RICK KRANZ

Cause of Cruiser's death? Abandonment

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
Production of a once revered Chrysler nameplate will end next month.

The final Chrysler PT Cruiser will be built July 9, a Chrysler spokesman said. Chrysler has no one to blame but itself for the demise of the PT Cruiser. It did practically nothing to save the once-thriving product.The PT Cruiser was one of the more successful of the retro-styled vehicles that debuted in the past 10 years. Over 1.3 million PT Cruisers were produced since 2000, when the car went on sale.

The car's styling -- heavily influenced by the sedans of the 1930s -- and low price point once made it a must-have for many baby boomers. I know a handful of former owners of Japanese cars who coveted the PT Cruiser.

Chrysler will build the last PT Cruiser July 9.
The car also was popular in Europe. Buyers and enthusiasts there called it the "gangster car." It was the type of sedan they had seen in The Untouchables or some other flick set in the '30s.

But PT Cruiser sales plummeted in recent years; so far this year, about 5,000 have been sold. The reason for the sales slide and the PT Cruiser's demise is simple: Chrysler did not invest in the car.

Many PT Cruiser owners waited patiently for a second generation, a car with new sheet metal, giving them a reason to buy another one.A styling theme from the '40s was talked about for a second generation, but it never materialized. Today's car not only looks and feels like the car introduced in 2000, it IS the car that was introduced in 2000.

Would a second-generation PT Cruiser have been as successful as the original? No. But I think 325,000 second-generation PT Cruisers could have been sold over five years.

And that would have met the goal back in 2000 of 65,000 U.S. sales a year.

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