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Final PT Cruiser to be made in July

by David Zatz on

The final PT Cruiser will be made on July 9, 2010, according to the Freep’s Mark Phelan, who pointed out that the PT embodied Chrysler’s repeated brilliance in creating popular new vehicles, and their lack of success in maintaining their popularity.

The first PT Cruiser was sold in 2000 amidst an almost frenzy-like burst of enthusiasm; buyers loved it for its ease of parking, use of space, ride and handling, and personality, though critics blasted its power (acceleration was nearly identical to the critically acclaimed Mini, which showed up at around the same time). New Beetle owners swarmed to dealerships to trade in their bugs for PTs.

The end comes around 1.3 million cars and one decade after the beginning. PT sales were far higher than expectations from the start, and demand stayed high until the 2006 redesign, which included cheapened, hardened seats, a cheaper air dam, more sound insulation, and a more generic interior.

The PT Cruiser was originally meant to be a Plymouth, according to insiders, hence the traditional “Plymouth Truck” moniker (as in PT38). It followed the styling of the Plymouth Prowler, and was to have been followed by a similarly styled minivan and mid-sized car, converting Plymouth into a more unique, desirable brand. Instead, DaimlerChrysler decided, in essence, to drop the Plymouth name, move Chrysler into Plymouth’s niche, and retroactively make the PT Cruiser into a Chrysler model.

Executives frequently denigrated the PT in private, playing it as a fad, unworthy of the attention. While highly profitable, it did not conform to the Daimler strategy of using Mitsubishi designs for smaller vehicles and Mercedes designs for larger ones, and had numerous rounds of de-contenting even in the first generation (the cargo net disappeared even from the GT in 2002.)

Even as Chrysler cheapened the PT, it managed to be one of the brand’s biggest sellers – and highest quality cars.

The PT Cruiser has been built alongside the Dodge Journey in the Toluca, Mexico factory which once only made Neons. It is being replaced in the factory by the Fiat 500, which will be made by Chrysler for sale in North and South America, branded as a Fiat.

With the loss of the PT Cruiser comes the end of the final car ever to be designed as a Plymouth – even if it was never sold as one.

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