In a world where most cars look much the same, the PT cruiser dares to be not just different but completely different! It was destined to be a classic right from its phenomenal USA launch in April 2000, when waiting lists of nearly a year led to some PTs changing hands at twice their original selling price. So, how did such a unique car come to be built in the first place? In the mid ‘90s the Chrysler Corporation had launched the Neon, a small saloon car that was designed to appeal to both International and US markets. It was decided that a tall, versatile car, like the Renault Megane Scenic, would make an ideal stablemate. This made sense for two reasons. Firstly, the tall car or small MPV (multipurpose vehicle) was increasing in popularity in Europe. Secondly, in the US, Chrysler sell many large trucks and needed to produce a small truck-like vehicle to satisfy government regulations on fuel economy. A Plymouth badged Pronto concept car was shown to the public in 1997. It was a tall car with many practical features, a roomy interior and flexible seating. Apart from the Plymouth Prowler style grill, it was a modern design. European journalists liked the car, but those in the US were less enthusiastic about its styling. It was clear that the basic concept was right but that a more attention grabbing design was called for. Lengthy research and management debate led to the idea of a car that could somehow capture the 'Spirit of America'. A modern styling exercise wasn’t a success, so Chrysler bosses looked to combine modern practical features needed, with American car designs of the past. From the bold styling of the 1920s & 30s through to 50s & 60s hot rods. All that was needed was a designer capable of putting these ideas together. This is where Bryan Nesbitt, one of Chrysler's very talented young designers, comes in. He was, at the time a 27 year old graduate from the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena. Bryan had been closely involved with the project from the start and was given a free hand to develop his ideas. His own research in Europe found that the car would fit into the popular MPV category. American styling would make it stand out as an import, hopefully giving it a measure of prestige. In the US, it was a completely different story. A small hatchback would have virtually no appeal, let alone any prestige. However, a truly original car could possibly make its own niche in the market place and attract buyers from a wide spectrum. Nesbitt took his inspiration from the 1930s era – high curvaceous cars with bold radiator grilles - mixed in the forward leaning stance of a hot rod and added modern touches like the headlights, windscreen and short body overhang to the front and rear wheels. At the same time he had to keep to the hatchback concept, which also involved a flat floor – necessary so that the ‘car’ could be classed as a truck to benefit the company’s official fuel economy quotas. His sketch here shows how close the original design was to the finished car. In 1998, a very stylish 3 door concept car, the Pronto Cruizer, designed by Nesbitt, was shown at the Geneva car show. Its purpose was to test public reaction and to throw Chrysler's (now Chrysler LLC) competitors off the scent. It worked, and in 1999, the PT made a surprise launch at the North American International Auto Show. The PT Cruiser (PT for personal transportation) went on sale to the public the following year in April 2000. Built at the Toluca plant in Mexico, the use of innovative computer technology greatly reduced preproduction time and costs. This unique car could not have been produced without some very bold management decisions at Chrysler. But most credit must surely go to Bryan Nesbitt, who not only designed the car and it's interior concept, but also came up with the name PT Cruiser. It is inexpensive, solidly made, well equipped and above all, fun to drive. Finally the PT Cruiser has that quality very rarely found in cars nowadays – character. This article from - http://www.ptcompany.co.uk/index.shtml
DETROIT — For many, news that Chrysler is about to stop making the PT Cruiser will come as a surprise: "Wait, they still make that car?"
The last PT Cruiser will roll off the production line Friday July 9th, 2010 in Toluca, Mexico.
But the truck-like sedan that once was Chrysler's best-selling car has, in recent years, been dying a death of a thousand cuts.
The PT Cruiser symbolizes much that's been wrong with the U.S. auto industry in the past few decades (even though Chrysler was owned by Germany's Daimler for most of the PT Cruiser's life). It's a car that, initially, people loved. But the company then tried to squeeze as much profit as it could out of the car, refusing to properly redesign it and eventually fitting it with cheaper radios and interior materials to save a few pennies. "It makes a great symbol of the failing of the American car industry," says Karl Brauer, editor-at-large at Edmunds.com. "Their pattern of behavior was introducing vehicles that managed to resonate with the market initially, and then doing almost nothing to maintain the brand."
From its rollout as a 2000 model, people loved it. Fan clubs popped up around the country. Customizers loved painting the tall body in flames and other graphics. It spawned its own accessories market. It won the North American Car of the Year award at the Detroit auto show in January 2001. "It really was a great car when it came out, and if they had put money in, instead of taking it out, they'd still be selling a hundred thousand a year," says David Zatz, who owns a fan website called ptcruizer.com. Sales topped 1.5 million in its decade on the market, and Chrysler sold 99,585 a year as recently as 2007. However, sales were down to 50,910 for 2009, according to Autodata, and this year, through June, just 8,591 have been sold. Over the years, Chrysler did barely enough to keep it alive, and recent cost-cutting measures involved installing cheap-feeling seats and relegating the vehicle to the fleet market. The company put a hard plastic bar across the passenger side dashboard, something Cruiser fans started calling the "towel rack." "They cheapened the PT to death," Zatz says. "A car that people used to be shocked at the price of — because they couldn't see how such a nice car could be so cheap — ended up being seen by the same public as cheap rental-fleet fodder."
When it was launched, it confounded the market. Regulators didn't know whether to label it a truck or a car. Buyers weren't sure what the PT stood for, although Chrysler has said it's short for "Personal Transportation." One thing people knew, though, was that it was pretty cool. "The company wasn't prepared for the car's success," Brauer says. "They never really ratcheted up to capitalize on it." It was so cool, it inspired General Motors to make its own version: GM wooed away Bryan Nesbitt, who designed the PT Cruiser for Chrysler, and a few years later, the Chevy HHR (for Heritage High Roof) that mirrored the PT Cruiser's body style. In earlier years, Chrysler freshened the model with a convertible version, a woody version and a turbo engine. They created some special editions, such as with their own colors, and changed the grille. But mostly, it stayed the same. Its offbeat style attracted a variety of buyers, Brauer says. Once consumers got inside and started using it, many buyers fell in love again with its utility. The seats came out, making the tall interior space usable for large cargo such as furniture or boxes.
This may be the end of production for the PT Cruiser, but it’s not the end of the Colorado PT Cruiser Club.
We will be Cruisin this beautiful State of Colorado for years to come.
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