WAP to build new minivan and full-size crossover, says analyst

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Windsor Star/Grace Macaluso

The Windsor Assembly Plant will not only build the next-generation minivan and its plug-in hybrid cousin, but a Chrysler-badged, full-size crossover vehicle, according to a U.S.-based industry forecasting firm.

“It will have three rows of seating, but it won’t be a minivan,” said Sam Fiorani, vice-president, global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions LLC.

Under Chrysler Group’s (the company recently changed its name to FCA US) five-year product plan, a full-size crossover and a plug-in, hybrid version will be launched in 2017.

Although CEO Sergio Marchionne has not disclosed where the crossover would be assembled, Fiorani said it was destined for the Windsor plant.

“It will be coming off the line in 2017 as a 2018 model,” said Fiorani.

Dino Chiodo, president of Unifor Local 444, said the new minivan and crossover could “potentially” be built off the same platform.

“It makes sense, the fit is there,” said Chiodo, who represents more than 4,500 hourly workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant.  “Would we be in the running? Certainly, but that doesn’t guarantee it will come to Windsor.”

The all-new Chrysler Town and Country will begin full assembly in early 2016, said Fiorani, although he did not expect it to be on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which kicks off Jan. 12.

The Town and Country will be FCA’s sole minivan, and the crossover or multi-purpose utility vehicle is expected to fill the gap left by the elimination of the Dodge Grand Caravan, said Fiorani.

From 2003 to 2007, the Windsor plant assembled the Chrysler Pacifica, a mid-size luxury crossover, that was discontinued in the 2008 model year.

But Fiorani said he it was unlikely FCA would revive the Pacifica name. “I doubt they’d use Pacifica again because the last one wasn’t a huge hit. If it had a long-standing reputation like Town and Country, I could see them keeping it, but it was such a short model.”

FCA may “come up with a numbering system and call it the Chrysler 700C,” he added, referring to a minivan concept vehicle that was on display at the 2012 Detroit auto show.

On Friday, FCA announced the start of major renovations at Windsor Assembly, which is slated to undergo a 14-week shutdown from mid-February to the end of May.

The company said it was beginning preparations for production of a “future model.” Unifor officials said they have not been told that the Windsor plant will get a second product, however, they estimated FCA is spending between $1 billion and $1.5 billion on the retooling.

The plant, currently down for the two-week Christmas break, employs 4,500 hourly workers who build 1,500 minivans a day on three full shifts.