In the insatiable demand for PT Cruiser, DaimlerChrysler Corp. continues to look seriously at the Belvidere, IL, Assembly Plant. Insiders say the automaker is "looking strongly" at adding PT Cruiser production to the factory that assembles the Neon, the platform from which PT Cruiser was derived. WAW is told Belvidere is capable of adding the product.

Gary Henson, executive vice president-manufacturing at DCC, admits the carmaker misjudged demand for the PT.

"Today I could probably sell 500,000 PT Cruisers. The bad news is I can only build 180,000," he says. "PT Cruiser acceptance continues to be beyond our expectations."

The original business case was to build 120,000 of the popular hybrid. "We created a Web page and got so many hits, (former DaimlerChrysler Chairman) Bob Eaton said we need 160,000. Then he said whatever we can get."

Even at 180,000 "we're jumping through hoops with the supply base because we missed it on this one," says Mr. Henson. An additional 50,000 units will come out of the Graz, Austria, plant in the summer of 2001.

On a positive note, Mr. Henson says the plant in Toluca, Mexico, is ahead of its build schedule, and quality data from its first month of production shows the "lowest warranty rate on PT than any vehicle launch in (DCC) history."