DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler arm is investing $US113 million in a suburban St. Louis, Missouri, factory to expand production of minivans with its new “Stow ‘n Go” seating-and-storage system.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Chrysler on Monday said the investment would not affect staffing at its 3,600-worker St. Louis South assembly plant in Fenton, where Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country and Grand Caravan minivans are made.

With “Stow ‘n Go,” second- and third-row seats can fold flat into the floor, with available in-floor storage when the seats are upright. The feature allows more than 250 configurations, Chrysler Group spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin told AP which added that, until now, Chrysler has built minivans with Stow ‘n Go only at its factory in Windsor, Ontario.

Chrysler’s chief of family vehicle marketing and product planning, Ann Fandozzi, told AP the the Stow ‘n Go option has made up more than 70% of all 2005 model year orders since the system’s debut in January – expanding production should help meet demand, she reportedly said.

“We expect minivan sales to continue to grow as the awareness spreads throughout the country and North America, where we sell those minivans,” spokeswoman Halprin told AP.

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Ironically, the increasingly popular Stow ‘n Go option is not yet available to Chrysler minivan buyers in Europe, where the Graz, Austria-built 2005 model line was launched at the end of April.

“We’re not getting it yet but we hope to have it next year,” a Chrysler UK spokeswoman told just-auto at the time. “It’s a feature we’d like but they’re keeping it in the US for now. We understand it’s something to do with European homologation but we hope to get it eventually.”

According to Associated Press, Chrysler on Monday said the investment in St. Louis South will go toward tooling, site and process changes to build both short- and long-wheelbase versions of Chrysler and Dodge minivans with Stow ‘n Go.

The plant will continue producing existing minivans while the site modifications are made, with plant idling to be minimised in advance of the rollout of the Stow ‘n Go vehicles early next year, AP added.