A flexible beast of burden good at hauling both people and cargo, the Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth minivans became a big hit in suburbia – and thus played a large role in the company’s escape from insolvency. Their considerable profitability was why the folks at Chrysler called them “the crown jewels.”
Indeed, Chrysler gets more than a third of the apple. It gets more than half. U.S. sales of Chrysler’s three minivans – Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan and a pure cargo variant called the Ram Truck Cargo Van – totaled 260,287 last year. That’s almost 16 percent of Chrysler’s total vehicle sales for 2012, which was 1.61 million.
The minivan has been able to stay in the half million-per-year sales range, in Velisek’s view, because of the functionality edge it holds over crossovers. Simply put, it’s roomier than most crossovers. I can’t think of a crossover that will carry a 4-by-8 sheet of plywood.
The Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan utilize the same architecture and mechanicals. The difference is in their amenities and price. The Dodge has a base price of $19,995, which is rather remarkable for a minivan that has 144 cubic feet of cargo space, gets good pep from its 3.6-liter V-6, and boasts EPAs of 25 m.p.g. on the highway.
The Town & Country, while it uses the same bones, the same 280-horsepower Pentastar V-6, and the same six-speed automatic, is markedly more upscale. The base Touring model starts at $30,395, and the top-of-the-line Limited opens at $40,395. The middle-of-the-pack Touring-L that I spent a recent week in based at $33,395.