Click to enlarge picture

If you have ordered, or plan to order, a PT Cruiser that will be built after July 24, expect to pay more than current MSRP.

Dateline: July 7, 2000

The company's assembly complex in Toluca, Mexico, is the only place where PT Cruisers are built. But DaimlerChrysler is working on equipment and supplies to begin production at a second assembly plant in Graz, Austria, starting in summer 2001. That facility will help bring annual Cruiser production to 230,000.

Dateline: June 23, 2000

If buyers in 14 major metropolitan markets were any indication, nearly half of the early Chrysler PT Cruiser owners were paying cash for their hot new vehicles.

Auto industry researcher J.D. Power and Associates said the large percentage of buyers paying cash for the PT Cruisers that moved off dealer lots in the major markets it monitored in the early days of sales—from Feb. 1, 2000, through May 21, 2000,—is twice the rate of other Chrysler products.

Few PT Cruisers were leased, Power said, adding that two-thirds of the early PT Cruiser buyers were in their 40s and 50s, and just one in 20 was under age 30. Typically, older buyers are better able to pay cash than younger buyers are.

Power's figures come from its point-of-sale information system that receives daily dealer transaction data from such markets as Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix and Seattle.

Dateline: May 26, 2000

Do you have your heart set on a PT Cruiser?

Get ready to reach deeper into your wallet to get one.

DaimlerChrysler, which makes the Cruiser, started informing dealers about a new-model-year price increase of up to $690 just two months after the hot-selling vehicle went on sale. The company said it was forced to announce the increase so quickly—more than two months before the price hike would take effect—because orders for the Cruiser already extended to models that would be built after the traditional start of new-model-year production.

"It's our fall price increase," a DaimlerChrysler spokesman said. "But because of the extraordinary sales of the PT Cruiser, it's fall in May."

He explained that DaimlerChrysler planned a price increase with the traditional start of the model year, even though the PT Cruiser debuted in spring 2000 as an early 2001 model. By May of 2000, DaimlerChrysler had some 80,000 PT Cruiser orders, meaning orders already extended to July 24—the date for the auto industry's new-model-year changeover and for the new price increase.

So, the automaker wanted dealers to know—and start telling would-be PT Cruiser owners—about the price hike. The spokesman, Dominick Infante, said the new models built after July 24 will get some added equipment. For example, the PT Cruiser Limited being built after July 24 includes heated leather seats and lumbar support, DaimlerChrysler said.

But judging by reaction posted at a PT Cruiser enthusiast Web site, the new manufacturer suggested retail prices—which go from $16,000 to $16,500 for a base Cruiser and from $19,995 to $20,685 for the top-of-the-line Limited—were going over like a lead balloon.

Several PT Cruiser buyers wrote they were upset because they hadn't been told about the price increase when they put in their order in early May. A few said if they were forced to pay more when their model arrived, they wouldn't buy the Cruiser or any another Chrysler product.

DaimlerChrysler has been struggling to increase production of the hot-selling PT Cruiser since the vehicle launched in spring 2000. Only one assembly plant—in Toluca, Mexico—builds the vehicle now, and 19 percent of PT Cruisers built there are slated for overseas markets.

DaimlerChrysler plans to add PT Cruiser production to an Austrian assembly plant, but that won't happen until 2001.

Dateline: May 19, 2000

Hollywood has long been the land of Mercedes and BMW.

But these days, if you're really hip, you're driving a $16,000 car to the movie studio. Not just any low-priced car, mind you. You're driving the new Chrysler PT Cruiser.

"It's the hottest car in Hollywood," said a company source. "They don't care what it costs. It's all about style."

Indeed, since the retro-styled PT Cruiser went on sale this spring with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price plus destination charge of $16,000, Hollywood celebrities have been lining up to get one.

Among the new PT Cruiser fans are award-winning actor Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile) and movie director Barry Levinson (Diner, Good Morning Vietnam, Wag the Dog).

Actor-comedian Robin Williams didn't catch the PT Cruiser "bug" until he saw Levinson's Cruiser at a party. Then Williams had to have one, too, the company source said.

And after singer-actress Cher and son Elijah Blue ordered a Cruiser, daughter Chastity took a test drive to see if she wanted one, too.

It is, after all, "the must-have, hip car in Hollywood," according to the company source.