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FCA debuts a new-old concept: The Chrysler Pacifica minivan

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 Fiat-Chrysler has introduced its new version of an old concept: the minivan.

The automaker unveiled the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show on Monday.

Chrysler says the “top-to-bottom” redesign features a sleeker exterior that’s much like the Chrysler 200, with dual-side sliding doors and added interior bonuses.

It will also offer a plug-in hybrid version that the automaker claims will get 80 miles to the gallon highway mileage.

The Pacifica replaces the Town and Country brand, and eventually the Dodge Grand Caravan as well.

Chrysler’s Tim Kuniskis says the Pacifica is a completely “fresh” take that’s meant to change perceptions of the minivan—but the automaker doesn’t shy away from that label.

“People that buy minivans and own minivans, love their minivan. So there’s no reason to say it’s not what it is,” Kuniskis said. “We’re just saying this is the best one that’s out there.”

Chrysler takes credit for “inventing” the minivan concept in the early 1980s. And while the minivan market has fallen off in recent years, Kuniskis says it’s still big enough for Detroit's smallest automaker to target—and dominate.

“It’s kind of what we’re known for,” Kuniskis said. “So when we develop an all new one, it’s very important for us. And this is really a stake in the ground for the brand.”

Kelley Blue Book analyst Rebecca Lindland more or less agrees: “As long as there are children, there will be sliding doors,” Lindland said.

Fiat-Chrysler’s minivan production is based in Windsor, Ont. It recently invested $2 billion in upgrades to the Windsor Assembly Plant to build next-generation minivans.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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