Chrysler kills Dodge Grand Caravan, jobs said to be at stake

Chrysler announced on Tuesday it will stop producing Dodge Grand Caravans. Instead, the company will continue to build only its luxury model minivan, the Chrysler Town and Country.

Auto analyst says company will be 'hard pressed' to keep building 300,000 minivans a year in Windsor

The Dodge Caravan was the original minivan, launched 30 years ago by Lee Iacocca in Windsor, Ont. (The Canadian Press File Photo)

Chrysler announced on Tuesday it will stop producing Dodge Grand Caravans.

Instead, the company will continue to build only its luxury model minivan, the Chrysler Town and Country.

Chrysler's flagship vehicle will continue to be built at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ont.

The Caravan was the original minivan, launched 30 years ago by Lee Iacocca in Windsor.

Al Gardner, the head of the Chrysler brand, said the Dodge division of the company will focus on building performance vehicles only.

Gardner said the significant changes are designed to eliminate "excess product" in its product line. The changes are also meant to streamline their production and "do what we're good at," Gardner said.

When the 2016 Chrysler Town and Country is launched, the Dodge Grand Caravan will be phased out.

U.S. sales of the Chrysler Town and Country increased 45 per cent from 2009 to 2013.

Gardner is hoping to carry that on through the next few years.

The announcement was part of a marathon day of media conferences at Chrysler's headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., where Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne unveiled a five-year plan for the automaker.

Auto analyst Tony Faria, a professor at the University of Windsor, said Chrysler will be "hard-pressed" to keep making 300,000 minivans annually in Windsor.

"The worst-case scenario is that we lose a full shift at Windsor Assembly Plant. That could eliminate 1,000 jobs and even more supplier jobs," Faria warned. "What I really hope is that we see a new product come into the Windsor plant. There will be space for another vehicle."

Dodge Brand CEO Tim Kuniskis said the end of the Grand Caravan - and Avenger, also announced Tuesday - will lead to a temporary drop in Dodge brand sales.

Chrysler has only committed to producing minivans in Windsor for the next five years.

It had been seeking government assistance to pay for retooling the plant in Windsor and its plant in Brampton, where the company makes the Chrysler 300, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger.

Kuniskis said Tuesday that Charger sales are outpacing segment growth.

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak called Chrysler's request "ransom."

Marchionne eventually withdrew the company's request, saying the entire process had become "a political football."

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