FCA may add an all-wheel-drive version of its Pacifica minivan next year, if a report out of the model’s hometown of Windsor, Ontario, pans out.
According to two named — and two unnamed — sources, the automaker wants to take a page from a certain Japanese company known for its hybrid vehicles and sweeten the minivan pot with all-wheel traction, casting a wider net for buyers. In other words: going the extra mile to woo the crossover crowd.
Toyota recently introduced an all-wheel-drive version of its Prius hybrid, announcing a hybrid version of its Corolla sedan at the same time. The automaker, heeding the cries of Northeastern buyers, decided to give people more buying options, and this seems to be what FCA’s up to, as well.
Automotive News’ piece cites Dino Chido, national auto director for Canadian autoworker union Unifor, which represents workers at the Windsor plant, and Joe McCabe, CEO AutoForecast Solutions. Chido said the automaker is looking at the possibility of an AWD Pacifica — a claim backed up by two unnamed sources, one of them a supplier employee tasked with designing a part to accommodate such a layout. The source was told he’d be working on a “Chrysler minivan.”
“FCA has not provided us with any intel with regards to future product, but they are looking at the viability and being able to bring that to market,” Chido said, adding that, as far as he knows, FCA hasn’t made a decision.
The automaker reportedly examined a business case for AWD before the model’s launch, but ultimately nixed the idea.
McCabe, drawing on industry sources, told AN that FCA plans to start production on an AWD Pacifica in the second quarter of 2020. “It’s going to help them with their leadership of the product,” he said. “It adds some relevance to it other than what a minivan is defined as.”
The minivan’s popular Stow ’n Go seating, McCabe said, could prove a sticking point, as the fold flat seats might not work with the addition of a propshaft sent to the rear wheels.
Currently, the only minivan offered with all-wheel drive in North America rolls out of a Toyota factory. While the Sienna stands alone in the shrunken segment, the perk of available AWD hasn’t helped it rise to the top. FCA’s ancient Grand Caravan, which uses its spacious cargo area to haul boxes marked “unbeatable value” to buyers across North America, remains in possession of the minivan sales crown.
The Pacifica, offered in a plug-in hybrid variant the Sienna and all other minivans lack, outsold its rival last year — 118,322 to the Sienna’s 87,672. And, while the Sienna’s sales fell 21.4 percent in 2018, Pacifica volume held steady.
FCA contacts wouldn’t say whether the sources’ claims hold water, though Mike Szymkiewicz, head of product planning at FCA Canada, did admit that AWD would probably prove popular with Canadian customers.
“I think it’s definitely an opportunity with our market,” he said. “If you look at some of the competitive vehicles, maybe not the traditional minivan, but even some of the bigger duty [trucks] you can get front-wheel and all-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive take rate generally is quite high in all those offerings; I do think it would be an opportunity for us.”
Toyota Canada claims 58 percent of the Siennas it sold north of the border last year were all-wheel drive, bolstering FCA’s business case.
This article originally appeared on TTAC.com