MUNICH - European customers face three-month delivery times for Chrysler's new PT Cruiser.
'In Germany, we will get a maximum of 3,500 units this year,' said Hartwig Hirtz, head of Chrysler's German operations. 'But our direct-mail campaign has produced 15,000 qualified customer contacts - and we receive about 1,000 more each week.'
The PT Cruiser has had a successful launch in the USA. Some US dealers are reportedly charging several thousand dollars over list price.
The retro-styled PT Cruiser - a cross between compact minivan and station wagon - sold 8,322 units in its first month on the US market. That's nearly twice as many as Volkswagen's New Beetle when it was launched in the USA two years ago.
The PT Cruiser went on sale in Germany on June 24 after making its European debut at the Frankfurt auto show last September. Visitors to the Chrysler stand were asked to fill in a questionnaire about the vehicle. More than 26 percent found it difficult to categorize the car.
'The PT Cruiser does polarize opinion - it's either love it or hate it,' said Hirtz. 'But one thing is for sure - it draws attention to the Chrysler brand. For us, the PT Cruiser is the ideal ambassador. It will raise awareness for Chrysler and will strengthen our image.'
Chrysler has identified three main customer groups for the PT Cruiser:
Modern, sporty, leisure-oriented, independent people aged 25-45 who enjoy driving
Modern families with two or three children for which the PT Cruiser would be a second car, mostly driven by women
Young-at-heart people, aged 55-65, who enjoy an active lifestyle and prefer a charismatic, comfortable car.
With the help of the PT Cruiser, Hirtz wants to increase Chrysler Germany's passenger-car sales volume by about 40 percent, to 7,100 units. About 7,700 Jeep sales are expected. Sales of Chrysler Voyager/Grand Voyager minivans could reach about 8,200 units.
'This will increase our market share in Germany from 0.6 per cent last year to 0.9 per cent this year,' said Hirtz. 'Our goal is to reach 1.5 per cent.'
Germany is Chrysler's biggest market outside the USA.
Starting in March 2001, European versions of the PT Cruiser will be assembled at DaimlerChrysler's Eurostar factory in Graz, Austria, with a maximum capacity of 50,000 units a year. The car is currently built at D/C's plant in Toluca, Mexico, at a rate of about 200,000 units a year. Graz is installing a flexible production system that will allow parallel production of Chrysler Voyagers and PT Cruisers.