DETROIT -- For 20 years, General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have wrestled with how to respond to top dog Chrysler in the minivan wars.
Their latest attempts have fared poorly - not only against Chrysler but also Toyota, Honda and others. So what will the Big 2 do next?
One thing is for sure. It won't be more of the same.
Sources say GM will replace its current minivans with radically designed models. New versions of the Chevrolet Uplander and Pontiac Montana SV6 are planned in 2008, with extended-wheelbase offerings expected a year later. But GM is mulling over replacements for the Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay. Both models could be canceled, sources say.
Ford executives, who admit the company doesn't earn much on minivans, are looking for a better idea. The Fairlane concept model, exhibited at the 2005 Detroit auto show, is Ford's latest notion of a mainstream people mover.
With a Land Rover look and lots of glass, the Fairlane departs significantly from the one-box minivan of the past. Ford design chief J Mays has said it could take the "diaper" stigma away from conventional minivan buyers.
Ford officials have said that if the company adds something like the Fairlane, it would not need a traditional minivan.
Meanwhile, the next-generation Chrysler and Dodge minivans are expected to be highly differentiated when they are re-engineered and reskinned for the 2008 model year.
The planned re-engineering is "substantial," an insider says. The exterior was described as "evolutionary, but an all-new look."
Chrysler will unveil the minivans at the 2007 Detroit auto show.
Ralph Gilles, the Chrysler designer who created the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Magnum, is in charge of the company's next-generation minivans.
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