SAN DIEGO - DaimlerChrysler is bending over backward to say the Chrysler PT Cruiser is not built on a Neon platform.
The production version of the PT Cruiser shares just 18 percent of its parts with the Neon small-car platform, said Tony Richards, vice president of passenger-car operations for the Chrysler group.
The PT Cruiser's engineers did use the Neon's undercarriage as a starting point, he said. But the PT Cruiser was designed with a different audience in mind, and subsequently, had to exhibit different characteristics.
For example, the ride quality was a big concern. DaimlerChrysler hopes to sell 30,000 units, or 17 percent of its annual production run, in Europe, where consumers expect a firm ride.
So the PT Cruiser features a twist-beam rear axle with a Watts link rear suspension. The Watts linkage helps dampen side-to-side motion of the axle. The configuration yields a suspension that is up to four times stiffer than a dead, or solid, rear axle, Richards said.
'This is not a milquetoast design,' Richards said.
The PT Cruiser also ended up with a wheelbase of 103 inches, 2 inches shorter than the Neon. The PT Cruiser's overall length of 169 inches is about 5 inches shorter than the Neon.
Richards pointed out these and other differences at the recent press event. One goal is to distance the PT Cruiser from the Neon, which has a poor reputation for quality.
Although designed with one eye on European consumers, Richards acknowledged the PT Cruiser will likely be a tough sell in Europe because of its unusual styling and higher price in Europe.
With tariffs added, the PT Cruiser will cost at least $8,000 more than its U.S. base price of $16,000, Richards said.
And generally, 'world cars haven't sold, with a few exceptions,' Richards said.
DaimlerChrysler plans to sell 150,000 units annually, or about 83 percent of its output, in North America. Dealers should begin seeing the vehicle by the end of March.