Its debut at the 2000 North American International Auto Show touched off a near-riot when Chrysler began handing out die cast models. And in its first few years on the market, the automaker could barely keep up with production. But shortly after the Independence Day break, a car once described as “too cool to categorize” will fade into oblivion, the last one set to roll down the line on July 9.
Exactly why the Chrysler PT Cruiser is going out of production is as much a matter of debate as the reasons for its early success, though there’s no arguing the fact that sales are a shadow of their one-time peak, when the Detroit maker could barely keep up with demand.
Short for Personal Transportation, the Cruiser was one of the first domestic models to fall into the nebulous crossover category. Even federal regulators had a hard time figuring out whether to call it a car or truck for safety and fuel economy standards. Smaller by a foot than the old Dodge Neon sedan, its high seating and large cargo compartment were part of the appeal, but there was also a sort of back-to-the-future element to the design, former Chrysler officials suggested.
“The styling gets you into the vehicle, but the utility keeps you there,” one-time PT Cruiser Marketing Manager Jay Kughie told TheDetroitBureau at the vehicle’s launch.