The Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
With a base price of under $20,000, the 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible was reasonably priced and well styled. It featured best-in-class roominess and comfort, with 84.3 cu.-ft. of space and 13.3 cu.-ft. of pass-through luggage volume, and mechanical seat memory to make accommodating rear passengers painless. The convertible lasted through the 2008 model year.
"Our engineers wanted to make the PT Cruiser Convertible a convertible that you can actually do things with," said Larry Lyons, Vice President-Small Vehicle Product Team Engineering. "Nine different seat configurations and a pass-through trunk opening with enough room to store two golf bags make the car more versatile than its competitors."
Added to that is a new level of comfort for convertible passengers. At more than 40 cubic inches, the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible features almost 10 inches more rear leg room than other competitors in its class. The PT Cruiser Convertible also has the same rear seat height as the sedan, for "open air" rear theater seating.
In addition to offering best-in-class rear leg room and pass-through cargo space, the PT Cruiser Convertible is also one of the quietest convertibles, based on driving experience. "The combination of the sport bar design and position, together with enhancements to the body structure results in an exceptionally quiet ride," said Lyons. "While on-the-road experience is what ultimately matters, we performed extensive wind tunnel testing to assure our customers a quiet ride, top up or top down."
The standard PT Cruiser Convertible includes a standard 150-horsepower 2.4-liter engine with a manual transaxle. Standard equipment includes a power convertible soft top, sport bar with integrated dome lamps, solar-tinted Smart glass, rear glass window with electric defroster, cloth sport seats with driver manual lumbar adjuster, rear 50/50 split-fold and tumble seats, pass-through cargo area, power exterior mirrors, touring-tuned suspension and body-color fascias and body side moldings.
With an MSRP of $23,490 (including destination), the Touring model features an optional 180-horsepower 2.4-liter turbocharged engine with automatic transaxle. All the standard model features are included as well, with the addition of a convertible top boot, 16-inch painted cast aluminum wheels, speed control, security alarm, fog lights, floor mats and an AM/FM stereo with CD player.
The Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible GT model includes a standard 220-horsepower turbocharged engine with a five-speed Getrag manual transaxle, plus all of the Touring model standard equipment. Other key GT model standard features include a performance-tuned suspension with ABS four-wheel disc brakes, low-speed traction control, chrome-accented grille and fascia, 17-inch Empire painted cast aluminum wheels, all-season performance tires, a 2.75-inch chrome-plated stainless steel exhaust tip, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather seats, driver seat power height adjuster, unique silver painted shifter knob, "GT" embroidered floor mats, side air bags, an AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette player and driver and front passenger side air bags. MSRP for the GT model PT Cruiser Convertible is $27,565 (excluding $590 destination).
The Chrysler PT Cruiser Cabrio also will be sold outside North America as Limited and GT models. Pricing for these markets will be announced at a later date.
Chrysler sold almost 44,000 Chrysler Sebring Convertibles in 2002 and enjoyed a 14.5-percent share of the convertible market, the highest of any nameplate. Chrysler Sebring Convertible is America's best-selling convertible.
Production began in early 2004 at DaimlerChrysler’s Toluca (Mexico) Assembly Plant.
2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser changes
2006 brought updated front and rear fascias, including a new front grille with chrome accents and headlamps. The underbumper area no longer continues the grille theme, and the teardrop headlights have been scalloped. Happily, the high-output intercooled turbocharged engine now produced 230 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque.
The interior has been substantially changed, with new seat trim and fabrics. A new instrument panel has a Satin Silver finish and features larger, more visible graphics, new flush-shutoff air vents, and an analog clock. The new corporate radio is mounted higher in the center stack, and a passenger grab handle has been added to the right side of the instrument panel to make it easier for passengers to get in and out of the vehicle. A new dampened door opening provides increased capacity in the glove box. Front cup holders on the GT model get bright accents. The new air vents replace the surprisingly quiet and agile center-pin style in the original PT.
A new center console with a sliding armrest and covered storage space replaces the previous seat-mounted armrests and front passenger seat storage bin for the 2006 model year. This console includes a battery-fed power outlet for cell-phone charging and two fold-out cup holders for passengers in the back seat. New radio options include a Boston Acoustics® premium sound system that features six premium speakers and a 368-watt amplifier. All Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible models also get MP3 play capability in the 2006 model year.
New convenience features for the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible for 2006 include an available six-way power adjustable driver seat with manual lumbar adjuster and an Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC), which is more refined and allows owners to customize and easily adjust their personal settings. This new EVIC includes compass and temperature display, audio information, fuel economy, distance to empty and elapsed time. Several updates to the 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible also make this already quiet convertible even quieter.
Storage and Such
The cargo area has a versatile back seat (fold and tumble rear seats) and a pass-through trunk, capable of carrying two golf bags.
At 84.3 cu.-ft., the PT Cruiser Convertible has more total interior volume than the Beetle convertible (79.6 cu. ft.) and the Mustang convertible (79.0 cu.-ft.) It is the only one of the three to offer true pass-through luggage volume of 13.3 cu.-ft., not to mention nine different seat configurations.
Each section can be folded flat independently to form a load-carrying surface and can be tumbled forward to permit cargo pass-through from the trunk. In the upright position, each seat back latches to the body structure at its center. Pulling the knobs from inside the trunk releases each rear seat back for folding. When folded, the carpeted seat backs lie horizontally, creating a flat-load area. With the seat back folded, the back and cushion also can be tumbled forward using a nylon pull-strap in the center of the folded seat. The full length of the flat cargo floor can be exposed with a single pull that releases the seat cushion floor latch and raises the seat to the tumbled position. The seat belt buckle anchors also tumble with the cushion to keep the cargo floor clear.
When in the tumbled position, an adjustable nylon web strap on each seat cushion hooks to a chrome striker on the quarter panel. The seat is held in the tumbled position by attaching the seat hook to the striker and cinching the seat tether strap securely. A fabric pocket on the side of the cushion holds the web strap hook when the seat cushion is in the normal position.
The cushion and seat back latch in place automatically when returned to their normal positions.
A stationary rear seat bolster completes the low profile design. No tools are needed to fold or tumble the seats, as each section of the standard rear cloth seats weigh about 29 lbs. (13.2 kg.).
To keep items in the rear cargo area secure when the top is down, the rear seat releases are mounted inside the trunk, with the trunk release button located in the lockable glove box.
Larry Lyons, Vice President-Small Vehicle Product Team Engineering, said: "Our engineers used the transverse structural beam as the rear mounting surface for the front seats, which left the floor clear from sill to tunnel and created roomy foot wells for best-in-class rear leg room," he added.
With almost ten inches more rear leg room (40.9) than the VW Beetle convertible (30.1) and the Mustang convertible (29.9), PT Cruiser Convertible passengers can stretch out and enjoy theater-style seating.
Wide opening doors give easy access to the rear seat, but a new passenger front seat also makes it easy for rear seat occupants to get in and out of the vehicle. The new passenger seat track mechanism incorporates a mechanical memory that returns the seat to the design position after it has been tilted and slid back for access to the back seat. When the seatback is returned to the upright position, it returns to the previously set position and the track is assisted back to the design-designated location with minimal effort. A lever on the outboard side of each front seat operates the manual recliner.
An additional seatback tilt lever on the driver-side seat and a tilt lever with track release on the passenger-side seat allow for easy rear seat ingress and egress. The recliners also have full position memory, which returns the seat back to the previously set recline position after it has been tilted.
A convenient power cushion driver seat adjuster is optional on Standard and Touring Edition models and standard equipment on all GT models. It provides 35 mm (1.38 in.) of continuously variable vertical movement.
Performance and Handling
"With more than half of its parts unique from the sedan, the new Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible represents a vehicle specifically engineered with convertible drivers in mind," said Lyons. "We engineered more stability into the body structure itself and fine-tuned the handling to deliver the type of ride a convertible deserves."
High structural integrity leads to a stiffer body with less twist and bend, which means PT Cruiser Convertible customers enjoy a quieter ride, better handling and reduced shake. The Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible's rigid structure not only gives a more solid ride, but it also makes the car handle more precisely and gave engineers more suspension-tuning latitude without sacrificing low NVH levels. The front strut, rear suspension Watt's linkage, rear shock absorber and rear trailing arm mounting structures were stiffened, while their natural frequencies were tuned to separate them from the noise and vibration inputs of tires and suspension components. This allowed engineers to tune the suspension bushings for optimum handling without affecting NVH levels.
Other features include:
- A unique combination of sport bar, a stamped cross-vehicle kick-up reinforcement and rear seat support for rear-end stiffness
- An innovative design of the joint that runs from the front hinge pillar through the hydroformed sill tube and into the B-pillar that creates a stronger door opening area for less body twist and bend
- Engine mounts that are tuned to use the powertrain as a mass damper for less body shake
- Spring rates that are adjusted to compensate for added front and rear mass of a convertible
- Sway bar rates that are increased in the front and lowered in the rear to maintain ride balance
- Damper tuning that is adjusted to compensate for changes to mass and spring rate changes
- A new rear seat anchor structure for increased body rigidity
The overall result of these factors combined is an impressive body-in-white stiffness of 4693 ft.-lb./deg (twist) and 42,800 lbs./in. (bend).
"One thing we know from our experience with convertible customers is that convertibles are 'social vehicles,' which means passengers want to be able to talk to each other when riding in them, much like they would around a kitchen table," said Steve Bartoli, Vice President-Strategy. "So, we made sure Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible passengers could carry on an open-air, 'picnic table' conversation while driving, something other convertibles would be hard pressed to offer."
While the ultimate proof is on-the-road experience, extensive wind tunnel testing contributed to Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible's "picnic table" conversation level of quietness. As one of the first Chrysler Group vehicles to benefit from the company's full-scale Aero-Acoustic Wind Tunnel Test Facility in Auburn Hills, Mich., PT Cruiser Convertible engineers were able to accomplish the following:
- World-class wind noise reduction with top up and down
- Significantly reduced rear compartment turbulence through ideal sport bar tuning and placement
- Optimal boot fastening and attachment integrity
- Enhanced mirror design for minimal turbulence-induced noise
- Surfaces tuned for reduced noise and turbulence
The Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible body provides tight sealing against wind, road and aspiration noise. While a stiff body structure contributes to low NVH levels, tuning the complete structure to minimize transmission of outside noise and vibration into the passenger compartment also adds to the PT Cruiser Convertible's quietness.
Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible engineers used full body Finite Element Analysis (FEA) models to determine dynamic bending and torsional characteristics that would meet the team's performance criteria for NVH control. The natural frequencies of these characteristics were then separated from steering column, powertrain and suspension input frequencies and transmitted to the body structure at forty-seven attachment locations. Tuning each local area individually to separate its natural frequency from that of the input virtually eliminates the area as a potential noise and vibration transmission path into the passenger compartment.
In addition to a unique styling cue, the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible's sport bar serves an important noise-reduction function by directing wind vectoring behind the vehicle. The sport bar design, location and height prevent air from circling back into the rear seat vacuum, moving it over the passenger compartment instead.
Inside the cabin, extensive application of acoustic treatments help absorb, dampen or block noise from entering the passenger compartment. Steering column stability is achieved through robust mounting of the instrument panel structural beam and a lightweight tubular steering shaft, which also reduces NVH levels. Local stiffness at the rear shock attachments was increased by inserting bulkheads inside the longitudinal rail to minimize noise transmission. Mounting the rear spring seats on the cross member suspended between the longitudinal rails also helps isolate the passenger compartment from noise transmitted through the rear suspension.
In addition, the following body features contribute to NVH control:
- Seatbelt turning loops that sit in a shallow pocket for less wind noise around the turning loop and attachment bolt
- Unique "C-channel" weather stripping between the convertible top and side windows
- A stiff front bumper beam and attachments to the longitudinal rails
- Optimized stiffening bead patterns on all inner panels
- Heat-expandable foam baffles in the longitudinal rails
- Pass-through sealing on the cowl side inner wiring
- Full-perimeter hood weather stripping
The PT Cruiser Convertible's air induction system was engineered to reduce airflow resistance and minimize induction noise. The large air cleaner housing mounted in the left front corner of the engine compartment dampens incoming airflow pulsations. A tuning chamber in the cover enhances its noise reduction ability. Body mounting prevents the housing from becoming a potential engine noise amplifier, while rubber mounting keeps it from transmitting induction noise to the body structure.
In addition, the following powertrain features contribute to noise, vibration, and harshness control:
- Low-rumble intake manifolds
- Counter rotating balance shafts
- High-volume air induction system with tuned resonators
- Sealed timing belt covers
- A "torque axis" engine mounting system with right side hydro-elastic bushing
- A rigid front suspension cross member
- Rigid accessory mounting brackets
- A shrouded alternator fan with low pulley ratio
- A front power plant bending strut
- A linear fuel vapor-purge solenoid
- An isolated shifter base plate on manual transaxle vehicles
Similar to the powertrain components, the PT Cruiser Convertible tires, wheels, brakes, suspension and steering systems were tuned to separate their natural frequencies from each other and from those of the body structure. In addition, their mounting systems were refined in conjunction with the body structure to isolate them from the passenger compartment.
Top, Door, Decklid Weather Stripping
Extensive use of weather stripping, combined with rigorous sealing of body panel seams and gaps on the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible resulted in one of the most tightly sealed bodies of any DaimlerChrysler convertible [note that they used the term DaimlerChrysler as opposed to Chrysler].
Unique C-channel weather stripping completely wraps the top edge of the side windows at the sealing edge of the convertible top. This weather stripping's unique design dramatically prevents wind noise and water leakage compared with conventional weather stripping. An anti-stick coating on this section of weather stripping makes it easy to open and close the door.
Extensive door weather stripping also helps seal the PT Cruiser Convertible against wind and water. Body-mounted tubular weather strips seal the sides and lower edges of both doors, while inboard lips overlap the interior trim for a continuous appearance. These lips and the carrier that attaches the weather stripping to the door opening flanges include a co-extruded rubber. The door-mounted weather stripping also comes in contact with the upper edges of the body sills to prevent road splash and road noise.
Finally, a body-mounted, one-piece tubular weather strip seals the circumference of the deck lid.
Safety and security
Engineers incorporated numerous enhancements into the body structure for improved impact performance. Larry Lyons, Vice President-Small Vehicle Product Team Engineering, said, "The new Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible includes the numerous safety features of the sedan version, as well as special high-strength steel applications for added protection without added weight."
Throughout the body structure, high-strength steel and differential thickness panels are used selectively to meet safety, durability and performance requirements. Use of high-strength steel contributed to a safer and stiffer vehicle with the least amount of added weight possible (approximately 150 more pounds than the PT Cruiser sedan versus the additional 350 pounds added to the Volkswagen Beetle convertible compared with the Volkswagen Beetle).
A continuous beltline structure around the rear that ties into the B-pillar and a hydroformed sill reinforcement provide rear impact protection on the PT Cruiser Convertible. While the new rear seat structure was designed to allow cargo pass-through, it also incorporates integrated seat belt anchors and provides body torsional rigidity, both of which improve function and safety for rear occupants.
Longitudinal hydroformed reinforcements inside the sills and a revised hinge pillar help redirect offset loads. A longitudinal beam in each front door distributes collision energy to the rear of the vehicle. A new wraparound stamped reinforcement structure at the beltline ties directly into the kickup structure between the front and rear floor pan for improved offset impact management. Strengthening the rear faces of the front wheel wells also provides a load path through the front tires into the sills. A tunnel reinforcement cross member and floor reinforcements minimize floor pan wrinkling in the foot well area as well.
The PT Cruiser Convertible's quarter trim panels were designed to optimize the vehicle's interior volume, but they also protect passengers in the event of a side impact through the inclusion of energy-absorbing foam inserts on the backside of the panels. A similar foam insert is included on the backside of the door trim panels for the same purpose. Added foam in these areas also prevents contact with the convertible top mechanisms in side-impact collisions.
Safety engineers also incorporated two unique transverse beams into the body structure. Both tie into the floor pan (one at the center tunnel and the other at the kick-up cross member). Placed directly in line with side-impact loads, the beams help the front door side-impact beams and the basic body structure to maintain overall vehicle integrity during a side-impact collision.
Unibelt three-point belts with low-tension retractors provide primary passenger restraint in all seating positions. The Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible's front seat belt turning loops are attached to the sport bar for improved positioning. Load-limiting front seat belt retractors include pretensioners that minimize seat belt slack during a frontal collision above a certain deceleration level.
Driver and Passenger Air Bags
Next-generation driver and passenger air bags are standard equipment on all Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertibles. The air bags are deployed at a reduced output in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Combined with seat belts, the instrument panel structure and the body structure, the air bags assure significant front-seat occupant protection in frontal impacts.
Outboard, front-seat-mounted supplemental side air bags also are available on the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible for enhanced side-impact protection for the driver and front passenger. These air bags are standard on GT models and optional on Touring Edition models.
Getrag G288 Manual Transmission Audible Reverse Alert
The Getrag G288 manual shifter on Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertibles equipped with this transaxle includes an audible acknowledgement feature that sounds after the shift lever has been moved to the reverse gate.
Accident Response Illumination
In the event of an accident that results in an air bag deployment, the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible's dome lamp illuminates and the door locks unlock. This makes it easier for emergency personnel to assist the occupants.
A remote power deck lid release is standard on all Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertibles. The switch is mounted in the lockable glove box and is further secured by removing the power to it. This is accomplished by setting the Vehicle Theft Security System (VTSS) using either the key fob, the exterior door key cylinder or the interior door lock switch. Power is restored to the remote power deck lid release switch by disabling the VTSS.
The VTSS, which is standard equipment on all Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertibles, also emits both audible and visible signals if unauthorized entry into the vehicle is attempted.
A Remote Keyless Entry (RKE) feature on Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertibles uses a rolling code to prevent pirating of the vehicle unlock signal. RKE also includes a panic alarm and provides central locking and unlocking of all openings with the key.
Finally, a Sentry Key Immobilizer System on Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertibles deters vehicle theft by immobilizing the engine if an attempt is made to start the car without a properly programmed key.
The PT Cruiser Convertible team investigated convertible top systems and components worldwide with the goal of creating a world-class system for PT Cruiser Convertible customers. The result is not only that, but a system that includes two U.S. industry "firsts" in the form of a six-point top attachment system and a floating bow top retention system.
Mechanical components of the top system include: forged main control link and rails, a stamped top header and main pivot bracket, a high-pressure hydraulic pump and motor, four high-strength steel roof bows on the frame, forged rails, a high-strength steel floating bow, glass stabilizing wide tension belts, a sound-dampening pump cover and a two-piece stamped header.
Soft top system components include: a three-layer premium cloth top, a fully serviceable glass heated backlight, a full headliner, adjustable tension straps, a single center-mounted top release handle and side-glass weather stripping.
The PT Cruiser Convertible's top assembly fits flush with the windshield header for a clean appearance and low wind noise. The top includes a full premium cloth headliner and insulating pad that isolate the cabin from road noise and harsh outside temperatures. The three-layer, premium material is available in Black or Taupe, and provides strength and durability to the top without sacrificing a soft-touch feel, unlike competitors' vinyl top material. A scratch-resistant, heated glass backlight is urethane bonded in place. This standard feature eliminates the need to disassemble the entire top when servicing the backlight, which has the potential to introduce NVH issues after repair on competitive products.
The system's extruded high-strength steel roof bows and rails maintain roof integrity when raising or lowering the top. The rear bow "floats," which creates a compact, clean top-down look. The entire mechanism (including the hydraulics, insulated headliner, weather stripping and latches) is installed in a single manufacturing operation using only six fasteners. Both the floating bow and six-point attachment system are U.S. industry "firsts."
A high pressure, thermally protected electric pump mounted in the center of the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible quickly actuates the top. Anti-chaffing hydraulic lines connect the pump to the cylinders that raise and lower the top. Both the pump and hydraulic lines are secured in the bottom of the convertible top well. A noise dampening cover is positioned above the pump to minimize any noise that may be produced during top operation.
Operating the top is easy. A single D-ring release handle at the center of the windshield/top header provides one-handed release of the two latches located at the front corners of the top. Latches at each corner of the A-pillar secure the top when it is up. The power top switch is conveniently located in the accessory switch bank in the instrument panel center stack area.
The PT Cruiser Convertible boot was designed specifically for easy installation and stowing. The boot's soft center section allows the arms to nest together for a "tuck in" design that reduces installation time and effort. One person can easily install the boot with a couple of snaps when the top is retracted.
The boot is color-coordinated to match the PT Cruiser Convertible's interior/exterior packaging, while its semi-rigid self-supporting arms give a distinctive appearance to the vehicle when it is in place. When removed, the boot can be stored in the trunk.
To assure low wind noise, engineers performed extensive validation of the boot attachment set up in the Chrysler Group's Aero-Acoustic Wind Tunnel Test Facility in Auburn Hills, Mich.
The new "Smart" glass frameless system on the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible doors allowed designers to maintain the unique sedan styling cues that are sure to become a hallmark of the new convertible as well.
"Developing a glass system that didn't need a window frame was critical in helping retain the 'PT-ness' of the new Convertible," said Lyons. "'Smart' glass technology and some engineering ingenuity led to the same distinct Chrysler PT Cruiser profile on the Convertible as the segment-busting sedan."
As an added benefit, the system's thicker window glass increases vehicle rigidity and contributes to noise reduction in the cabin. This technology is a key contributor to superior wind noise performance and gives the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible one of the easiest door opening and closing efforts in the industry.
As yet another Chrysler Group "first," the PT Cruiser Convertible is one of the first Chrysler Group vehicles to incorporate "Smart" glass technology into a door module.
The system works by lowering the windows slightly whenever the convertible top is lowered. Upon selection of the first detent on the convertible top switch, the front windows lower 40 mm (1.6 in.) and the rear quarter windows lower 55 mm (2.17 in.). All four side windows lower completely when the second detent is selected.
When either door is opened, the door's glass lowers 10 mm (0.39 in.), which prevents the glass from "hanging-up" on the top or upper window seals. The door glass remains in this slightly lower position until the door is closed, at which point, the glass rises completely to fully close the gap.
The "Smart" glass system isn't the only component adding to the robust nature of the PT Cruiser Convertible door system. The doors also contain longitudinal beams that help maintain the integrity of the door opening. This results in a level of sag resistance among the best of the convertibles in its class. The door inner panels are thicker at the hinge face and thinner everywhere else, which increases their strength and stiffness while reducing weight.
The design of the door hinge itself helps minimize the potential for sag on the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible. The hinges' large offsets also ensure that the deep-draw front doors have ample space to clear the front fenders. The geometry of the hinges causes the doors to rise slightly when opened, allowing gravity to help them close easily.
Linear door check arms assure smooth operation and hold the doors open when the vehicle is parked on an incline. A new arm on the door check strap improves the open angles on the PT Cruiser Convertible doors for easier ingress and egress.
Finally, the unique style of the new exterior side mirrors decreases wind noise around the A-pillar area.
A new paddle-type pull cup is integral with the winged badge on the deck lid. It replicates the hallmark winged Chrysler badge handle of the sedan, but purposely excludes the integrated mechanical release to assure a completely secure trunk area.
The deck lid's new articulating, four-link design opens up and out for rear compartment access. A parallel link hinge and gas props ease deck lid operation.
Adjusting the thickness of the deck lid inner and outer panels also results in a light deck lid that is easy to open and close, yet is durable enough to remain accurately aligned after long-term use.
The PT Cruiser tied for first place for the best ownership experience in the Compact Car category of Strategic Vision's 2003 Total Quality Index.
A cross-functional launch team for the convertible was able to maintain production of the Chrysler PT Cruiser sedan while managing the plant changeover required for the launch. The rolling changeover, which generally involves the addition of new assembly equipment and tooling, quality verification of the equipment and training for new manufacturing processes, was implemented in between the first and second shifts, as well as on weekends. Both the customer and the company benefit from this approach because it enables a faster ramp-up of production and reduces program expenses usually caused by down time.
"The entire team at the plant contributed to the successful operations we've seen at Toluca Assembly," said Roberto Gutierrez, Vice President-Mexico Manufacturing Operations, Chrysler Group. "From the ongoing production of PT Cruiser to the rolling changeover, we achieved positive gains in productivity and quality, without missing a day of production."
Through the application of team-based operating principles and dedication to continuous improvement, the Toluca Assembly plant has earned a reputation for producing high-quality vehicles with world-class efficiency. Numerous in-plant quality systems, several of which are interconnected, support this effort.
Every area of the plant's operations uses a consistent, quality verification system. This system confirms that the highest level of quality is met at each work zone before a vehicle moves to the next area of assembly. When a potential issue is identified, the plant's Quality Alert System (QAS) allows assemblers to isolate the issue and take immediate action for problem resolution.
Technology also plays a key role in quality verification. In the body shop, a state-of-the-art metrology laboratory checks body panels and assemblies for dimensional accuracy. In the trim, chassis and final assembly area, hand-held testers are used by employees for in-station programming of the electronic systems and verification of their functionality. Optical aiming equipment assures correct headlamp installation and proper headlamp aim for the beams. Each vehicle also is tested with computerized chassis dynamometers that perform final checks before the car exits the assembly line.
Even with the launch of the PT Cruiser Convertible, Toluca Assembly Plant continues to trend favorably in terms of vehicle quality. Warranty costs at the facility were among the lowest of all Chrysler Group manufacturing plants for the 2003 model year and improved more than 20 percent between the 2001 and 2002 model years.
A number of changes were implemented at Toluca Assembly in preparation for PT Cruiser Convertible production and to add greater plant flexibility. New robotic equipment was installed in the body shop's welding operations for improved precision and efficiency. The trim, chassis and final assembly area was expanded to build both sedans and convertibles.
A new dedicated line was installed for the convertible's underbody process. A combination of robotic and employee-manned work stations weld the PT Cruiser Convertible's underbody, engine compartment and body side systems. This arrangement reduces floor space requirements for a more flexible and efficient plant, which results in the capacity to build additional body lines within the plant at a minimal investment.
Error-prevention devices are incorporated in PT Cruiser Convertible underbody weld fixtures, including clamps to guide panels into place and sensors to ensure all parts are present before welding begins.
Convertible assemblers use a newly installed ergonomic assist arm to position the top module for installation to the vehicle. A fixture then aligns the top to the rear quarter panels, while fasteners lock the top into the proper alignment. Using the setting fixture assures a repeatable fit to the vehicle, which helps achieve the optimal fit and finish on the final vehicle.
Most of the PT Cruiser Convertible's interior trim, including the new seats, is installed on the final line. Workers put the seats in the convertible bodies using a combination of new and modified articulated arms that protect the vehicle during installation. The newly modified material delivery system makes the convertible seat installation easier by bringing the seats to the assembler in the installed position.
Hands-on Training from Development to Launch
Training for Toluca Assembly PT Cruiser Convertible operators began early in the development of the vehicle program and was cascaded to the entire work force at the plant. A select group of operators from Toluca Assembly traveled to the Chrysler Group Pilot Plant Facility in Auburn Hills, Mich., where they co-developed and refined the convertible build process. Based on their experience with the PT Cruiser sedan manufacturing process, this group captured and incorporated the sedan best practices into the convertible build before the new vehicle launched. The joint Toluca/Auburn Hills team identified system refinements early to ensure that the product and the process worked together prior to the second phase of pilot vehicle build.
Using the first-hand knowledge and experience gained at the Auburn Hills Pilot facility, the original team of Toluca Assembly employees returned to train the rest of the workforce, ensuring a seamless progression to launch.
To further enhance product quality at launch and after, all assemblers were trained and tested for knowledge of both the PT Cruiser Convertible product and related assembly processes that apply to their work station.
More than four years, 1,400 days, 11,000 hours and 610,000 vehicles' worth of PT Cruiser sedan experience go into every single Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible that rolls off the Toluca Assembly Plant onto highways around the world. During each minute since the successful launch of the PT Cruiser sedan, plant employees have gained experience building the hugely popular vehicle that started a global phenomenon and invented a new segment of personal transportation never known before.
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