LOS ANGELES - Assembly of the Plymouth Prowler will begin around June 1, five months later than Chrysler Corp. had originally said it would start building the purple roadster.
The Prowler will be allocated first to dealers with high sales and customer satisfaction ratings, said John MacDonald, Chrysler's vice president of marketing.
The cars will be shipped first to the largest markets, such as New York, Los Angeles, Texas and Detroit, he said.
Although about 2,000 Prowlers will be built this year, not every Plymouth dealer will get one. MacDonald expects all Plymouth dealers to have at least one Prowler by the end of 1998. Chrysler Corp. had 2,940 Plymouth franchises on Jan. 1.
The company said it never was in any hurry to bring the Prowler to the market.
'There's no reason to rush this,' Craig Love, executive engineer of the Prowler development team said here last week during the national media launch. 'It's not like it's a high-volume minivan and we have to get it out.'
Two weeks ago, Chrysler announced the price of the Prowler will be $39,000, including the destination charge. Chrysler originally said the price would be about $35,000.
Love said interest in the car has been intense. The company has received more than 100,000 inquiries about the Prowler via telephone calls, letters, reply cards and Internet activity on the Plymouth Web site.
The Prowler will be built at Chrysler's Conner Avenue assembly plant in Detroit, where the Dodge Viper is now made. The plant will be able to assemble about 2,000 Prowlers this year. That's about 1,000 short of previous first-year estimates.
The plant is expected to build a maximum 20 Prowlers a day by the fourth quarter of this year, Love said. Chrysler expects to produce 5,000 Prowlers in calendar 1998.
Chrysler moved back the launch to stiffen the cowl area to give drivers a more solid feel, said Tom Gale, Chrysler's executive vice president of product development.
The company also added time to ensure proper fit of aluminum exterior body panels. The Prowler, whose frame and body panels are aluminum, uses more aluminum than any other Chrysler production vehicle in history.
Chrysler gained valuable feedback about the car's ride from the automotive media and hot-rod buffs who drove and evaluated earlier versions of the Prowler, Gale said.
Purple is the only color that will be offered now, Love said. But that will change down the road.
'It looks great in a number of colors,' he said. 'We'll introduce a few more colors down the pike.'