By giving it something most of the competition lacks.
Although it may be an unpopular viewpoint in 2019, we still think minivans are the best vehicles for a large family, as we stated in our review of the Kia Sedona. SUVs may have better styling but with so many people now buying them, the minivan is actually the rarer sight when you drive through a neighborhood. The only big disadvantage we see with minivans is a lack of all-wheel-drive across the segment. Only the Toyota Sienna currently has an AWD option but according to a recent report by Automotive News, Chrysler may have plans to add this helpful feature on its Pacifica minivan.
Dino Chiodo, the national auto director at Unifor (the trade union representing the Pacifica plant), said FCA is closely considering adding AWD to its minivan. Two additional sources who wished to remain anonymous also confirmed that a supplier is working on a new part to accommodate AWD on a "Chrysler minivan.”
"It’s going to help them with their leadership of the product,” said Joe McCabe, CEO of consulting firm AutoForecast Solutions in Pennsylvania. "It adds some relevance to it other than what a minivan is defined as.” FCA still sits well atop the minivan sales charts but the class leader may surprise people.
The much newer Chrysler Pacifica, which sold 118,322 units in 2018, was actually outsold by its older corporate counterpart, the Dodge Grand Caravan with 151,927 units sold. The Grand Caravan continues to sell well, despite being much older, because Dodge can sell it with massive rebates. Adding AWD to the Pacifica could be a great way to put the company's newer minivan on top.
Chrysler has yet to confirm the addition of AWD, so this is still a rumor at this point. Mike Szymkiewicz, head of product planning at FCA Canada, admitted that AWD could help the company sell more Pacificas in that market. "I think it’s definitely an opportunity,” he said. "If you look at some of the competitive vehicles, maybe not the traditional minivan, but even some of the bigger duty [trucks] you can get front-wheel and all-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive take rate generally is quite high in all those offerings; I do think it would be an opportunity for us.”
The only downside to adding AWD to the Pacifica might be the loss of the signature Stow ‘n Go seating. Chrysler minivans had an AWD option prior to 2004 but lost it with the introduction of the innovative Stow 'n Go feature. Having a driveshaft going to the rear wheels would likely eliminate the ability to drop the seats into the floor but buyers in colder climates may be willing to make the sacrifice for better grip in the winter.