A new report from Allpar suggests that production of the Volkswagen Routan, which is based on Chrysler's pair of minivans, has temporarily been halted. That could mean the badge-engineered minivan will eventually be killed off, and if so, it would likely be replaced by a three-row crossover.
A Chrysler spokesperson wouldn't confirm the report and simply told us, "We just build it [the Routan] for them." Yet Chrysler's production data show that the automaker's Windsor, Ontario plant didn't build a single Routan in August, September, October, or November.
There are two main reasons for the end of production. First, the Volkswagen Routan has been something of a sales flop and it won't be missed if it departs Volkswagen showrooms. Second, the Chrysler minivan platform on which it's based will soon be phased out anyway, and Volkswagen has a replacement in the wings.
The rebadged Volkswagen minivan hasn't been very popular since its launch four years ago. So far this year, Volkswagen has sold just 9923 Routans, down 16.9 percent from the same period last year. That makes it one of Volkswagen's worst-selling models, and represents just a fraction of how many minivans Chrysler Group sells. Through the end of November this year, the Dodge Grand Caravan attracted 127,308 buyers and the Chrysler Town & Country tallied 102,486 sales.
It's also important to note that Chrysler will soon phase out its current pair of minivans, so the Routan would have to be redesigned anyway. As we reported earlier this year, the Chrysler Town & Country name will be applied to a new luxury crossover by 2015. Expect it to resemble the Mercedes-Benz R-Class, rather than a traditional minivan. The Dodge Grand Caravan will continue as a minivan, but it will ride on an all-new platform with a new design by 2015. The switch in platforms is the ideal time for Volkswagen to consider revamping its minivan.
At a briefing on future product plans in July, Volkswagen representatives were noncommittal on the future of the Routan. Although they admitted it wasn't a strong player in the company's lineup, they wouldn't comment on whether the van would continue or be replaced.
Volkswagen spokesman Corey Proffitt told us that the production lull merely represents a gap between production of 2012 and 2013 Routans. The company hasn't started building the 2013 Routan because it has what he calls an "onslaught" of unsold 2012 models; it wouldn't make sense for Volkswagen to start building the 2013 van when its stock of 2012 Routans remained on dealer lots. As to the future of the minivan? Proffitt would only say that the company plans to build a 2013 Routan, and that the original contract between Chrysler and Volkswagen lasted five years. As it was signed in 2008, that means Chrysler will continue to build vans for Volkswagen at least through 2013.
More recently, Volkswagen told Automobile Magazine of plans to launch a three-row crossover at the Detroit auto show. It will be built expressly for the U.S. market at Volkswagen's flexible plant in Tennessee, hopefully keeping manufacturing costs low. It's likely that the new three-row crossover will take the place of the three-row minivan. Not only will it be cheaper for Volkswagen to build its own vehicle, crossovers also tend to be more attractive and appealing to buyers than boxy rebadged minivans.
Sources: Allpar, Chrysler