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Driving It Home

PT Cruiser reprieve Add to ...

Chrysler doesn't spend a nickel marketing the PT Cruiser, yet the company still sold nearly 51,000 last year around the world.

The labour costs are cheap (the PT is built in Mexico) and the tooling was long ago paid off. So every time Chrysler sells a PT it is pure profit -- a rare animal at Chrysler Group LLC.

Thus, it makes sense for Chrysler to keep building and selling the retro-styled PT and that's exactly what is going to happen.

The new bosses at Fiat SpA, according to reliable reports, have given the PT Cruiser a stay of execution. That represents a change of heart at Chrysler, which earlier this year announced that the Toluca, Mexico-built PT would be discontinued this summer. A redesign would be too costly, so adios PT.

But now that Chrysler has emerged from bankruptcy in a partnership with Fiat, new decisions are coming daily. The Fiat-Chrysler alliance is looking for any and all ways to keep Chrysler going until Fiat models arrive, likely in 2011.

Funnily enough, it looks like the PT will stay in showrooms until then.

If you are a consumer looking for a cheap and apparently reliable four-door hatchback runabout, then the PT might offer an answer.

First, reliability.

After building the same PT for almost a decade, Chrysler has apparently figured it out. In the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS), the PT finished in a tie with the Honda CR-V for best small crossover wagon.

As for cheap, Chrysler Canada officially lists the base PT Cruiser LX for $22,195, but forget about that price; you'll actually pay thousands and thousands less. Right off the top slice $3,750 off that price in the form of a "Consumer Bonus" discount.

Next, you should know about the $500 dealer "holdback." Think of the holdback as a dealer subsidy that Chrysler pays dealers to help offset interest, inventory and marketing costs.

Chrysler will refund this amount to the dealer when your car is sold, so deduct $500 from the posted dealer invoice amount to get the "real" or net dealer wholesale cost. (If you want that, go to www.carcostcanada.com for detailed pricing information, though you will need to pay for it.)

Now the $3,750 and the $500 can also be combined with another $1,000 in what's called an Employee/Air Canada Bonus/Factory to Dealer Rebate. You can combine all these with 0.0 per cent financing from RBC-Scotiabank for up to five years, too.

Chrysler also has a "No Payments for 90 Days" program which might apply (talk to a dealer) and there is a "Price Guarantee" on the whole thing. If Chrysler comes along with a better deal by the time you take delivery, you'll get that deal, not your original one.

In a nutshell, all the sweeteners out there can reduce the price of a new PT to less than $17,000 and you should be able to borrow that money for free for five years.

Of course, you may be able to negotiate a better deal than that and I am sure people have and will as the summer rolls along.

But $17,000 for a new PT is not a bad price and it surely will keep PTs rolling out of showrooms.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy


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