On the heels of record April sales of the Plymouth Prowler, DaimlerChrysler Corp. appears to be rethinking its fate beyond the '01 model year.

Last year's announcement DCC is dropping the Plymouth brand included reports (see Ward's Automotive Reports — Nov. 22. '99 p. 1) that the slow-selling Prowler also would be dropped.

One argument for killing the hot rod is it would free capacity at the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit, MI, for second-generation Viper production as well as other niche low-volume products.

But April saw a record 364 sales and now the automaker is saying the fate of Prowler has not been sealed — it could survive as a member of the Chrysler family beginning in the '02 model year.

Gary Henson, DCC's executive vice president of manufacturing, says Prowler's demise is not official, its future still is being sorted out, and the product lineup for the low-volume Detroit facility is being studied.

The $43,500 coupe remains a Plymouth for '01 and will be offered in a new color, replacing a shade from the current pallet of silver, yellow, red and black.

Meanwhile, Detroit is selling '00 Prowlers as fast as they can build them (14 a day). The sales momentum has been building since before the suggestion it could become a collector's item, and may be fueled by the love of all things retro that New Beetle and PT Cruiser have fostered. If '01 does become Prowler's swan song, expect another sales spike before it goes out of production.

The renewed product interest brings to more than 5,000 the number of Prowlers sold since it went into production in May 1997.

If Prowler outlives Plymouth, badging would be on a first-name basis only: just Prowler, like Cher who is among the celebrities reportedly interested in purchasing one, as well as actor Tom Hanks. The Chrysler name would not appear on the sheet metal, mimicking the approach DC took when it dropped the Plymouth brand in Canada for '00 models.