During DaimlerChrysler's Internet chat about the Chrysler PT Cruiser, a participant from Phoenix said he had his checkbook out and wanted to buy one.
But the vehicle is not on sale. So Bryan Nesbitt, the vehicle's exterior designer, offered him a tip.
'Maybe you could send me something under the table. Otherwise, dealers will accept orders in spring,' Nesbitt joked.
That was one of the lighter moments during the hourlong, online discussion Nov. 18 between the PT Cruiser's platform team and prospective customers. The cyber chat was yet another way DaimlerChrysler is trying to reach potential PT Cruiser customers in advance.
The automaker has been methodically building interest in the 2001 PT Cruiser ever since it was unveiled in January during Detroit's North American International Auto Show. The PT Cruiser will go on sale in the spring.
The online discussion, held at 9 p.m. EST, drew 711 participants, said Dan Gliniecki, Chrysler brand communications specialist.
Ten platform team representatives gathered in a conference room in Auburn Hills, Mich., and answered questions about engineering, design and marketing. The discussion was conducted through Talk City, a company that coordinates online chats through its Web site, www.talkcity.com.
It was easy logging on to the chat, and it moved along smoothly. Participants were screened. One person was asked to resubmit his question with a more appropriate name.
To generate interest, the automaker notified 50,000 prospects by e-mail and posted a notice of the event on its Chrysler brand Web site, wwwchryslercars.com. The 50,000 were culled from a list of more than 225,000 people who have requested information about the PT Cruiser.
The platform team divulged that Chrysler dealers might place orders for the PT Cruiser beginning in March. Customers will be able to order one with an optional power moon roof, and the standard five-speed manual model will be equipped with a cue ball shifter knob.
More than 100,000 PT Cruisers will be assembled during the first year at the automaker's plant in Toluca, Mexico, Nesbitt said. All three trim levels will be available at launch, and the supply should meet demand, he said.