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Chrysler @ The 1999 London Motor Show

by Shane O' Donoghue / Mark Sims

CHRYSLER STARTS COUNTDOWN TO LAUNCH OF INNOVATIVE PT CRUISER

The Cruiser should be successful - Chrysler need a small car in Europe.

The revolutionary PT Cruiser is given its UK premiere at the London Motor Show at Earls Court today (Tuesday 19 October) as Chrysler starts the countdown to the launch of this distinctive five-door model. The eye-catching PT Cruiser is expected to carve its own special niche in the UK market when it goes on sale early next summer - but potential customers are already clamouring for the unique, segment-busting newcomer, which lifts Chrysler once again to the forefront of design and engineering.

This bold new shape of motoring for the next millennium caused a real stir when Chrysler first revealed it earlier this year in Detroit as a unique combination of design and packaging. Now it is expected to generate the same reaction when the British public sees the car for the first time at Earls Court.

Production in right-hand drive for UK customers doesnít begin until early next year at DaimlerChryslerís Toluca Assembly Plant in Mexico - but Chrysler dealers are eagerly anticipating the car which clearly captures the DaimlerChrysler slogan: "Expect the Extraordinary".

Steve Gray, Marketing Director of Chrysler Jeep Imports UK, said: "Thereís no doubt the PT Cruiser will turn heads on Britainís roads from next summer . . . because it has a stunning look all of its own. It has borrowed design cues from classic American cars and interpreted them with an injection of true American fun, freedom and spirit to break down the barriers of conventional car design and function.

Chryslerís design team have brought the entire art form of the automobile to a new level, blending contemporary and nostalgic design ideas to create a look and personality that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Thereís a hint of a mean and cool American hot rod with the curvaceous styling of the body and the retro touches on the inside.

"Itís unique in many ways - not least the way it combines versatility and efficiency, wrapped in a distinctly American design, blending many characteristics to create an all-new segment in the market," he added.

The prefix "PT" stands for "personal transportation" to reflect the PT Cruiser's flexibility and versatility for each individual owner. The carís appearance as a full production model follows the previous creation and display of the Pronto and Pronto Cruizer concept vehicles, which were used to gauge public opinion. In moving rapidly from concept to reality, the PT Cruiser follows a route which has already given motorists such stunning vehicles as the awesome 8.0-litre Viper sports car and the eye-catching Prowler hot rod - both of which made their first appearances as motor show concepts.

The new PT stands for Personal Transport - is that because nobody else will get into it with you?

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.

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