James Holden, 47, became keeper of the corporate jewels on Jan. 1 when he was named Chrysler's general manager of minivan operations. Holden spoke with Staff Reporter Ralph Kisiel about the changing minivan market. What follows is an edited excerpt.
Are your minivan buyers changing?
Forty percent of the people buying our minivans lately are empty-nesters. They use it for its great utility.
What happens to minivans if gas prices rise?
It's the most efficient way out there to move a lot of people. The things get great fuel economy. They are seven-passenger vehicles, and we can do it in four cylinder and short wheelbase.
Can minivans be marketed as vehicles with sport-utility attributes?
Minivans do some of what a sport-utility will do. But the numbers don't say that people consider both and then end up buying one or the other. I have watched some of the ads with interest that posture minivans as sport-utilities. In general, the sport-utility driver knows whether he is driving one or not. They're not fooling anybody.
Dual sliding power doors, tumble-forward seats - there are a lot of new features out there.
We looked at those things years ago. We're not looking for features that we can add just because we know how to invent them. We think we are very good at the tradeoff of added cost vs. added benefit for the customer.