WASHINGTON -- Volkswagen today wiped out rumors of the Routan's demise, saying that production of the Chrysler-built minivan should resume by summer 2013.
Executives from Volkswagen and Chrysler Group spoke on Friday about the Routan, a redesigned version of the Chrysler Town & Country that Chrysler assembles in Windsor, Ontario. That contract runs through model year 2014, but a drop in sales and a recent production stoppage have fueled speculation about the Routan's future.
Last week, Volkswagen told Bloomberg that the company was undecided about whether to keep assembling the Routan in Windsor.
Volkswagen spokesman Scott Vazin today told Automotive News that VW plans "to offer the 2013 model year Routan" without changes and that it will continue to be assembled in Windsor. There is no set schedule for production of the Routan to restart, but it's "a safe bet" to happen by summer, he said.
Chrysler's production figures show that it built 8,882 Routans between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15 of this year, down 38 percent from the same period of 2011. The plant in Windsor has not built any Routans since July.
A Chrysler spokeswoman declined to comment.
Gord Gray, a spokesman for the Canadian Auto Workers Local 444 in Windsor, said the union did not take part in Friday's discussion and did not know when Volkswagen plans to resume production.
Volkswagen has sold 9,923 Routans in the United States as of the end of November, down 17 percent from the same period last year.
The company has yet to announce a plan for the Routan after the contract with Chrysler ends in model year 2014.
But as the German automaker ramps up its U.S. production with a goal of selling 800,000 Volkswagen-branded vehicles by 2018, executives have been open about wanting to sell a three-row crossover or SUV to compete with the Honda Pilot or Ford Explorer.
Rainer Michel, vice president of product marketing and strategy at Volkswagen of America, told Automotive News earlier this month that Volkswagen sees less room to grow in the minivan market than in the larger market for crossovers and SUVs.
The brand needs a vehicle of this size in its lineup, Michel said. A family can fit one or two children in a smaller crossover, such as the five-seat Volkswagen Tiguan, but at a certain "life stage," he said, the family may need an extra row.
That was the Routan's target market. But the minivan has "struggled to get on the shopping list," Volkswagen Group of America CEO Jonathan Browning said during an interview with Automotive News in August.
"We don't have a seven-seat vehicle priced in the heartland of the mid-sized SUV," he also said. "That's clearly an opportunity for us."