When designing minivans, it's best to work from the inside out.
That's how DaimlerChrysler created its next-generation minivans which are due for the 2001 model year. The minivans will be produced on the new RS platform.
While the redesigned 2001 Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan, Plymouth Voyager/Grand Voyager and Chrysler Town & County minivans have significant changes in exterior styling, the emphasis has been on the interior, said Kevin Tourneur, minivan platform senior program planning manager.
'We found that people who want a minivan aren't so concerned with the outside package,' Tourneur said. 'Having a radical design isn't as important to them. It's what's inside that matters.'
DaimlerChrysler's minivan market share has eroded with the introduction of new competitors, such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. In the first half of 1999, DaimlerChrysler's share of the minivan segment dropped to 41.1 percent, from 43.5 percent in the first half of 1998, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Last year, the former Chrysler Corp. unveiled a trio of concept minivans based on the current NS platform. The focus was on the interior, and ostensibly some of the features will show up in the redesigned 2001 models.
The Dodge Caravan R/T concept, for instance, has a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, the performance engine also used in the Chrysler 300M sedan. The Caravan R/T has an atypical black interior.
'Instead of using the colors everybody is using, we are testing if we can break out of the mold,' Tourneur said. The Caravan R/T has a vinyl flooring with a surface texture that resembles a tire tread.
'It would be a lot easier to clean up and would appeal to the dads that drive it on the weekends,' Tourneur said.
DaimlerChrysler is not worried about the stability of the minivan market. 'The predictions of its demise continue to be wrong,' said Jim Holden, DaimlerChrysler board member in charge of North American sales and marketing.