Chrysler will build its new 2008 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans introduced in Detroit at its Windsor (Ontario) plant and St. Louis South assembly plants for both North American and export markets.

Diesel, right-hand drive and versions for most LHD export markets will no longer be built by Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, when the new model is phased in.

US sales begin in autumn 2007 and exports to Europe start in early 2008. The export line will continue to be badged Chrysler Voyager/Grand Voyager and the current 2.8-litre VM diesel engine option will be carried over.

“These are very important products for the Chrysler Group as we remain committed to the minivan market and maintain our leadership position,” said Frank Ewasyshyn, executive vice president – manufacturing, Chrysler Group, in a statement.

“Our focus on flexible manufacturing and new investments, adding state-of-the art technology to plant operations, will help us ensure we can meet those demands and build almost anything, anywhere, with improving speed and quality.”

Windsor Assembly, which currently manufactures the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans with the Stow ‘n Go seating and storage system, along with the Chrysler Pacifica, is capable of building two different vehicle platforms and piloting a third simultaneously on the same production line.

A $US508m investment to the Windsor Assembly has produced a new, state-of-the-art paint facility capable of accommodating the dimensions of at least 11 different body styles, and is scheduled to be operational in this first quarter of 2007.

The restyled 2008 Chrysler minivans return to the squared-off styling of the 1983 original model line after two generations of curves.

The ‘Stow ‘n’ Go’ seating system introduced on the previous generation (allowing second and third row seats to fold flat into the floor and eliminating the need to remove and store the third row has been supplemented by ‘Swivel ’n Go’.

This has second row seats that swivel 180 degrees to face the third row with a removable table that installs between the two rows, covered storage bins in the floor of the second row, third-row uncovered storage and fold-in-the-floor third-row seating.

Swivel ’n Go also offers an optional industry-first integrated child booster seat in the second-row quad chair and a one-touch power-folding third-row 60/40 bench seat, also optional, that Chrysler says is an exclusive in the US minivan segment.

All-row supplemental side-curtain air bags, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with traction control and brake assist, LATCH child seat anchor system and a patented, energy-absorbing steering column are among the standard safety features.

A reversing camera, a rear view interior ‘conversation’ mirror, and rear parking sensors are also available.

A new DVD system plays different movies or games in the second and third rows and other convenience features include a new, removable sliding front console that is large enough to store a purse; remote start; heated first- and second-row leather or cloth seats; stain- and odour-resistant anti-static cloth fabric; a removable torch in the rear quarter panel; first- and second-row power windows; second- and third-row retractable sun shades; power sliding doors; power liftgate with power button on the key fob and rear-pillar, ambient halo lighting; movable, pinpoint light emitting diode reading lamps; map lights; and a dual- or tri-zone heating and cooling system.

Five models and three powertrains will be available for North America. Dodge will offer the Grand Caravan SE and Grand Caravan SXT. Chrysler will have three models: the Town & Country LX, the Town & Country Touring and the Town & Country Limited.

Powertrain choices for North America include a new four-litre V6 aluminium engine with new six-speed transaxle, a 3.8-litre V6, also with the new six-speed transaxle, and a 3.3-litre flex-fuel-capable V6 engine with four-speed transaxle.

The full engine line-up for European and other export markets has not yet been confirmed though the 2.8-litre I4 VM turbodiesel option will definitely be on offer in Europe, likely with both manual and automatic gearbox options.

Austrian-made Voyagers have also been offered over the years with a 2.4-litre Chrysler petrol four and a 2.5-litre VM diesel I4.