Chrysler kills Prowler a year early

DETROIT — Continuing to save pennies anywhere it can as part of its corporatewide belt-tightening, the Chrysler group said it will end production of the hand-built Prowler street rod one year early.

With sales declining and production already halved, the last 300 Prowlers will be built by mid-February. The program had been expected to last into 2003.

The car, priced at $45,400, including a $775 destination charge, first appeared at the 1993 Detroit auto show as a concept. Enthusiasts urged Chrysler to build it, and it debuted as a 1997 Plymouth.

Prowler sales peaked last year at 2,631.

With the demise of the Plymouth brand in January 2000, the Prowler was rebadged as a Chrysler. More than 11,000 have been built. It is built alongside the Dodge Viper at Chrysler’s Conner Avenue assembly plant in Detroit.

The decision leaves the Chrysler brand without a halo car until the 2004 model year, when the Crossfire, which debuted as a concept at the 2001 Detroit auto show, will arrive.

The Crossfire will make extensive use of Mercedes-Benz components, including the engine. It will be assembled in Germany by Wilhelm Karmann GmbH, which also builds the Mercedes-Benz CLK convertible.

Jerry Bowman, chairman of the Chrysler dealer council, said the decision to kill the Prowler doesn’t hurt.

“It isn’t a big-volume car — I sell hardly any,” said Bowman, who owns Stuart-Bowman Auto Centre in Asheboro, N.C.

Bowman said the Prowler’s major problem is that its performance doesn’t match its street rod looks. He said: “It’s a Sunday-

drive car that didn’t have the power that it needed.” c

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com

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