Initial demand was so hot when the car bowed in spring 2000 that some buyers were willing to wait nearly a year to get it. DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group added production capacity in Europe last spring to provide 50,000 more cars for U.S. buyers. Total global production of the 2002 model will hover around 240,000.
The 2001 model was sold out by spring of this year. "This car wasn't red hot. It was white hot," says Tom Marinelli, VP of the Chrysler-Jeep Global Brand Center. Almost 95,000 PT Cruisers were sold domestically during the first six months of the year, a 108% jump from the same period a year ago.
Mr. Marinelli, 49, says a strong pre-launch campaign helped the car thrive. Chrysler added several pages for PT Cruiser to its Internet site in early 1999 as a way to collect prospect names. Soon after, it began sending out direct mail pieces, followed by tailgate parties on college campuses.
The vehicle also got a $34 million ad launch from True North Communications' FCB Worldwide, Southfield, Mich. Omnicom Group's PentaMark, Troy, Mich., now handles. Mr. Marinelli, formerly president of Chrysler Europe, says funds earmarked for the post-launch campaign were shifted to other vehicles because of hyperdemand for PT Cruiser.
PT Cruiser will play a key role in 2002-model Chrysler brand ads and will get at least one dedicated TV spot because, says Mr. Marinelli, "this is the most emotional and most visible" vehicle in the lineup. Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Car & Driver has been hired for a test-drive program, and Chrysler has hinted a PT Cruiser convertible may arrive in 2003.
Mr. Marinelli asserts: "It's safe to say the industry hasn't seen a vehicle that has knocked the industry on its head [to this degree] since the [Ford] Mustang in the 1960s."