The Earth has completed another lap around the sun to bring us into 2019, and yet Dodge is still making the Grand Caravan for a brand new model year. This is completely baffling for so many reasons, chiefly because it was supposed to be canceled back in 2015. Back in 2008, when the Grand Caravan was first going on sale, Chrysler had yet to receive the $1.5 billion government bailout it desperately needed, and the idea of merging with Fiat was just a twinkle in Sergio Marchionne’s eye. Since then, things have changed quite a bit in the automotive world — and the competitiveness of American automakers has improved tremendously, but the Grand Caravan soldiers on, having been completely outclassed by every other minivan on the market.
The crazy thing is that Fiat-Chrysler themselves were instrumental in making the Grand Caravan completely obsolete with their own Pacifica, which has been on sale since 2015. The Pacifica was the replacement for the Chrysler Town & Country (which was essentially the same vehicle as the Grand Caravan), and it improved on it in every way, from introducing a plug-in hybrid powertrain to including many useful features that seem like they were designed by people with children. Honda, Toyota and Kia have all been trying to keep up with the Pacifica since its introduction with new iterations of their products, and even the Pacifica itself had a facelift back in 2017.
There obviously has to be a reason for it beyond FCA executives forgetting that it even exists, but it likely comes down to cost and fleet sales. You would think that if Dodge was going to keep a minivan in their lineup, they’d make sure that it would be built off of the Pacifica. However, it’s likely that most Grand Caravan sales are to fleet customers such as government agencies, rental car companies and other businesses that need a cheap minivan. Frills are far less necessary in that role — and in some cases are even frowned upon. For example, would you rather see a government plate on a cheap-looking Grand Caravan or a nice looking Chrysler Pacifica?
This is pure conjecture on my part, but I’d say that the Grand Caravan is in a Goldilocks zone for fleet sales. FCA likely makes enough off of the Grand Caravan to make a profit that can’t be ignored, but if they were to switch to the Pacifica the margins would be slimmed to a point where the math would no longer work in FCA’s favor — or it would harm Pacifica resale value by injecting extra units into the market. Whatever the reason, the Grand Caravan continues into 2019, making the world wonder whether or not it will be the last.