DETROIT -- Chrysler brand CEO Saad Chehab said today that if Chrysler Group is to squeeze its minivan lineup from two vehicles down to one, his minivan should be the one that survives.
Speaking to reporters today before being named a Newsmaker of the Year by Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News, Chehab said the Chrysler Town & Country is the "bread and butter" of his brand, and should stay that way.
"It's always been Town & Country that leads the way for the business of minivans, but there is a certain cachet and there is loyalty that we've got to consider to move forward," Chehab said. "If we were to combine them into one minivan, Town & County has the natural fit to continue."
Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has said that Chrysler needs a newly designed minivan, and that the Town & Country and Grand Caravan need to be merged into a single vehicle.
The Grand Caravan outsold the more expensive Town & Country in 2011 by 18 percent -- 110,862 to 94,320.
Chehab also said the Chrysler brand needs a smaller entry-level vehicle to allow customers to matriculate through the brand's products.
"We need to build and continue to create the loyalty in our showroom from a consumer that walks into our showroom at a younger age and carry them through a midlife to retirement and so forth," Chehab said. A Chrysler 100 hatchback, "will be something that is 'Chrysler cool' as they call it, if we bring it, so it's not just an additional car for the sake of adding a car."
Chehab, 44, a native of Lebanon who holds a degree in architecture from the University of Detroit-Mercy, said designing a car -- a "mobile box on wheels" -- and designing a building aren't all that different.
"Once you have the necessities, somebody has to sketch the idea, whether it's a building or a car, somebody has to make feasibility studies to it," Chehab said. "You have similar kind of challenges, whether it's safety, environmental issues, structural issues, budget issues. Then you have to sell the house, just like you have to sell the car."