Jeep plots global boom; Caravan rides into sunset

Five years after Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne took over Chrysler and vowed to grow the company, in large part, on the strength of the Jeep, the iconic SUV brand is ready for a global boom in sales.

At least, that's the plan the automaker outlined Tuesday, as Fiat Chrysler unveiled a new five-year business plan—one that Marchionne called "ambitious."

The Chrysler Group LLC Jeep Renegade Trail Hawk sport utility vehicle (SUV) is unveiled at the 2014 New York Auto Show.
Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

In 2014, Jeep's global sales are expected to top 1 million for the first time ever. By 2018, Chrysler believes it will sell 1.9 million Jeeps worldwide—more than double its global sales of about 732,000 last year.

"Mediocrity is not worth the trip," Marchionne said.

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Chrysler especially plans to flex Jeep's muscle in Asia, where the automaker has so far had a minimal presence. Its strategy to grow these sales stems primarily from adding dealerships and production on the continent.

Chrysler currently builds every Jeep sold around the world at one of four U.S. plants. As demand has grown, so has production at those plants. But for auto companies to truly grow sales worldwide, they need to build more models overseas. As a result, by 2018, Jeeps will be built at 10 plants in six countries, including China.

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"We'll unlock the potential of the world's largest markets by fully localizing production," said Mike Manley, president and CEO of Jeep.

New York Auto Show
New York Auto Show

And because Asia is the fastest-growing region of the world for auto sales, Jeep will place its more than 1,300 dealerships it has planned over the next four years.

Dodge Caravan going away

As each of the Chrysler brands lay out their game plans, one change is getting plenty of attention. Starting in 2016, the Dodge Caravan minivan will be phased out, leaving the company with just one minivan, the Chrysler Town & Country.

The change has been widely expected in the auto industry for some time, mainly because the Caravan has struggled to stand out in a market where it was often competing for buyers with the Town & Country.

Last year, Caravan sales slumped 12.3 percent to 124,019, according to research firm Autodata.

Its departure is noteworthy because the Caravan, along with the Town & Country, was one of the two models that started the minivan craze in 1983. In short, it saved Chrysler in some of its bleakest years.

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But although the Caravan was one of the best-selling vehicles for years, it eventually was passed by foreign models such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

Meanwhile, the Chrysler Town & Country will roll on. In fact, a plug-in hybrid version of the vehicle will be built in 2016, which would deliver the equivalent of 74 miles per gallon.

Chrysler plans to completely revamp its lineup by 2018, and more than double its global sales in the process.

By CNBC's Phil LeBeau.

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