The Chrysler group introduced second- and third-row seats that fold flat into the vehicle floor on its new 2005-model minivans. Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche said the automaker was investing more than $400 million to introduce the minivans, which will go on sale sometime in the first quarter of next year and are crucial to the bottom line of what he called "the minivan company." The 2005 vans are among nine all-new or redesigned vehicles that Chrysler is offering in 2004 in what Zetsche called "an unprecedented product offensive" by the third largest U.S. automaker, aimed at ending years of market share and financial losses. About $200 million was spent on changes to the minivans' platform or basic underpinnings, which had to be altered to accommodate the new seating systems supplied by Magna International Inc., of Canada, company officials said. Chrysler executives called the second- and third-row seats, which can be folded into storage compartments in the floor of the vehicles in as little as 30 seconds, an industry first. The 2005 models also include minor changes to the grille and side panels. Inside, the vehicles have a new overhead storage and entertainment system for each row, plus added safety features, including more airbags and break-away cupholders. Soundproof steel on the vehicles' undercarriages will make the minivans 16 percent quieter than old models, Chrysler said. The seating system will be standard on the long-wheelbase Chrysler Town and Country LX, Touring and Limited, and the Dodge Grand Caravan SXT.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials