WINDSOR, ONTARIO -- Chrysler Group Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne vowed to keep the automaker on top of the minivan segment in the North American market and said the company will develop a new type of minivan by 2014.
"We're not going to give one inch of territory in terms of our domination of (the minivan) segment," Marchionne said to workers at the Windsor Assembly Plant on Tuesday, where the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town & Country minivans are made.
Chrysler, which popularized the minivan segment in 1983 under former CEO Lee Iacocca, will "rethink" the minivan in an attempt to make it more versatile, Marchionne said.
A fresh architecture for a new generation of minivans will be introduced in 2013 or 2014 that will define a new type of "people mover," Marchionne said today as the automaker marked the launch of its refreshed 2011 minivan models.
Chrysler will begin selling hybrid versions of its full-sized 300 sedan next year as well as of its next-generation minivan later, Marchionne added.
The next minivan design may have mechanical underpinnings that could be used for a full-size car, Marchionne said. The Windsor plant could also produce Fiat models, he said, as he stressed the flexibility of the engineering in the future vehicles.
“You're going to see a new architecture on the line, a completely different architecture, completely re-thought,” Marchionne told reporters after the event. “We've learned a lot in making this minivan over the last 20 plus years. We need to upgrade this and make it a much more versatile platform, one that will allow us to make more than just minivans.”
Being able to build the next-generation minivan and other vehicles on the same platform is part of Marchionne's plans to reduce the complexity of the company's model lineup.
“I'd like to get 80 percent of the volume on four or five architectures,” he said.
Marchionne's comments during the Detroit auto show last week, in which he indicated the company was considering replacing one of its duplicate minivan brands with a different kind of vehicle such as a mini-minivan, revealed that the automaker is reviewing its people-mover strategy.
“We're looking at a hybrid as being an integral solution going forward,” he said.
The full-sized Chrysler 300 sedan will come with a hybrid system in 2012, he said.
Reuters and Bloomberg News contributed to this report