DETROIT – Hybrid-electric technology will migrate toGroup’s minivan lineup, the auto maker’s top executive says after unveiling the redesigned ’08 Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country.
President and CEO Tom LaSorda declines to discuss specifics with journalists at the North American International Auto Show here, such as launch timing or the type of technology involved – full hybrid or mild hybrid.
The ’08 minivan, which launches in third quarter, is one of eight new-product launcheshas scheduled for this calendar year, LaSorda says. This follows last year’s 10 launches, a record for Chrysler.
A late-year launch is expected for the auto maker’s first hybrid, a Dodge Durango fullsize SUV, which benefits from technology developed in conjunction withCorp. and AG.
The auto maker does not disclose all the models that will launch this year. In addition to the minivan, it has acknowledged a retractable hardtop Sebring.
A Dodge-brand twin of the Sebring, the Avenger, also is expected. The car debuted as a concept at last year’s Paris auto show.
Chief Operating Officer Eric Ridenour is mum on cadence, saying only that some launches “are right around the corner; some are later.”
Meanwhile, Ridenour expresses confidence Chrysler’s new minivans will attract buyer attention due to new innovations such as Swivel ‘n Go, which enables second-row passengers to turn their seats 180 degrees to face third-row passengers. A removal table can also be set up between the two rows.
LaSorda expects the take rate on the Swivel n Go seating configuration with a table to be in the 25%-40% range.
He and Ridenour anticipate the minivan market, which Chrysler dominates, will see sales of about 1.1 million units. LaSorda is comforted by the fact GM andMotor Co. are abandoning the segment, but Ridenour remains guarded.
“We’re happy they’re getting out of the market,” LaSorda says with a grin. He expects Chrysler to sell about 400,000 people movers annually and retain about 35% market share.
“Everybody decides what’s best for your company,” LaSorda adds. “If more people get out of other segments as well, I’d be happy with that.”
Says Ridenour: “We see our competition across the entire board. I’m still concerned about what(Motor Co. Ltd.) and (Motor Corp.) are doing and making sure that we stay on top of them.”