Having lagged behind its US market competition - notably Honda - by not having a fold-into-floor third row seat, Chrysler is claiming a "minivan-first feature" for its redesigned 2005 range - a so-called 'Stow 'n' Go' system that allows the second- and third-row seats to be folded into the floor with a one-hand operation.

Chrysler Group spent more than $US400 million to design an all-new platform and bring its new minivans to market in just 18 months - they go on sale early in 2004 - and the announcement came just days after GM revealed a new 'crossover' line said to combine minivan practicality with SUV looks.

Stow 'n Go will be standard on the company's 2005 highline long wheelbase minivans  - the Chrysler Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. Stow 'n Go will also be optional on Grand Caravan SE models.

The system allows the second-row bucket seats to be folded into the floor with a one-hand operation. The third-row 60/40 split bench can  be folded individually or entirely into the floor with same one-hand operation. Headrests do not need to be removed before the seats are folded.

When second-row seats are in the upright position, two storage bins are available, equipped with integrated lids to keep items out of sight. Both second- and third- row storage bins combined create an additional 12 cubic feet of space.

Cargo net bags are standard and integrated into each storage bin, allowing for quick, easy removal of storage items, another claimed 'minivan first'.

Three-row, A-to-D pillar side curtain air bags providing full-length coverage for all rows of seats are another new feature along with a driver-side inflatable knee blocker, an item first seen in the UK in the 2003 Toyota Avensis.

The knee blocker inflates in conjunction with air bag deployment and helps position the driver relative to the air bag and provides additional upper leg protection.

Signal lights activate when power or manual sliding side doors are in operation, signalling the driver that occupants getting in or out of the vehicle.
Integrated into the vehicle's electrical and audio system, wireless Bluetooth technology links to the owner's cell phone. Control buttons are conveniently located on the rear view mirror.

There is also a movable/removable Overhead Rail System similar to that recently introduced with Ford's redesigned F-150 pickup truck.

Chrysler's system includes an overhead console with three movable/removable storage bins, rear temperature controls and an optional DVD screen.

DVD-based navigation includes a 4.2-inch full-colour display integrated into the centre console and features AM/FM stereo, CD player, and navigation in one unit.

Chrysler Group president and chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche, left, and chief operating officer Wolfgang Bernhard, demonstrate the new "Stow 'n Go" minivan seating and storage system in the 2005 Chrysler minivans scheduled to arrive at US dealers early next year.

The 2005 Chrysler and Dodge minivans have so-called quiet steel technology in the recessed floor. The steel has a visco-elastic treatment sandwiched between two steel layers that reduces vibration, road noise, and stone impingement.

Robotically applied liquid spray dampener provides a barrier to noise entering the passenger compartment. The damping treatment is applied to the floor, toe-pan, cowl, and roof panel.

Expandable polyurethane foam is injected into cavities at the base of the cowl plenum, tailgate opening, and centre and rear door pillars.

The new underbody structure is designed for high bending and torsional stiffness, which helps isolate suspension vibration and chatter from passenger compartment.

A fluid-filled hydro engine mount is claimed to significantly reduce engine vibration into the front rails to help isolate engine vibration while suspension control arms use tuned hydro bushings to further reduce suspension vibration. The second-row foam seating is tuned to dampen vibration to the occupants.

Since launching the minivan concept in the US in November 1983, Chrysler Group has sold more than 10 million units.

The new range will be built in Windsor, Ontario; St. Louis, Missouri; and, for the European and UK markets, Graz, Austria.