Earlier this week, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) unveiled an updated Pacifica minivan at the Chicago Auto Show.
The updated vehicle isn’t exactly all-new.
Nonetheless, Sam Fiorani, vice-president of global forecasting at Auto Forecast Solutions, spoke with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre about what the updated model means for FCA and the future of the minivan.
Can you take us through some of the changes made to the Pacifica?
The Pacifica is a mainstay of Chrysler’s minivan lineup and they’ve refreshed the styling on it and updated the interior and added the option of all-wheel drive.
How important do you think it was to FCA to make these changes.
As it ages, [FCA is] going to need to be more competitive in a tightening market. There’s only a few players in this market, so keeping its third-place or moving up to second-place amongst the five or six players here [means it] needs an update every so often.
And this is a really nice tidy update to this vehicle.
When you look at say the last five or 10 years, how successful of a vehicle is the Pacific with regards to sales?
It rivals the second-place model in this field and the first-place model is another FCA product. So between the two of them, they’ve got a nice tight hold on the minivan market. The Pacifica being an upscale model, it’s competing very well with the Honda which is its rival in second place.
We know that the minivan segment is shrinking, to what degree is FCA worried about that?
The Pacifica and the Grand Caravan are a large chunk of the minivan market.
But this vehicle is being eaten away — the market share is being eaten away — by crossovers.
As more and more three-row crossovers come in, there’s less demand for what is intended to be a stage product like a minivan.
So if the minivan market is shrinking and more and more consumers are choosing crossovers over minivans, what do you think the next redesign will look like for the Pacifica?
They’ve already moved it toward a more crossover-like styling, making it look higher, making it look sportier, making it look less boxy than the traditional minivan.
So they’re already well down that path. They already have a crossover, so there’s no reason to make this more crossover-like. But to appeal to the people who might lean toward a crossover, but would love the utility of a minivan, this is what they had to do.
Are there any new competitors that makers of the Pacifica should be concerned about?
No. This is a very tight market. Nobody’s entering the market. Although Honda and Toyota are updating their models and the Pacifica is making good money, it brings an excellent volume for the Windsor plant and it’s competing with the Odyssey, which is the only Honda minivan.
I understand the Dodge Caravan is set to be discontinued in the near future isn’t it?
It is and FCA already has plans to replace that by offering a lower-end version of the Pacifica called the Voyager.
That’s offered in the United States as the Voyager, but it may be offered in Canada as the Grand Caravan when the Dodge goes away.
How do you think that’ll shake up the minivan market, if if the Caravan is going away and we’ll see that new version of the Voyager?
It won’t shake it up as much as hopefully replace the buyers.
The buyers will just move over from Grand Caravan buyers to Voyager buyers and increase the volume on that platform and make more money for FCA.
Do you think the FCA plant in Windsor can continue to focus solely on minivans or do you think at some point another kind of product will have to be introduced there?
Another product will obviously have to be added there at some point. With the market shrinking as it is, you’re going to have fewer buyers buying minivans and more and more people moving toward crossovers.
So finding more people to buy whatever product comes out of Windsor, it will need a new product out of Windsor.
Aside from the Pacifica, what are some of the big storylines coming out of the Chicago Auto Show?
Electric vehicles are a big deal. We have a full-sized sport utilities from General Motors as well. Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC are showing off their newest sport utilities.
And Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand introduced an all new sport utility.