Chrysler counting on its 2008 minivans
August 22, 2007Chrysler counting on its 2008 minivans
By Dee-Ann Durbin
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WINDSOR, Ontario - The first of Chrysler's next-generation minivans rolled off an assembly line Tuesday as the company celebrated the launch of a product it hopes will help it return it to profitability.
Chrysler LLC's 2008 vans also will be built at one of the automaker's assembly plants in Fenton.
"This minivan is the kind of great product that sets Chrysler apart," Chrysler LLC President Tom LaSorda told hundreds of cheering employees at the Windsor Assembly Plant.
LaSorda said the next-generation minivans have 35 new or revised features, including second-row seats that swivel 180 degrees so passengers can sit around a table. The company spent $1.4 billion on the redesign.
But minivan sales have sputtered in recent years, prompting General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. to exit the market. Through July of this year, 477,662 minivans were sold in the U.S., down 21.9 percent compared with the same period last year.
Some analysts say the market will continue to decline as more car-based crossover vehicles are introduced. But Chrysler, which invented the minivan, sees a healthy demand in the future for the people haulers.
The Windsor plant, which just went through a $511 million overhaul, is building the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, which are due to hit showrooms in the fall.
Because of the investment, the Windsor plant has the flexibility to build the minivans on the same assembly line as the Chrysler Pacifica crossover vehicle, the automaker said.
Chrysler's South Assembly Plant in Fenton is undergoing a similar overhaul to allow more flexibility in production, including the ability to build right-hand drive versions that will be shipped to Japan.