DETROIT Chrysler Group LLC FIA.MI, which popularized the minivan nearly 30 years ago, will showcase an upscale version of its Chrysler Town & Country family minivan at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week.
The 2013 Town & Country S includes a standard Blu-Ray DVD player as well as a black chrome grill and black interior. The minivan is the third Chrysler model to join the automaker's "S" lineup after the 200 and 300 sedans.
Earlier this month, Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne told reporters that the automaker was "more or less" on track to launch a redesigned minivan by 2014. The company is the dominant player in the minivan segment, which it launched in 1983 under former CEO Lee Iacocca.
"We have spent an inordinate amount of time looking at that market," Marchionne said, adding that the new minivan has been tested in consumer clinics for more than a year.
U.S. minivan sales peaked in 2000 at just over 1.3 million and today's sales are about half that, due in part to higher gasoline prices and the "soccer mom" stigma - that only families favor them. Over the last several years, Chrysler's U.S. rivals, General Motors Co (GM.N) and Ford Motor Co (F.N), stopped production of their less-popular minivans.
This month, Ford unveiled a version of its Transit Connect commercial van that includes sliding doors and other features seen in traditional minivans, but the second-largest U.S. automaker has opted to call the van a "people mover" instead.
Chrysler launched a sportier version of its Dodge Caravan last year to broaden its appeal. The model, called the "man van," features an all-black interior, wider tires and a stiffer suspension.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Dan Grebler)
(This story has been refiled to fix the wording in the third paragraph, to redesigned from resigned)