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August 04, 2016

The Chrysler Moms Behind the 2017 Pacifica

2017_Chrysler_Pacifica-_005PFvccuspi2fb73c8beg4e1rriv9d-AskPatty_Car_Buying_CenterWho knows a minivan better than a mom? Chrysler understands that. Fact is, many moms held key positions when developing the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. But, it came with a tall order.

The Pacifica had to break through the criticized "soccer mom" image, had to rival the outgoing Town & Country, and it had to entice SUV customers to go minivan.

To understand what went into the new Pacifica, I interviewed four women in key positions. Following are excerpts from my interviews with the women of Chrysler's all-new 2017 Pacifica.

-- Question:
How did your family influence your decisions?

Jill Katic, Chrysler Pacifica Product Planning Director-- Jill Katic, Product Planning Director:

"My kids are a great source of inspiration. I credit my six-year-old with inspiring the `Are We There Yet?' rear-seat navigation app. He takes every opportunity to say, "Mom, I think you should do this (fill in the blank)!"

-- Jessica Lafond, Chief Engineer:

Jessica is responsible for the full design, development and execution of the Pacifica program. Lafond, mother of a 12-year-old daughter has owned a minivan for nearly 15 years.

"Before we started, we interviewed children about what they wanted in their new van and had children of many ages climb around our packaging model."

-- Irina Zavatski, Exterior Design Manager:

Zavatski sketched and developed Pacifica from the initial stage to the launch. "I have two kids, and I purchased the minivan once I started working on Pacifica; I wanted to know what it feels like, what the key functionalities are, and how to improve image/appearance.

-- Winnie Cheung, Interior Chief Designer for Chrysler brand:

"My husband and I are expecting our first child! We are super excited for our next chapter of life where we will experience being parents in the front rather than a kid in the back."

-- Question:
Do you think that being a woman had an effect on your input, engineering or design?

-- Jessica Lafond: "What is important to each life stage was used to create the Chrysler Pacifica. I have lived through these stages and understand what is important. During the early childhood years, I ran around with lots of stuff. I've used my van for countless home improvement projects and take many yearly long family car trips in the van. I have watched my parents use my vehicle and even purchase their own as they enter their retirement stage."

-- Irina Zavatski: "This vehicle is not just for women. But, I appreciate the peace of mind knowing your child won't yank the door open and ding the car next to you. I love being able to drive the kids, grandparents, pets, and luggage on a weekend trip. And I've experienced the attitude of other drivers not respecting the minivan. I made it my mission to make the minivan cool again."

-- Winnie Cheung, Interior Chief Designer for Chrysler brand-- Winnie Cheung:
"A woman's perspective is very important, especially for a family vehicle. Identifying and designing to a woman's needs is vital. Basic needs are ample storage that even includes space for your purse! We treat the interior like a piece of art, making it stylish and comfortable, through sculptural surfacing, simple controls and technology and color and materials that allow enhancing the Zen-like experience."

-- Question:
What specifics went into the Pacifica to make it different?

-- Jill Katic: "We know minivan drivers appreciate small, thoughtful features like a designated umbrella holder to keep their umbrella in the vehicle, out of the way, until it is needed. The Pacifica has two umbrella holders, one next to each front door.

We know that families have children of all sizes. For the small children, we put a button (shaped like Chiclets gum) on the outside sliding door handle to easily open the power sliding door. We realize that families have tall teenagers, so we increased the third-row legroom by almost 5 inches over the previous minivan.

The Easy Tilt seat is inspired by parents who are endlessly removing and reinstalling child safety seats to allow passengers to access the third row. Easy Tilt makes removing child seats is a thing of the past."

-- Jessica Lafond: "Here are a few examples: 1.) We added a front grab handle on the passenger side to help shorter, less limber, or older people get in and out of the van with confidence. 2.) The low tray/console between the driver and passenger seat is great for holding bags or purses. 3.) The push-button drawer in the instrument panel was designed to be like a catch-all drawer and to hold key electronics, like an iPad. 4.) A headrest dump feature located in the radio allows you to fold the third-row headrests from the driver's seat. 5.) The new Stow-N-Vac is purposefully placed so that you can do a quick clean anywhere in the vehicle."

-- Irina Zavatski, Chrysler Pacifica Exterior Design Manager-- Irina Zavatski: "One fun detail is the stowing roof rails that fold to the side when not needed. The 360-degree camera is also helpful, especially when parking. My favorite feature is the fact that you can open the sliding door by using the kick wave sensor, the button, or the key fob."

-- Winnie Cheung: "We wanted the Pacifica to be an emotional purchase -- one that would make drivers feel confident and give a positive perception of minivans. The interior is like a living room on wheels -- each row has its purpose. The third row is like a lounge with best in class third-row legroom, the second row is the entertainment center, and the first row is a luxurious environment for the parents. On top, you can option up a tri-pane sunroof to open up space."


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Holly_reich-headshotby Holly Reich for Motor Matters
HOLLY REICH has been writing about automotive and travel since 1982. She has reported on the automotive industry for television and radio broadcast stations including; Fox News, SPEED, Car TV and Autolab. Reich has contributed to publications such as RIDES,,, Elite Traveler,, The New York Daily News and The Washington Post. Holly is based in New York City.


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