Fiat Chrysler may build an AWD Pacifica minivan

But there are questions about how it would affect Stow ’n Go seating

Fiat Chrysler is reportedly considering building an all-wheel-drive variant of the Chrysler Pacifica as a salve for the minivan's flagging sales, especially in Canada, where it's built, and where the Dodge Grand Caravan is eating its lunch. Automotive News cites a ranking official with Unifor, Canada's autoworker union, and two anonymous sources familiar with the company's internal machinations.

In addition, the outlet cites the CEO of AutoForecast Solutions, a consulting firm, who says his industry data show that FCA will begin production of an AWD Pacifica in the second quarter of 2020 at its plant in Windsor, Ontario. "It's going to help them with their leadership of the product," it quoted CEO Joe McCabe as saying.

An FCA spokeswoman told Autoblog the company doesn't comment on speculation about future products.

Pacifica sales have held relatively steady in the U.S. Full-year 2018 sales were a respectable 118,322, essentially flat with 2017, compared to 151,927 Grand Caravans, an increase of 21 percent. Sales through February of this year were down by 24 and 27 percent, respectively, but FCA says its share of the overall U.S. minivan market has nevertheless risen to 57.7 percent.

But cross the Detroit River into Canada, FCA's second-largest market for minivans, and things don't look as rosy for the company's flagship minivan. There, the Grand Caravan in 2018 outsold the Pacifica by a 5-to-1 ratio, 32,253 to 5,999, which represented respective declines of 31 percent and 3 percent. Things haven't gotten any better in 2019, either, with Pacifica sales falling 55 percent through the first two months to 512 and Grand Caravan sales slipping 20 percent to 4,836. FCA's share of the Canadian minivan market was 59 percent at the end of 2018, the company says.

Canada is known as the Great White North, after all, so it makes perfect sense that all-wheel drive is a popular sell there as a way to navigate the long, snowy winters. But there are questions about whether adding a rear driveshaft would affect the Pacifica's Stow 'n Go system, which allows users to fold the third-row seats into the floor to add cargo space. Chrysler in fact offered all-wheel drive versions of its minivans through 2004, when it first introduced the Stow 'n Go, AN reports.

FCA spent $744 million to retool Windsor Assembly to build the latest version of the Pacifica, which launched as a 2017 model, and nearly $2 billion to develop the minivan's new flexible architecture itself, which figures to serve as a platform for an eventual Grand Caravan replacement as well as a forthcoming three-row Chrysler crossover. The plant also builds the Grand Caravan and plug-in hybrid versions of the Pacifica across three shifts.

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