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Aussie push for PT turbo

Maybe, maybe not: Chrysler Jeep Australia boss Judith Wheeler is keen on getting hold of the turbo PT Cruiser.

Good news retro fans, Chrysler Australia is pushing hard to get a turbo PT Cruiser Down Under

1 May 2002

CHRYSLER Jeep Australia boss Judith Wheeler jets to Detroit this week determined to convince the factory to build a right-hand drive version of the new PT Cruiser turbo five-door.

Crucial to her case is a locally-prepared plan that argues for a 2.0- litre turbo version of the car.

Chrysler Group revealed the PT Turbo at the New York show recently, but said it would only be built in left-hand drive with the turbo mated to a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine, boosting power to 160kW.

The factory says packaging issues mean the installation cannot be converted to right-hand drive, which is why Ms Wheeler's plan concentrates on a turbo version of the 2.0, which is already sold in Australia in right-hand drive form.

The best-case scenario she and CJA sales manager Jerzy Stanley will chase from the meeting next Monday (Detroit time) is agreement with the plan and right-hand drive 2.0 turbo production to come ex-factory.

Failing that, Ms Wheeler says local installation in Australia would be considered.

"There's reasons why we would prefer not to do that because it is not easy," Ms Wheeler said.

"We would probably have to crash test a vehicle, and that's one of a whole number of things we would have to do on a local level." The crucial presentation will be conducted in the lead-up to an international product planning meeting in Detroit where representatives of other major right-hand drive markets will be present, and Ms Wheeler is hoping for interest from them for the 2.0 turbo plan.

"The factory is telling us the turbo won't fit with the 2.0-litre and we believe that it will fit," Ms Wheeler said.

"We have done some research and some work on that and Jerzy and I will be presenting our findings back to the US next week.

"Then based on what we say it is going to cost versus what we think they can do internally, we're hoping they'll come back and say 'other right-hand drive countries are interested in this' so then they would do it internally." The turbo proposal is the latest in a series of projects Ms Wheeler has taken to Detroit. The first okayed, an Australian right-hand derive conversion of the Dodge Viper coupe V10, is scheduled to go on sale in September priced at around $250,000.

A batch of locally converted Chrysler Sebring convertibles is also planned for sale here about 12 months later.

A third project - either a Dodge Durango, Dakota or Ram - is under consideration.

* Meanwhile, the PT Cruiser cabrio is looking good for Australian sale, according to Ms Wheeler. Crucial to its chances has been the decision to shift our PT Cruiser production from Graz in Austria, to a cheaper plant in Mexico.

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