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Old 05 May 2003, 09:28 pm
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Default Chrysler to Offer New Cheaper GT Turbo

Chrysler to offer new, cheaper PT Cruiser turbo model aimed at young buyers
By MARY CONNELLY | Automotive News


DETROIT -- In August, the Chrysler group will try to boost sales of the PT Cruiser by offering a cheaper turbocharged model.

The current Chrysler PT Turbo is too pricey for young buyers seeking a powerful engine, says Gary Dilts, Chrysler group senior vice president of sales.

"The base turbo model starts this summer. It will come in at a more traditional base price," Dilts says. The price of the less expensive PT Turbo has not been announced.

The company declined to say if it will keep the more expensive current turbo model along with the new cheaper version in the 2004 model year.

The 2003 PT Turbo sputtered in the market because of its premium price, Dilts says.

"The big criticism of the PT Cruiser, especially from the youth market, was that it is not powerful enough," he says. "The turbo delivers significant power to the vehicle, but it also comes with an equipment package which raised the price $2,500."

The base sticker price of the PT Turbo is $23,280, including destination charges.

Through April, PT Cruiser sales were down 17.0 percent to 40,740 units, compared with a year ago.

The 2003 Chrysler PT Turbo generates 215 hp, compared with the 150 hp of the base vehicle. The turbo and base model have a 2.4-liter, dual-overhead-cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine.

When it hit the market, Chrysler marketers said the turbo model was aimed at "performance-minded buyers." The company packaged the more powerful engine with a performance-tuned exhaust system, four wheel disc brakes, antilock brakes, 17-inch cast aluminum wheels and 17-inch tires. The turbo models sport body-colored front and rear fascias and what the company calls "performance front seats."

The company declined to say what equipment the less expensive PT Turbo will have.

Volkswagen also has turned to turbocharging to bolster interest in its New Beetle. For example, VW added a turbo engine to the model in the spring of 1999, one year after introduction.

The PT Turbo may be "too little too late," says Michael Robinet, vice president of global forecast services at CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills, Mich.

"People who really wanted a PT Cruiser already have one," Robinet says. "Now, PT Cruiser has to compete more in the mainstream."
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