The little crossover was profitable, but beancounters cut Chrysler PT Cruiser features more every year. Team member Chris Theodore wrote, “The PT Cruiser was unloved by management, and suffered from benign neglect. We had to fight the chairman to get the program approved. Many other models were planned, but never came to fruition. Other than Brian Nesbitt, Design hated the car because they felt their job was to move the state-of-the-art forward, whether the customer likes it or not.”
Design chief Tom Gale planned the Cruiser to be a Plymouth, like the Plymouth Prowler, with a matching car and minivan to follow; but the CEO shut down Plymouth before it arrived.
Chrysler PT Cruiser information
The first Chrysler PT Cruiser was loved for its ease of parking, use of space, and personality; and it held four full-sized adults and their luggage in comfort. The modified Watts suspension packed a lot of cornering and ride quality into a space smaller than a Neon on the outside, with more cargo space than many mid-sized cars on the inside.
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The base PT went from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, nearly a half second faster than the Honda Civic EX and similar to the Volvo V70 T5 Cross Country. Braking was good, going from 60 to 0 in 120 feet - fifteen feet less than the vaunted Civic. The skidpad and slalom rating were identical to the Civic EX, and the skidpad was within .02 g of the Audi AllRoad Quattro, Elantra GLS, Lexus LS 430, and Volvo V70 T5 Cross Country. Motor Trend named the 2001 PT Cruiser the Car of the Year.
Demand stayed high until the 2006 redesign, which took away the “teardrop” headlights and cheapened the seats, air dam, and interior. Bryan Nesbitt said, “I didn’t like the update ... But I find it interesting that Chrysler decided to keep it in production. I believe it is the most profitable small car in Chrysler’s history.”
Sales of the PT Cruiser fell dramatically in 2008 and 2009, and sales shifted from heavily loaded cars to strippers. Still, 1,304,702 PT Cruisers were made between February 2000 and July 2008 — far more than the 30,000 per year they had projected.
David Turnbole’s “pink smoke” photo is from the Central New York PT Cruiser Owners’ Club site; the car is owned by Ken Mulder and driven by Jason Mulder. It’s a 2002 Series II Dream Cruiser with the Stage One turbocharger, shown at the ESTA drag strip in Cicero, New York during the club’s Verona show (around 2008).
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