%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:; AUDIO:%)

CHELSEA, Mich. (AP) _ The PT Cruiser is already one of the hottest cars on the road, but customers who want to turn up the heat a few designer degrees will be able to do so this fall.

Chrysler will begin offering factory-installed flame accents on the retro-styled car for $495. The option will be available on all 2002 PT Cruiser models in four color schemes: fading orange to red, fading blue to cranberry, dark silver fading in to bright silver, and deep magenta fading to black with a blue border.

``The optional flames are a great way to extend the excitement to our entire PT Cruiser customer base,'' said Tom Marinelli, vice president of the Chrysler Jeep design center.

The flames are made of vinyl and will be applied after the Cruisers exit the paint shop at Chrysler's assembly plant in Toluca, Mexico.

Sales of the PT Cruiser have been torrid, rising 92 percent in May as compared with May 2000 and 351 percent for the first five months of the year as compared with the same period a year ago.

Aside from the Sebring, the PT Cruiser is the only passenger car from DaimlerChrysler AG's American arm to show an increase in sales.

The automaker plans to increase production of the PT Cruiser to keep up with the demand of the car, which former Chrysler chief executive Robert Eaton called ``too cool to categorize.''

____

On the Net:

http://www.chrysler.com