Dodge plans to produce ’17 minivan

Grand Caravan output had been set to end next year

Grand Caravan output had been set to end next year

A new strategy for Grand Caravan?

DETROIT — The death of the current-generation Dodge Grand Caravan may have been greatly exaggerated.

Fiat Chrysler plans to continue production of the current Dodge people hauler at least into the 2017 model year, according to an internal company document. It will be built alongside a redesigned version of the Chrysler Town & Country minivan beginning early next year.

The Grand Caravan had been set to end production in 2016.

The planning document indicates that the next-generation Town & Country is scheduled to start production on Feb. 29, 2016, at FCA’s recently overhauled Windsor, Ontario, assembly plant.

That minivan, with the two-letter code RU, will be a 2017 model. The 2016 Town & Country will be produced during a short run beginning in early August and ending in mid-February.

The document also shows the 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan beginning production in August 2015 and ending production in August 2016. A 2017 Grand Caravan — with the same model code as the 2015, indicating it will be largely unchanged — is scheduled to begin production on Aug. 23, 2016.

In FCA’s five-year product plan presented in May 2014, Dodge brand head Tim Kuniskis said the Grand Caravan would stop production “in 2016.” That could still happen, if the automaker only plans a short 2017 model run. But it also could indicate a new strategy to guard against loss of minivan market share as FCA redesigns the Town & Country.

A Dodge spokesman said: “While we’ve announced the Grand Caravan will eventually be the minivan that goes away, we’re not going into more detail at this time.”

Extending production of the current Grand Caravan would enable FCA to fill minivan requests for fleet customers as well as continue sales of the vehicle in Canada, where it is No. 1 among minivans.

In the United States, Grand Caravan sales were down 51 percent to 29,364 in the first five months, mainly because of restrictions placed on fleet sales during the Windsor plant’s three-month shutdown for retooling.

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