PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. - Chrysler product planners wanted to keep the PT Cruiser's cargo-hauling abilities when they created a convertible version.
Their solution? They mounted the folded-up roof and its storage compartment, called the stack, at the car's beltline, the line running along the bottom of the windows. This provided space below the stack for a decent-sized trunk. With the split rear seats down and the front passenger seat folded forward, the convertible can carry a surfboard or skis inside.
"The PT is really a functional vehicle," Chrysler COO Wolfgang Bernhard said at a press event here introducing the car.
"We said we have to preserve that trait for the convertible. We can't just throw that away and say the four-door is a wonderfully functional vehicle but the convertible is completely useless."
The company hopes the convertible, scheduled to arrive in showrooms in March, will rekindle flagging sales of the PT Cruiser. U.S. sales peaked in 2001 at 144,717. Last year sales slipped to 107,759. The car carries a $2,000 rebate.
The convertible's sticker will start at $19,995, vs. the sedan's base price of $17,985. Both prices include destination charges.
Dennis Krozek, director, vehicle development and program management, said, "We did not cut the PT sedan and call it a convertible. We totally re-engineered the car" from the A-pillar back.
Chrysler engineers also added a "sport bar." The bar, which wraps above the passenger compartment, adds structural stiffness to the quarter panels. It also provides a location to attach the front seat belts.
For added stiffness, they reinforced the sills below the doors in the rocker panel area, the structure in front of the rear axle that links the side panels, and other areas. They also added two reinforced steel bars to each door.
Standard equipment on all models is a power-operated top, along with power door locks, mirrors and windows.
To reduce wind noise, the door window glass automatically drops 10 millimeters when the door is opened. When the door closes, the glass rises into a C-shaped weather strip.
"You cannot get reliable sealing (to reduce) wind noise and water leaks without that technology," said Chrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche.
The lineup includes three PT Cruiser convertible trim levels: base, $19,995; Touring, $23,490; and GT, $28,155. All prices include a $590 destination charge.
Three 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines are available:
The vehicle will be assembled at Chrysler's Toluca plant in Toluca, Mexico.