Long after its U.S. rivals scrapped their minivans in favor of sport-utility vehicles, Fiat Chrysler is launching a new one at next month's North American International Auto Show.
What's more, the Detroit Free Press reports, FCA officials view the new Town & Country as a crucial testing ground for its hybrid technology.
FCA implemented hybrids relatively slowly compared to other automakers, but the company now plans to shift most of its vehicles away from conventional gasoline-powered engines by 2023.
The 2017 Town & Country will go on sale early next year, and a hybrid version will arrive in dealerships in subsequent months. CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly views the latter model as a barometer for how consumers will respond to the company’s hybrids.
The company eventually plans to phase out its other minivan — the Dodge Grand Caravan — but it will continue to produce the current version in order to maintain a presence in a lower price range.
Honda and Toyota are the other chief competitors in the minivan segment, which Chrysler pioneered with the debut of the Plymouth Voyager in 1983. Ford and General Motors left the market nearly a decade ago.
The Free Press also said that Chrysler eventually will add production of a new crossover — currently the most popular vehicles in the U.S. — at its plant in Windsor, Ontario. The company ended the Pacifica crossover model in 2007.