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Last PT Cruiser will roll off assembly line July 9


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Last PT Cruiser will roll off assembly line July 9



PT Cruiser's end in sight

The last Chrysler PT Cruiser will roll off the assembly line in less than two weeks, signaling the end of the line for a historic and beloved little car.

The PT Cruiser's history is the story of what Chrysler does brilliantly -- create unique, desirable new vehicles -- and of the failure to build on success that has repeatedly brought the company to its knees.

The PT Cruiser went on sale in 2000, during the SUV craze. Despite that, the compact sedan's quirky styling and useful interior made it a sensation. It helped establish Chrysler as a design leader, sold far beyond the automaker's expectations and became one of the rare American small cars that's an undisputed hit.

"For a while, it was the best-selling Chrysler-brand vehicle," said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics, a Birmingham consultancy.

When production ends July 9, Chrysler will have sold more than 1.3 million PT Cruisers. The PT was one of the first modern retro vehicles, coming after the VW Beetle and Plymouth Prowler, but before the Mini Cooper, Chevrolet HHR, Ford Thunderbird and Fiat 500. Beyond the original sedan, the lineup grew to include a turbocharged performance model, a convertible, and more than a dozen special editions.

It's a tribute to the car's appeal that it remained popular through the years although Chrysler never refreshed its looks and features.

"It's plugged along and still has a loyal fan base," Hall said.

If Chrysler executives had followed up on the PT's initial success, they could have turned the car into an icon for the company. Instead, they left it alone as a singular sensation that bore no relationship to any other Chrysler vehicle.

Chrysler didn't capitalize on the PT. The automaker would repeat that mistake four years later, when the Chrysler 300C took the market by storm. Once again, Chrysler found itself unprepared for success. There was no follow-up to build on the momentum of a hit car.

The PT had brushes with extinction when Daimler and Cerberus ran Chrysler. It won reprieve after reprieve because people kept buying it.

With sales at just 5,452 this year, the PT Cruiser has finally run its race.



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