DETROIT -- In a sweeping change from the product plan Chrysler Group outlined this year, the lives of the Dodge Avenger, Dodge Grand Caravan and Jeep Wrangler have been extended, The Detroit News reported today.
The newspaper, citing supplier sources, said the current Avenger would continue through 2015, a year longer than planned; the Grand Caravan through 2017, an extension of 2 years; and the current Wrangler through 2018.
Chrysler spokesman Gualberto Ranieri declined to comment on the report.
If true, the product extensions might signal that the automaker and its corporate parent, Fiat S.p.A., are trying to conserve cash in the face of economic pressure in Europe and a planned purchase by Fiat of remaining Chrysler shares.
The mid-sized Avenger sedan had been expected to end late this year or in the first quarter of 2014 as Chrysler's Sterling Heights assembly plant in suburban Detroit geared up to produce the next generation Chrysler 200 sedan.
CEO Sergio Marchionne said this year that the next Chrysler 200 -- which shares a platform with the Dodge Dart and Jeep Cherokee -- would be shown in January 2014. The Sterling Heights plant, with two body shops, will have the capability to produce the redesigned Chrysler 200 and the older Avenger.
Since taking operational control of Chrysler in 2009, Marchionne has sought to end the Daimler-era practice of producing similar vehicles to compete against one another in Chrysler showrooms. He has said the automaker should have one minivan going forward, for example, and not the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan.
Chrysler purchasing head Scott Kunselman told Automotive News this week that the automaker has begun bid preparation for its next minivan program.
Which of the minivan nameplates will survive has been the subject of more than a year of speculation, but no definitive answer -- even from the top executives of each brand.
The hot-selling Jeep Wrangler was to be refreshed in 2016, which would provide time for the Toledo plant where it is made to expand its constrained capacity.
Jeep brand head Mike Manley said last month that a new optional diesel engine would be available with the next refresh of the Wrangler, and said earlier that a long-sought pickup version would wait until additional production capacity could be found.