Chrysler is planning to compete head on with Ford Europe's S-Max and Citroen's C4 Grand Picasso next year when it launches an MPV crossover based on the Crew concept car at September's Frankfurt motor show.

Designed to fit in below the new, larger and more upmarket Grand Voyager (Europe's version of the US Town and Country), also slated for 2008 market release, the Crew is a direct replacement for the long running, short-wheelbase Voyager.

Likely to have up to seven seats, the Crew, authorised for production three years ago, is seen by Chrysler management as the company's response to Ford's successful S-Max/Galaxy strategy.

A Chrysler source said: "After elevating Grand Voyager even further the logical conclusion is that something must happen below it. S-Max and Grand Picasso are obvious targets. Whatever we call it, the vehicle will be more sporty and dynamic to drive. It will not be a son of Grand Voyager."

One issue addressed by Chrysler designers is the width of the current Voyager, which is seen as a disadvantage on European roads, while the Grand Voyager, popular among hotel and airport courtesy fleets, outsells its shorter wheelbase counterpart by almost two to one in the UK.

Chrysler's European management acknowledge that the S-Max has tapped into a rich seam of business drivers, who did not want to be associated with the traditional conservative image of MPV drivers.

Hugh Hunston