Slow-Cook Innovation


By Yvonne Pilon

One of the biggest mistakes budding young entrepreneurs make is to equate innovation solely in terms of a breakthrough idea.

Many startups are chasing the next disruptive technology like Facebook, Amazon and Uber.

Enter Chrysler Pacifica – arguably the greatest #YQG symbol of innovation as continuous evolution and improvement.

The first Chrysler minivan rolled off the assembly line on November 2nd, 1983 with its iconic sliding door and rear gate.

File photo of an autoworker installing a sliding door on a new Chrysler minivan in 1983 (Windsor Star)
Windsor Star file photo of an autoworker installing a sliding door on a new Chrysler minivan in 1983

The Dodge Caravan was the breakthrough product that changed the auto industry and arguably saved Chrysler financially.

Over the next thirty-plus years, Chrysler and FCA introduced six generations of minivans with a sector leading 115 minivan innovations.

The current versions – Chrysler Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid – count forty new minivan firsts.

Pacifica is the first minivan available as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, so your green conscience is clear as you shuttle your family from soccer to hockey to dance.

It boasts a mobile drive-in theatre with the first 10-inch touchscreen in second row.

There are more than 100 standard and available safety and security features, including the first minivan with a Forward Collision Warning system with mitigation, first minivan with Lane Departure Warning system with mitigation, and first minivan with Rear Park Assist system with stop.

Ralph Gilles, Head of Design at FCA, has said that Pacifica “… really has very little to do with the one before it. It’s all new from the ground up.”

That might be a stretch.

Place the Pacifica and Dodge Caravan side-by-side and the differences are stark – true – but the lineage is clear.  It is the story of breakthrough innovation followed by three decades of incremental innovation.

And that’s a terrific lesson for local startups and a proud achievement in itself worth celebrating because the ability to remain on top as the best selling minivan after three decades requires some of the best engineers and best designers to dedicate their creativity and craft to keeping their product ahead of the pack.

Robert Plant from the Wall Street Journal notes that “the preferred strategy is to do both; incrementally innovate to refresh and extend your firm’s existing product range, while disrupting the industry at the same time with bold new products.”

In sports terms, the Roger Federer of minivans has called Windsor its home court for over thirty years while dominating the sector.

It’s a success story worth studying.


Yvonne Pilon is the President and CEO of WEtech Alliance. She is also an Instructor at St. Clair College’s MediaPlex. As her Twitter profile suggests, she is a “Young professional passionate about entrepreneurship, tech and putting #YQG on the map”.

“Slow-Cooked Innovation” originally appeared in the February issue of Biz X Magazine. Subscribe HERE to get your free digital copy of Biz X Magazine delivered right to your email inbox!