that they’ve become too synonymous with the old-style minivan and were tainted by the lackluster predecessor. Enter the “Pacifica” name, which last served on an upmarket minivan/crossover model, sort of like the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, that Chrysler retired in 2008 after only five years of sales. Such a name change is not unprecedented, but only time will tell if the new name will stick (as it did when Ford replaced the Escort with the Focus) or whether the carmaker will have a change of heart (as Ford had when it replaced the Taurus with the Five Hundred, only to change the name back a few years later). [Read more…]