NEW YORK – Chrysler has been an also-ran in the auto industry for decades, except in the minivan segment it invented.
The automaker, a unit of the rechristened FCA US since its merger with Fiat, was deposed as U.S. minivan sales leader only last year, losing its last segment-leading position when Honda’s Odyssey racked up 127,736 sales to the Chrysler Town & Country’s 93,848, according to WardsAuto data.
Enter the Pacifica, successor to the Town & Country that managed to outsell the Odyssey by a mere 325 units through the year’s first four months. The Town & Country’s result might reflect a sell-down in anticipation of the Pacifica’s arrival. The all-new minivan’s 487 deliveries in April, its first month on the market, don’t reflect intense dealer demand.
The Pacifica is available in five trim levels, ranging in price from $28,595 for the entry-level LX to $42,495 for the top-of-the-line Limited. The minivan’s best-selling trim levels are expected to be the Touring L and Touring at 35% and 30%, respectively, says Matt McAlear, senior manager-Chrysler brand product marketing.
All models are equipped with a 3.6L V-6 making 287 hp and a 9-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is estimated at 18/28 mpg city/highway (13.0-8.4 L/100 km). A hybrid-electric version launching in the year’s second half is expected to achieve 80 MPGe (2.9 L/100 km) in all-electric mode, McAlear says.
The Pacifica comes with 37 features never before available in minivans, and more than 100 innovations than the Town & Country. That includes a second row of stow ʼn go seats.
Chrysler introduced the front-drive minivan back in 1984 and watched as 17 competitors joined the fray, driving the small-van segment to a 1.2 million-unit peak at the turn of the millennium before it tumbled to just over 400,000 vehicles in 2009, according to WardsAuto data.
Since then, the segment has rebounded to about 600,000 units annually, with the Town & Country and Dodge Caravan owning about a third of the market against three remaining primary competitors from Honda, Kia and Toyota, WardsAuto data shows.
McAlear isn't predicting minivans will poach sales from the CUV/SUV segments, but says rising minivan sales could draw some automakers back into the category.
– with Bob Gritzinger in Detroit