Car and Driver described the design as “highly distinctive, appeals to a broad segment of the public, and is characteristically American.” The public’s reaction to the PT Cruiser was polarized, but inspired a strong following among owners. Overall, car “was a valuable vehicle for many consumers.”
The PT Cruiser was part of the nostalgia wave that included models such as the Volkswagen New Beetle and the Mini Cooper. Rather than recalling previous namesake models, the PT Cruiser recalled 1930s and 1940s styling, being influenced by the Chrysler Airflow.
The 2000 PT Cruiser grew out of a collaboration with Robert A. Lutz, who was an executive at Chrysler at the time, Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, and Bryan Nesbitt. Nesbitt later went on to design the Chevrolet HHR.
The PT Cruiser’s design was loosely inspired by the Chrysler Pronto Cruizer concept car, styled to recall the Chrysler and Desoto Airflow, the PT Cruiser’s back is slightly similar to the one that was made for the Chrysler CCV which was a retro-styled compact vehicle that was styled after the Citroen 2CV. The PT Cruiser was inspired by both of the previous-mentioned vehicles and had a high roof that was very reminiscent of the Chevrolet Advance Design trucks.
The introduction of the PT Cruiser was described as “segment busting” in the marketplace. Chrysler’s Dieter Zetsche described it as a continuing example of the automaker’s innovation for new segments as well as “demonstrates that you can have head-turning style, practicality, and value all in one package.”