Has the minivan seen its day?
Despite being the best-selling Dodge vehicle in 2018, the Dodge Grand Caravan (and its newer sibling, the Chrysler Pacifica) haven't had a hot start in 2019. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Chrysler minivan, something that FCA has celebrated with special edition models. Sadly, the 35th anniversary year has also been plagued with slow sales and FCA has been forced to idle its factory and cut jobs.
FCA's Windsor factory in Ontario, Canada, where the Pacifica and Grand Caravan are built, will be idled for five weeks from July 8 to August 5 to make improvements and perform maintenance. The factory was originally set to be idled for two weeks but the closure has now been extended.
FCA Canada issued a statement saying, "Windsor’s downtime has been extended by three weeks to implement improvements or maintenance projects to support new model production. Regular production schedules will resume on August 12."
Some of the factory improvements may be focused on the recently-announced 2020 Chrysler Voyager, which will replace two lower trim levels of the Pacifica. The Voyager is mostly the same as the Pacifica but small differences in content and badging may require minor changes at the Windsor plant.
At the halfway point of 2019, both Pacifica and Grand Caravan sales have slowed significantly. Pacifica sales have dropped by 29% to 38,490 units and even the strong-selling Grand Caravan has dropped by 15% to 59,732 units. If introducing the cheaper Voyager isn't enough to boost minivan sales, perhaps the reveal of the anticipated Portal EV might swing buyers away from SUVs.
FCA currently has a third shift working to fill a large order but after October 21, the shift will be cut along with 1,500 jobs. President David Cassidy of the workers union Unifor Local 444 issued a statement on Facebook saying, "In our quest to save the third shift, we have been putting pressure on all parties involved to find a favorable solution. Wednesday we had a conference call with the key players of the Liberal Federal government. It was a good conversation, and the government is open to help to do their part in preserving the third shift. Now that we have the government going in the right direction on this issue, we are trying to get the company going in the same direction."