Should Dodge Bring Back Their Off-road Minivan?

1990 Dodge Caravan Off-Road Concept | Photo Credit: Michael Santoro

Well, would you? If the answer is no, it’s probably why the Dodge Caravan off-road edition never came to fruition. Over the past several years, SUVs have decimated mini-van sales because of their rugged exterior and off-road capability. However, what if you could find those same qualities in a mini-van? It almost happened in the ’90s with the Dodge Caravan.

The concept was put together by Michael Santoro. According to Mr. Santoro, when he first got to Chrysler, he was put into a production studio. All of the production studios were working on the “LH” series and they were well into the program, and there wasn’t much to contribute. It allowed him to see what he could do with minivans, and the current generation was built in his studio, so the design brief was to do something creative and not spend any money.

Mr. Santoro describes on his personal website that “one of the best parts about being in a studio that designs the best selling vehicle a company makes is, there is always interest from upper management in spin-offs and line extensions.”

1990 Dodge Caravan Off-Road Concept | Photo Credit: Michael Santoro

Mr. Santoro was given the challenging task of developing a new Caravan variant “without spending money.” Santoro used his expertise to add side steps, grille bars, a roof rack, light bar, and a blacked-out-B-pillar. Behind-the-scenes, his concept went as far as being developed as a prototype that was built and revealed to dealers.

Although Dodge dealers were fond of the concept, Jeep dealers felt differently. Jeep felt it would “destroy” sales, says Santoro.

Despite that, the prototype was “a step away” from its debut at the Chicago Auto Show. However, at the very last minute, they pulled the plug. Although an added rugged exterior and off-road styling has helped sales of other vehicles like the Audi Allroad wagon or Subaru Outback, it just wasn’t in the cards for the minivan. Could it have worked? Unfortunately, this is one of the existential questions we’ll have to live with.

1990 Dodge Caravan Off-Road Concept | Photo Credit: Michael Santoro

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