Move over, Mr. New Beetle, here comes your worst nightmare. Going after your well-deserved reputation as the most sought-after gimmicky vehicle around, the oddly styled Chrysler Cruiser is about to knock your socks off both in the U.S. and 40 other countries. Predictions are it'll match Volkswagen's lovebug million for million in sales, particularly considering the Cruiser's price: $16,00 to $19,995.
If owners are prepared to handle raised-eyebrow reactions, they'll head for Chrysler showrooms in droves.
What is this wild concoction? Even Chrysler can't give you a straight answer. They call it a duffle bag because you can stuff all sorts of things into it, from people to plants. And company executives are beaming about the fact that the weird-looking four-door, five-passenger Cruiser built in Toluca, Mexico, is a marketer's dream. Whether it creates a new segment called Truck Unplugged or Gehry Goes Greek remains to be seen.
The designers targeted active lifestylers who don't like to be lumped with the minivan crowd or who feel that SUVs have become far too common. At the same time Chrysler wanted something youthful, charismatic and a little bit shocking. After all, Chrysler had already produced the Prowler and the Viper.
The company claims that their styling direction was not retro but a combination of the familiar and the future. Well, grandma and grandpa will find it just as appealing for its 1930s look as for its removable back tumbleseat that can be wheeled into their garden and sat upon.
Although it appears to be a mix of minivan, SUV and sedan, it really resembles a London taxicab, those tall, ungainly but tremendously comfortable old Austins that allowed you to climb into the cab practically standing up. The Cruiser is not, of course, high enough for that feat, but at 63 inches it's merely an inch shorter than a Jeep Cherokee and seven inches taller than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class. So the Cruiser affords plenty of space and features for every kind of lifestyle from corporate junkets to country weddings.