In 1983, the baby boomers wanted larger cars for their growing families. Family sedans had grown smaller with tightening emissions standards and fuel economy concerns, and full-size vans were not appealing as family vehicles due to their poor ride and large size. Chrysler was in a hole with the tough U.S. economic situation at the time and had banked all their hopes, along with a $660 million government loan, on their "magic wagon," the minivan.
Even without much marketing, the minivan was an instant success and soon the first minivans ever, the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, were cultural icons. The new minivans also helped Chrysler get into the global market, with sales in Europe beginning in 1987. Right-hand-drive models made sales possible in the UK, Japan, Australia, and South Africa in 1996.
The minivan was first sold to the public in 1983, but its development was already underway in 1977, when new needs were identified in the ever-evolving automotive marketplace. To satisfy new consumer needs for family-friendly vehicles, Chrysler strived to make the new minivans fuel-efficient, easy to step into, and smaller than the Ram full-size passenger vans that were offered at the time. The final package utilized a platform theme with a flat-load door and the entire powertrain placed in front of the passenger compartment. The package was to be built on a front engine, front-drive layout, which would enable easy loading and a higher driver-seating position for optimum driving view.
Since 1983, Chrysler has sold more than 12 million minivans worldwide and has led the minivan segment in innovation with more 65 minivan-first features. Today, Chrysler still controls more than 40% of the U.S. minivan market with their Chrysler Town & Country, Chrysler Grand Voyager, and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, currently in their fifth generations. Chrysler minivans have been awarded more than 260 accolades, including the 2008 "Minivan of the Year" and "International Truck of the Year" awards. Chrysler's "magic wagons" look to continue strong into the future, continually building and innovating on its 25 years of experience.
Source: Chrysler LLC