Car maker Chrysler is one of America’s “Big 3” automobile manufacturing giants, along with General Motors and Ford. Known for creating cars that are “engineered beautifully,” Chrysler became a mainstream brand in New Zealand’s automotive industry beginning in the late 1920s. It then enjoyed presence in the country for the better part of nine decades.
Although some of Chrysler’s most iconic models have been discontinued—and Chrysler itself has ceased operations in New Zealand as of 2018—the brand’s masterful craftsmanship lives on in its beautiful and functional vehicles. Moreover, Chrysler parts and Chrysler accessories in NZ are available to current owners who still need them in order to maintain their rides.
As a nod to Chrysler’s enduring legacy, let’s take a look at 6 models that have made a tremendous impact on Kiwi car enthusiasts. Read on below for a brief history of each nameplate, facelifts and technical improvements it underwent over the years, and its reception among New Zealand car aficionados.
1 Chrysler PT Cruiser (2000 to 2010). The “PT” in this car’s name stands for “Personal Transport,” a moniker that it would carry for a decade after Chrysler began its production back in 2000. In 2001, its first year in the market, it was released as a 5-door hatchback. Subsequently, in 2005, it was released as a convertible. In 2006, it underwent an intermediate facelift and was equipped with interesting features like a chrome grill, new tail lights, and Chrysler’s exclusive U-Connect hands-free Bluetooth system.
By the time Chrysler halted its production in 2010, the PT Cruiser had performed quite fairly in the international market, selling over 1 million units. Outstanding features like a high roof, high H-point seating, and considerably flexible cargo and passenger configurations gave this car a reputation in NZ as a stylish, yet dependable family cruiser.
2 Chrysler Voyager (1988 to present). The Chrysler Voyager is a minivan best known as the Plymouth Voyager in America and the Lancia Voyager in Europe. From 1988 to 1995, the Voyager was manufactured in a manner identical to the Dodge Caravan, and was thus a mere rebrand of this model. From 1996 to 2000, however, the Voyager had built up a name of its own and proudly sported an updated look with features like sliding doors. The fourth generation of Voyagers, sold between 2001 and 2007, saw the inclusion of side airbags, an optional navigation system, and rear-seat entertainment systems that could run on either VCR or DVD formats. From 2008 to 2016, a buyer could choose between a diesel and a petrol engine on their Voyager, and they could also enjoy Chrysler’s new 62TE 6-speed automatic transmission system.
The Chrysler Voyager has been singled out as a minivan with a luxury feel and innovative seating technologies. It is also a highly popular model worldwide, holding the position of the 13th best-selling automotive nameplate in the world with over 12 million units sold. The Voyager’s milestone sixth generation is expected to commence production in 2020.
3 Chrysler Neon (1994 to present). The Chrysler Neon is a front-wheel drive compact car. It was first available from 1995 to 1999 as either a two-door notchback coupe or a four-door notchback sedan. It was also the first small car to be sold by Chrysler in Japan. The 2000-2005 model was advertised as possessing 1,000 refinements to the first generation, from increased power to full-frame doors. Though Chrysler discontinued production in 2005, the Neon made a comeback in Mexico as recently as 2016.
At its peak in the early 2000s, the Chrysler Neon sold more than 125,000 units. It defied expectations in the market as a car that was good, fast, AND cheap, and it surely made an impression on New Zealand car owners with more economical budgets.
4 Chrysler 300C (2005 to present). The Chrysler 300C is a rear-wheel drive luxury car available as either a four-door sedan or a station wagon. It is also known as the Lancia Thema in Europe. In 2006, it merited the release of a Heritage Edition with special trims, reminiscent of Chrysler’s letter-series cars of the 1950s and 1960s. In 2008, along with a five-speed auto transmission, it boasted a facelift, new chrome-clad alloy wheels, and the inclusion of Chrysler’s own MyGIG infotainment system.
The Chrysler 300C has a royal reputation, with Snoop Dogg and Barack Obama being just two of its celebrity endorsers. It is still seen by New Zealand car aficionados as a more affordable alternative to a Bentley.
5 Chrysler Crossfire (2004 to 2008). The Chrysler Crossfire is a rear-wheel drive two-seat sports car that was developed during the union of Chrysler and Daimler Benz—hence its design similarities to the Mercedes-Benz R170 platform. The Crossfire’s name derives either from the crease directions of the car’s two character lines, or from the crossover between two of the world’s automotive giants.
The Crossfire boasted a boat-tail design and a Mercedes-Benz-like dashboard layout, controls, and instruments. It was a car model that Chrysler and Daimler meant to evoke unabashed elegance and a refined character—one that satisfied the tastes of more sophisticated car fans in New Zealand and beyond.
6 Chrysler Sebring (1995 to 2010). The Chrysler Sebring is a mid-size luxury automobile available as a convertible, sedan, or coupe. Its first generation, built between 1995 and 2000, edged out and replaced Chrysler’s LeBaron coupe and convertible lines. Sebring’s second generation, produced between 2001 and 2006, saw several noticeable developments, including a facelift with a redesigned grille, reworked headlights, and a variation on the Chrysler’s logo placement. The 2007-2010 design paid tribute to the smart looks of the Chrysler Airflite and Chrysler Crossfire. The coupe edition received a Top Safety Pick commendation from the US nonprofit, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The Sebring was phased out in 2011 and replaced by the Chrysler 200. To this day, however, it is still known as a long-running Chrysler nameplate that afforded a lot of value to New Zealand consumers.
The brand’s nearest car dealership may be all the way in Australia, but there are more than enough resources in New Zealand to keep a good Chrysler car running. If you drive a PT Cruiser, Voyager, Neon, 300C, Crossfire, or Sebring in New Zealand, you can count on your trusted NZ auto supply shop to help you maintain your beautifully engineered Chrysler vehicle for many more years to come.