Windsor gets first glimpse at new Chrysler Pacifica

The public got a first look Monday at the new type of minivan that Chrysler hopes will entice a new generation of buyers and will be built in Windsor.

New type of minivan will be built at Windsor assembly plant

Chrysler unveiled the Pacifica at the North American International Auto Show on Monday. (Tony Ding/Associated Press)

The public got a first look Monday at the new type of minivan that Chrysler hopes will entice a new generation of buyers and which will be built in Windsor.

Called the Pacifica, the minivan has a sleeker look than the most recent models that Chrysler has put forward. It has a series of new features including sliding doors that open automatically when a driver puts a foot under them.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens called the revamped minivan product "a game changer" for the city and for the automaker.

"I think these minivans are going to sell like hot cakes and the new Pacifica is going to be a real star on the streets," he said in Detroit on Monday, after the minivan was formally unveiled at the North American International Auto Show.

Dino Chiodo, the president of Unifor Local 444, said he believes the Chrysler Pacifica will be 'a hit' with consumers. (CBC)

Dino Chiodo, the president of Unifor Local 444, was similarly optimistic about the Pacifica's appeal to buyers.

"We think this is a hit," he told CBC News at the auto show on Monday. "This is a beautiful vehicle and we think that we're going to sell lots of them because people can see the work that's gone into it and I think people will really appreciate what it has to offer."

Electrician Chris Fantin was among a group of people who helped oversee the assembly of the machines that Chrysler workers will use to build the new minivans.

Monday marked the first time he had seen the fully finished Pacifica.

"I'm very proud," he told CBC News in an interview.

'Dominant leadership position'

Chrysler has said it intends to hire at least 600 new staff to work at the Windsor plant where the Pacifica will be built. Reid Bigland, the president and CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Canada, confirmed that figure at the auto show on Monday.

Reid Bigland, the president and CEO of FCA Canada, reiterated that the automaker will be hiring at least 600 people to work at the Windsor plant where the new Chrysler Pacifica will be assembled. (CBC)

"Over 600 people," Bigland said Monday, telling reporters that more details would be provided at the Toronto auto show next month.

Bigland said he believed the Pacifica will help Chrysler keep its foot on the gas in the minivan market.

"If you think about that vehicle, we have dominated that segment since we invented it 30 years ago," he said.

"Our market share in the Canadian marketplace is right around 70 per cent and this is truly the next generation of minivan."

Sales key to future plans

Tony Faria, the co-director of the Office of Automotive and Vehicle Research at the University of Windsor's Odette School of Business, said the automaker has turned its Windsor facility into one that can make different types of vehicles at the same time.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens believes the new Chrysler Pacifica will be a 'gamechanger' for the automaker. (CBC)

But Faria said sales will ultimately dictate how Chrysler deploys its staff resources at the Windsor plant.

"Right now, we'll see, into the future whether the three shifts are totally minivan, or whether a new product will be brought into Windsor," Faria told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning in an interview on Monday.

"And I think that's something Chrysler is looking at, depending on what minivan sales in the future are."

Faria said the flexibility in production that is possible at the Windsor plant gives Chrysler the ability to respond to what the market demands, whether consumers want lots of minivans or not.

"The plants that are going to have a future with any of the auto companies, whether it's Chrysler or anyone else, are the flexible plants," said Faria.

"Because a flexible plant gives you the opportunity that if one vehicle isn't selling as well as expected, you simply substitute the production of another vehicle and the plant keeps operating at full capacity rather than having to operate at less than full capacity."

With files from The AP and the CBC's Alex Brockman, Joana Draghici and Marine Lefevre


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