The company that invented the minivan almost 30 years ago is struggling to figure out how best to let its creation live on.
It's no secret that Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is taking a long hard look at his two people movers, the upscale Chrysler Town & Country and the cheaper -- and very similar -- Dodge Grand Caravan.
Only one is likely to survive in something close to its current form.
In 2011 the Grand Caravan outsold the more expensive Town & Country by a margin of 110,862 to 94,320. But according to market analyst R.L. Polk, only 36 percent of the Grand Caravans registered in the United States in 2012 were retail sales, compared with 68 percent for the Town & Country.
Last week Chrysler brand CEO Saad Chehab waded into the debate, arguing that the Town & Country -- which he called the "bread and butter" of his brand's three-vehicle lineup -- should survive.
"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," Chehab said. "Seventy percent of those that buy a Town & Country buy one again. That is a huge incentive for us to continue to be in this business with Town & Country."
Dealers aren't so sure. While the Town & Country brings in more profit per sale, its $30,930 base price tag, including shipping, can be a tougher sell than the Grand Caravan's $21,930 starting price.