Volkswagen Routan Still Hangs by a Thread

Volkswagen's Routan minivan — yes, the one originally touted by actress Brooke Shields — is on life support. Production of the Chrysler Town & Country-based minivan, which is assembled through a joint partnership between the two automakers since mid-2008, has been suspended since July at Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario, plant. Volkswagen spokesman Scott Vazin told Bloomberg News it's still up in the air whether Chrysler will continue building the Routan at Windsor, though VW's agreement with Chrysler extends through 2014.

Unsurprisingly, VW dealerships have few Routans in stock. Volkswagen doesn't report inventory by individual model, but has just 992 Routans in its national new-car inventory — a fraction of the Honda Odyssey (22,912 new-car listings), Toyota Sienna (14,373) and Dodge Grand Caravan (14,597) minivans available.

Volkswagen sold just 836 Routans in November and 9,923 through the first 11 months of 2012. Chrysler has sold more than 23 times the Town & Country and related Dodge Grand Caravan minivans while CEO Sergio Marchionne questioned the need for two near-identical models in the same showroom. Year-to-date sales for the Chrysler twins are up a combined 25.1%; sales for the Routan are down 16.9%.

The Routan received similar drivetrain updates as its Chrysler siblings for 2011, but not the interior overhaul and styling tweaks the Grand Caravan and Town & Country minivans received. Still, Volkswagen earned a fourth-place finish among six minivans in's Ultimate Minivan Shootout last year, and it's one of just a handful of cars to accommodate three child-safety seats in the same row, according to’s Car Seat Check.

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Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey