There's huge demand for Chrysler's new retro-styled PT Cruiser. At the end of last month, Daimler-Chrysler ann-ounced production would begin in Europe at the Eurostar plant in Austria. 50,000 PT Cruisers will be made there annually from summer 2001.
Jim Holden, president of DaimlerChrysler in North America, talked with Automotive News Europe's Michael Woodyard about some of the challenges the PT Cruiser faces in Europe.
What prompted the decision to build the PT Cruiser in Austria?
We've got demand beyond our wildest dreams. We expected it to be true in North America; we've been surprised at the response in Europe, from dealers and customers alike. We did a research clinic in Europe. I personally thought maybe it's going to come across as too American, and it did not. We knew that we had first-year volumes of at least 25,000 for Europe. So we've been looking for a second source for quite a while. And we're also looking for a way to prove our commitment to Europe.
How will the European dealer body handle 25,000 additional units per year?
It will take us a little while to ramp up, but we've been doing a lot of work with the dealer body in the past year. But our problem on volume at the moment is not distribution capacity as much as it is product applicability.
Are you pursuing factory ownership in some European countries?
If, in Germany for example, we see a model where we can leverage our volume and profitability by owning a few stores, we wouldn't preclude it. But it's not a grand strategy on our part.
Will all of the PT Cruiser's components come from Europe?
We will probably still source a good portion of the product in North America in terms of components. I don't know what we've announced, but if we were to do a diesel, that would be sourced from Europe. We'll build right-hand drives there. We will try to locally source everything we can.
Will you sell the PT Cruiser in Europe over the Internet?
We're basically sticking with the dealer model around the world.
I need a network of people who are in the towns where the people buy the cars.