The 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser is designed as a global vehicle and as a way to broaden the appeal of the Chrysler brand.
'Clearly, we wanted a signature vehicle for Chrysler,' said Robert Eaton, DaimlerChrysler AG chairman.
The PT Cruiser is the long-awaited Neon-based hybrid. The 'PT' stands for 'personal transportation,' and comes from the original code name, PT44, that was used during development.
The retro look of the exterior styling elicits a 'love it or hate it' response, Eaton said at the vehicle's unveiling at the North American International Auto Show.
'But that's the kind of passion we're after,' he said. 'The real hook is its versatile interior. Look inside. It's huge, like a minivan.'
D/C MAKES ROOM IN TOLUCA
The PT Cruiser will be built in DaimlerChrysler's Toluca, Mexico, plant. To make way for PT Cruiser production, Sebring convertible production will be moved from Toluca to Sterling Heights, Mich. DaimlerChrysler now assembles about 60,000 Sebring convertibles annually in Toluca.
DaimlerChrysler will discontinue Neon production in Toluca, a move that will make its Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant the sole production site for the revamped 2000 Neon.
Eaton expects delivery of the Chrysler PT Cruiser to begin in January 2000. He would not specify annual production volume, but he said it will be more than 50,000.
The four-door PT Cruiser is based on the Pronto Cruizer coupe introduced at the 1998 Geneva auto show and the four-door Chrysler Pronto Cruizer all-wheel-drive concept unveiled Sunday, Jan. 3, the opening day of media preview week in Detroit.
The 2001 PT Cruiser is a four-door, front-wheel-drive vehicle with a rear hatch. An awd version may be added later, Eaton said.
It will be introduced with a 2.4-liter, double-overhead-camshaft, four-cylinder engine, an adaptation of the engine now used in vehicles such as the 1999 Plymouth Breeze mid-sized sedan and the Plymouth Voyager minivan, said Marty Levine, vice president of the Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep Division.
Sources have said that DaimlerChrysler is expected to introduce a longer awd version in the first quarter of 2001, and will position it as a station wagon/sport-utility hybrid.
PRICED WELL UNDER $20,000
The PT Cruiser will be priced significantly under $20,000, Eaton said.
'It will appeal to those who need a first car with a lot of functionality to empty-nesters,' Levine said. 'This is a vehicle that expands the breadth of the Chrysler brand.'
The PT Cruiser will be badged strictly as a Chrysler worldwide, he said.
Based on consumer research, the PT Cruiser's effect on brand identity will be similar to that of the Prowler for Plymouth and the Viper for Dodge, Levine said.
It will be sold in more than 40 markets around the world.