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PT Cruiser: What ended a sweet ride

Alisa Roth Jul 9, 2010

PT Cruiser: What ended a sweet ride

Alisa Roth Jul 9, 2010


Tess Vigeland: Way back when, say, ten years ago when it first came out, the Chrysler PT Cruiser was a huge hit.
Drivers liked the snazzy look. The roomy interior. And the price. Motor Trend named it car of the year. So did the Detroit Auto Show.
Today, more than a million vehicles later, the last PT Cruiser rolls off the line.
Marketplace’s Alisa Roth reports..

Alisa Roth: De Langfield and her husband have two PT Cruisers. One is a black convertible. That’s her regular car. The other one is their show car.

De Langfield: Uh, we had the whole car painted, we have suede upholstery in it, we have a 23-inch flat screen TV in it.

They like how roomy the PT Cruiser is inside. And they like how it drives. But she says it’s more than that:

Landfield: You know, people that could not afford a real classic car, this was as close as they could get. And when they started tricking them out, they just became their personalities.

The car does look kind of cool, retro, look to it. And when it came out, there weren’t many of those kinds of vehicles on the road.

Karl Brauer is an analyst at Edmunds.com. He says Chrysler’s big problem was that it never updated the PT Cruiser. In fact, it did the opposite:

Karl Brauer: To maintain the profit margin they got on each vehicle sale, they cut the costs and that meant cutting some of the material quality and some of the other elements to the car.

Brauer says a lot of the vehicles the Big Three made suffered from that kind of treatment:

Brauer: They’ll come out with a vehicle. It’ll attain a certain amount of brand equity. Then they’ll decide they’d rather get profit out of the car by not putting any money into it than maintaining that vehicles brand equity over a longer period of time.

And in the PT Cruiser’s case, at least, car buyers clearly noticed. In 2001, its best year, Chrysler sold almost 150,000 of them. Last year, it sold fewer than 20,000. Chrysler’s moving on to other things; at the end of this year, the plant will start rolling out a new version of the classic Fiat 500.

I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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