But the PT Cruiser is not just an image builder: its unique design provides a highly practical solution to the rapidly changing demands of motorists around the world. This has been achieved by the determination of the designers and engineers to adhere to a strict design philosophy of "form follows function". In fact, with ultra-efficient use of interior space and a unique versatility, the five-door PT Cruiser combines all the practicalities for daily use with a capacity to inject fun into motoring.
To address global market needs, the overall exterior size of PT Cruiser was kept to that of a small car, but ingenious interior design and packaging created the space and functionality of a much larger vehicle. In fact, at 4288 mm, the overall exterior length is 102 mm shorter than the Neon, yet its interior volume of 339 cu metres rivals that of full-size saloons.
Overall vehicle height combined with unique front and rear seat configurations give the PT Cruiser the capability to carry five people as a passenger car, or just the driver with the cargo capacity of a light truck. The 65/35 split folding rear seat can be folded, folded forward in two positions or removed completely to reveal a flat load floor. For added efficiency, the front passenger seat can be folded forward for use as a table top for the driver, or to provide enough space to load an eight-feet ladder from the rear of the vehicle.
The front-wheel drive PT Cruiser is powered by a 2.0-litre SOHC 16-valve engine and will be available with a manual or automatic transmission. A common rail, direct injected turbo diesel engine will be available at a later stage. Prices will be announced close to launch.
"The all-new Chrysler PT Cruiser stands alone in the world market because it combines versatility and efficiency, wrapped in a distinctly American design," said Robert J. Eaton, DaimlerChrysler Chairman. "PT Cruiser is our interpretation of a vehicle that blends many characteristics to create an all-new segment.
"At DaimlerChrysler we will continue to be a leading force in changing the dynamics of the automotive industry," said Eaton. "Whether it be through new business practices, engineering processes or design innovation, we will challenge ourselves every day to create new products that stand out in the marketplace."
It was this spirit of taking on and succeeding at new challenges that led Chrysler's Small Car Platform Team to create the Chrysler PT Cruiser for both the North American and international markets. The PT Cruiser anticipates the needs of owners by understanding emerging trends in the ways people use their vehicles.
"PT Cruiser melds Chrysler's signature American design with an innovative interior package to meet consumer needs on a global basis," said Tom Gale, Executive Vice President Product Strategy and Design - DaimlerChrysler. "This combination breaks the mould of the traditional small car to create a truly flexible activity vehicle. The overall vehicle architecture was explored through Pronto and Pronto Cruizer concept vehicles which gave us considerable consumer feedback."
The revolutionary design has exploded existing conventions of market segments and the positioning and standardisation of vehicles within the various sectors. But Chrysler has a long history of creating and re-defining major new vehicle segments, most notably with the minivan in 1984 - which went on to spawn todayís highly-successful Voyager MPV. Unlike anything else on the market, the minivan anticipated the needs of consumers and gave them answers before the questions were asked.
While the PT Cruiser has design links with classic cars from various eras, it could not have been engineered in a more up-to-date way. Engineers utilised highly advanced technologies, including the most intensive use yet of Computer-Aided Three Dimensional Interactive Application (CATIA), Digital Modelling Assembly (DMA) and Virtual Reality.
CATIA links all major disciplines in the development of the vehicle, including suppliers, from the earliest stages. Building on the experience of other platform teams, the PT Cruiser team relied on CATIA to bring together design, engineering and manufacturing, resulting in increased efficiencies and higher quality. DMA and Virtual Reality were used as design and analysis tools.
DMA allows engineers to assemble components with three-dimensional computer analysis prior to building a physical prototype to ensure the proper fit. Through Virtual Reality, engineers experienced the PT Cruiser from the perspective of the occupants, allowing them to optimise the interior package and related ergonomics.
The distinctive side profile of PT Cruiser is created by the unique proportions of the roof line and high belt line that is accented by three side windows. Its exaggerated, separate bumper forms are connected by simulated flared side sills that evoke strong heritage but with contemporary forms and materials.
The front and rear bumpers provide a sturdy, protective feeling. From the front, a pronounced grille and flush-mounted ellipse headlamps are carried forward from the Pronto Cruizer and PT Cruiser concept cars, resulting in one of the most unique 'faces' for any higher-volume production car. The high belt line from the side continues around to the rear, using equal proportions of glass and metal on the liftgate.
At the rear, PT Cruiser's uniquely shaped tail lamps capture the nostalgic spirit of the bullet-shaped tail lamps seen throughout the 1940s. The flared bumpers and the inset body give the PT Cruiser a confident, sure-footed stance from any angle. The recently introduced Chrysler winged medallion is featured prominently on the front and rear of the vehicle to highlight the brand's heritage.
"The interior of PT Cruiser blends innovative features and packaging to create a vehicle that has one of the most sophisticated and flexible vehicle designs, regardless of size," said Jeff Godshall, Chrysler PT Cruiser interior designer.
With the rear seat in the upright position, PT Cruiser has a rear storage compartment with a multi-position shelf panel that can be placed in any one of five positions, or removed entirely. One position converts it into a tabletop for other uses, such as tailgate picnics.
Staying true to the design imperative that form follows function, the versatility of the interior defined how the vehicle would work, yet the unique exterior design is continued inside the PT Cruiser.
The symmetrical, browless instrument panel creates an immediate synergy with the PT Cruiser's exterior by incorporating colour panels that coordinate with the exterior body colour. The simplicity of the bright-ringed circular gauges recessed into the instrument panel reflects the heritage of precision craftsmanship. Chrysler PT Cruiser's steering wheel, with its small circular centre hub and spokes, give the vehicle a more open, airy appearance. The two-toned spacious interior is enhanced by the Light Neutral and Dark Taupe colours. The finishing touches of chrome door handles and name badges are used both inside and outside.
The PT Cruiser adds a new dimension to the Chrysler brand around the world by breaking the barriers of conventional automotive design and function.
"Chrysler PT Cruiser dramatically changes the profile of the Chrysler brand by expanding the breadth of its product line and the presence of the brand around the world," said Robert J. Eaton.