After a decade-plus run, production of well over 1-million units, and global distribution, Chrysler’s spunky homage to 1930s design has ground to a halt. The last Chrysler PT Cruiser has been delivered and no replacement is likely. The chronology that follows celebrates the bright moments of its illustrious life.
Exploring the possibilities of a retro-esque compact wagon, Bob Lutz conspires with designer Bryan Nesbitt and an off-the-wall consultant Dr. Clotair Rapaille. The controversial Rapaille is a cultural anthropologist who espouses tapping consumers’ unconsciousness to influence their purchase decisions.
Production commences on the 2000 (model year) PT Cruiser with five doors, five seats, hints of a 1937 Ford in its exterior design, and Neon underpinnings. Because partner Daimler-Benz intended to terminate the Plymouth brand in 2001, the Cruiser was born a Chrysler.
Automobile toasts the car on its June cover with a Just Beachy! headline. Design analyst Robert Cumberford praises the exterior and raves about the interior.
Chrysler has configured the interior package to qualify the vehicle as a truck in the eyes of NHTSA, helping the company’s CAFÉ score.
Demand is strong and dealers soon have waiting lists for PT Cruiser deliveries. Mature buyers identify with the exterior design and appreciate the slightly elevated seating.
PT Cruiser wins the North American Car of the Year award at the Detroit Auto Show. Nesbitt leaves Chrysler, joins GM, and helps revive a faltering design which arrives in 2005 as Chevy’s HHR.
PT Cruisers for North American consumption are manufactured in Chrysler’s Toluca, Mexico, assembly plant. In addition, production commences in Graz, Austria, for other markets.
A turbocharged GT model is added to the lineup with 220-230 horsepower. (All PT Cruisers are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine; the transmission lineup includes a 4-speed automatic and a 5-speed manual supplied by Getrag.)
A two-door convertible arrives with four seats, a basket-handle structural member, and a manually folding soft top. Production of the rag top runs only three years.
A minor facelift brings a fresh front-end design, interior improvements, and a 230-hp high-output engine option. A Route 66 special edition features way too much yellow paint.
A Pacific Coast Highway special edition is finished in pearl-blue paint.
A Sunset Boulevard edition is painted ‘sunset crystal.’ In total, there were 14 special editions of the PT Cruiser.
Struggling under witless Cerberus management, top Chrysler officials announce that PT Cruiser’s end is nigh. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the car a poor rating for a weak performance in side and rear collision tests.
July 9, 2010
The last ever Chrysler PT Cruiser rolls of the Mexican assembly line.