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Chrysler Flip-Flops; Kills PT Cruiser and Wants to Sell Tooling


2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

2009 Chrysler PT Cruiser

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Only yesterday Chrysler president Tom LaSorda insisted that rumors of the sale of tooling for an existing model were "absolutely false." Well, folks, now they're looking to sell off assets used to produce the aging PT Cruiser, according to Bloomberg: "production 'ends this summer,' LaSorda said...in a telephone interview. 'Would we sell those assets? Yes. Do we have any offers to sell those assets? No. Would we be pursuing a buyer? Yes.'”

If you want to get into the semantics of it all, I suppose technically the PT Cruiser is no longer an existing model now that its fate is sealed. But more than likely LaSorda is pedaling furiously, trying to keep a game face and exude positive spin regarding Chrysler's future while concomitantly abandoning unprofitable, long-in-the tooth models and trying to peddle off their guts to stay afloat. Not an enviable position in the slightest.

The market spoke loudly last year regarding the PT Cruiser: sales nosedived 49 percent to end up at 50,910 units total for 2008. Still, 50,000 units is a lot of cars. I really liked the funky-fresh PT Cruiser back when it came out in 2000. I drove a PT Cruiser 5-speed long-term press car back in the summer of 2001 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It had a Honda-like solidity and exuded joy in its simplicity. Yeah, its 2.4-liter had to be revved within an inch of its life to produce inspiring forward motion, but importantly, the little touches were all there: the stick shift operated with slick precision, the clutch pedal engaged just right, the handling was nimble and entertaining, and the interior was full of useful touches and smile-inducing stylistic elements like the body-color inserts in the dash. The hatchback body was extremely convenient, and the London taxicab styling made this little car stand out in a crowd with a happy-go-lucky presence that encouraged drivers not to take life too seriously. Later turbocharged models addressed the lack of oomph, but hurt mpg.

Of course, Chrysler got in on the SUV game, investing in Durango/Aspen remodels and hybrid editions when gas was cheap and Americans just couldn't get enough of the big bruisers. Oops. Just like the American Ford Focus and Saturn's SL-series, the poor PT Cruiser was left on its original platform for 9 years to carry the funky hatchback small-car banner for Chrysler as competitors like the Toyota Matrix, Honda Element, and Kia Rondo moved in for the kill with more pep, more poise, and fresh new styling. A mid-cycle refresh killed the PT Cruiser's interior to my eye, adding awkward angles where enticing curves once resided. I know, hindsight is 20/20 and this is all easy to say...but whether it could have been prevented or not, it's sad to see the PT Cruiser fall on its face, a victim of parental neglect. Or perhaps a victim of the American penchant for the gargantuan SUV?

 
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Comments (3)
  1. "Reece"

    In the old days you might have been able to sell it off tot he eastern block but even they wouldn't be interested in this antiquated macjinary. Maybe someone in Africa might be interested but the rest of the world is unlikely to care. Usualy thing, make a decent car then let it die a slow death by not renewing. Toyota regulalry upgrade and redisign there class leading Corolla, ok it boring but is freshened up every few years and focuse don what opeople will buy not just marketing. Again without an international partner to share new model costs, Chrysler was left with an old design. Tehy desperetely need to find international partners, particulalry in the small car market where profit margins are slim but pruducts need constant refreshing.
     
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  2. "PT Cruiser: what a waste ..."

    I'll mourn the passing of the PT Cruiser, one of the most practical and useful vehicles out there, domestic or import.
    It's tragic that Chrysler never invested the money to give the thing a proper engine/transmission combo and updated amenities. I really think they could have continued selling 100K per year if the car didn't still have a turn-of-the-century powertrain.
    I know the cost of updating the structure and retrofitting side airbags, etc., is high, but the PT is a long-term winner that its owners are enormously fond of. I'll take one any day (even despite the ancient powertrain) over the inferior imitation HHR, which has less room inside, far worse visibility, and a grimmer interior.
    Sigh. RIP PT.
     
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  3. "LOOKING FOWARD"

    I too will be sad to see the PT go, but Chrysler must look to it's future and build a replacement. By the way , Chrysler is not, never was and won't be looking to sell off a brand or break up the company. Never was in the mix of discussions with GM or Nissan. Daimler still ownes 19%,and is not favorable to selling to Ceberus who can not sell off a diced up Chrysler. Too much sharing of power-trains etc. Who would be able to pick up the one million vehicles now sold by Chrysler world-wide? This baby is here to stay and they will get the Caliber/Compass/Patriot/PT Cruiser segment straight soon. Problem here was Daimler and they are minor (but still active-ex. Phoenix engine) players now. Nardelli/ Press are on the job and the future is bright. I envy their job, proving uninformed "talking heads" wrong again. Talk soon Colin.
     
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