Automotive / The big disappointments. The sad end of the Chrysler Voyager

In the collective imagination, especially in Europe, the inventor of the minivan is Renault with its Espace, released in 1984.

Already in 1982, however, Nissan paved the way for these family cars with its Prairie. In 1983, Chrysler presented its Voyager in the United States.

In designing the Espace, Matra will take the “monocorps” concept even further, with a bonnet that extends from the windscreen, and will further refine modularity with individual sliding and swiveling seats.

The producer is the first to be surprised by Voyager’s success! Photo DR

Shocking beginning

From the first day of its marketing, the Chrysler Voyager is tearing off like hotcakes in the US. The Windsor, Ontario plant has been unable to keep up, and after a year of marketing, Chrysler has sold more than 200,000 copies of its minivan, ten times the target.

For the manufacturer, this success comes at the right time. Faced with large investments, Chrysler had to resort to borrowing.

The good news is that Voyager not only sells effortlessly, but also has comfortable margins. Finally, this vehicle, sold as a top of the range, is nothing more than a tool body in which carpets and benches are placed.

The Chrysler Group is making the most of the MPV boom.  Photo DR

The Chrysler Group is making the most of the MPV boom. Photo DR

Chrysler didn’t want the Voyager

To make the most of this success, we will reject it in the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, just to water all the Chrysler group’s dealer network. The latter swear by this model.

Ironically, the same executives are said to be very skeptical about the chances of this minivan, ready since 1981 but never a priority to be presented to the public.

A project that has been lying around since the 1970s, and which will owe its arrival to an innovation: the flat floor, which allows both considerable interior space and less bulky front-wheel drive.

Chrysler Voyager accompanies the development of leisure society.  Photo DR

Chrysler Voyager accompanies the development of leisure society. Photo DR

The Voyager, tool of conquest

Having primarily served the American market, Chrysler saw in Voyager the means to conquer the European market for good. The success of the Renault Espace confirms the American.

From 1988 Voyager was sold in Europe and France. We appreciate its van side and its typically American presentation.

On the engine side, the Mitsubishi V6 and especially the arrival of a Turbo Diesel VM Voyager allow it to position itself as a credible alternative to the Renault Espace.

Voyager would sell more than 15 million copies throughout its career.  Photo DR

Voyager would sell more than 15 million copies throughout its career. Photo DR

The best-selling minivan in the world

Over the years, the Chrysler Voyager has gone through many evolutions and has seen eight generations to date. As the renewals progressed, it became more and more European, approaching more and more a Renault Espace or its new competitors such as the PSA minivan.

If Renault’s Espace is still considered a huge success, the numbers don’t speak for it.

The Chrysler Voyager and its derivatives are the world’s best-selling minivan to date, with more than 15 million units produced. In front of him, the Renault Espace sold 1,300,000 copies.

At the peak of their careers in the late 90s, the two minivans will both meet a sad end.

The marks are a detail

It’s 2011. Sergio Marchionne, then all-powerful head of the Fiat Group, doesn’t like notions of history or DNA. Since the Italian got his hands on the Chrysler group, the executive seems to regard brand logos as interchangeable stickers from one car to another.

Some Dodges become Fiats and vice versa, but Chrysler and Lancia go a step further.

Presenting yet another survival plan to the group, Marchionne declares that there is no more money for Lancia. To continue offering this brand, it will simply transform the Chrysler range into Lancia in the European market.

Renewed Lancia sank the Voyager in Europe.  Photo DR

Renewed Lancia sank the Voyager in Europe. Photo DR

Voyager becomes a Lancia!

The 300C sedan becomes a new theme, the Chrysler 200 convertible revives the Flavia. As for the Voyager, it keeps its name but goes under the Lancia banner! The car changes brands during the night.

In the first few months, the Italian boss is happy to see Voyager participate in the increase in sales of Lancia in Europe. But in truth, the end is already recorded. Voyager attracts only a few hundred customers.

Even if you are the only seven-seater on the market with a large trunk, face the facts: the minivan market is definitely dead. The arrival of large SUVs will accelerate the decline.

The Lancia Voyager will last while supplies last, a long and painful death that will end in 2015.

Space and travel, same battle

Today, the Chrysler Voyager still exists in the US, as does the Renault Espace in France.

Definitely left behind by the big SUVs, the Espace is living its last months. The last generation had tried to renew the genre. But by losing all its practical aspects without offering anything more, Space lost its last supporters.

As for the Voyager, Chrysler only manages to sell a few tens of thousands of units a year to rental companies.

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