Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Chrysler Unveils Next Generation Minivan

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Chrysler Unveils Next Generation Minivan

Article excerpt

DETROIT (AP) _ Sitting in a storybook swamp, Chrysler Corp.'s two top executives used fairy tale rhyme and dialogue with a frog to tell the history of their top-selling minivans and introduce the 1996 models.

Chairman Robert J. Eaton and President Robert Lutz, leaders of the nation's most efficient car company, challenged the frog to guess the game they would play with the competition.

"Leapfrog!" the Kermit-like character finally guessed. And a full-size, 1996 Chrysler minivan leaped from behind a big rock, flew across the stage and landed with a splash behind Eaton and Lutz.

Silly as it might sound, Chrysler's presentation Wednesday at the North American International Auto Show was serious business.

It was the first public showing of its 1996 Town Country, Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans _ the vehicles that replaced the family station wagon and created a 1 million-plus market in the past decade.

"Chrysler has always been the leader, we invented the minivan and we've made it better every year," said Lutz. "On top of the heap is where we plan to stay."

The new vans will go into production sometime this spring and start showing up at dealerships later in the year. They are new from the pavement up.

The 1996 models will be slightly longer, wider and higher than current models, but their turning circles are shorter _ the new long-wheelbase version has turning circle 1.4 feet shorter than the current short wheelbase.

The first change drivers who are familiar with Chrysler vans might notice is the road visibility from the driver's seat. The glass area of the new vans is 30 percent larger than in the old and the top of the instrument panel is more than 4 inches lower.

But the driver position in relation to the road _ higher than in a car _ is maintained.

Other changes, which Chrysler says were primarily driven by comments and requests from the nearly 5 million people who own its vans, include: A sliding rear door on the driver's side, matching the slider on the passenger side. …

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