Chrysler Minivans Anchor Big Plans

Minivans notwithstanding, there's nothing miniscule about Chrysler LLC's product plans. Redesigned for '08, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans represent the auto maker's brightest hopes for the coming year. Forget that the segment is trending downward, with sales off 21.1% through August, Chrysler expects to get a larger piece of a shrinking pie now that General Motors Corp.

Minivans notwithstanding, there's nothing miniscule about Chrysler LLC's product plans.

Redesigned for '08, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans represent the auto maker's brightest hopes for the coming year. Forget that the segment is trending downward, with sales off 21.1% through August, Chrysler expects to get a larger piece of a shrinking pie now that General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have dropped their minivan offerings.

Feature content is what Chrysler has used most recently to retain its position as the segment leader. The Stow 'N Go seating system, which allows second-row buckets to be folded into the floor, helped boost T&C sales by 42% when it was introduced for '05.

Chrysler has similar hopes for Swivel 'N Go, which debuts on its '08 minivans. It allows the second row to be configured to face the rear of the vehicle.

Sky Slider is another catchy name for a new feature. Chrysler hopes it will help the redesigned Jeep Liberty catch on with buyers. Sky Slider is an optional canvass roof that can be retracted from either the front or rear of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, Chrysler's Dodge brand returns to a familiar space with the scheduled mid-year arrival of the Challenger muscle coupe, in what may be the most anticipated launch of the year.

Chrysler Town & Country

In Showrooms: Now

Price: Base $23,190

Production: 192,208 for 2008

Pro's: Have to give Chrysler its props for sticking with the segment it invented. The redesign with new features shows it is serious about the market. Should be opportunity for marketshare gain with Ford and GM wimping out.

Con's: It's a segment in decline, but we're not blaming Chrysler for that.

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