DETROIT – A decade ago, the PT Cruiser roared onto the road with trendsetting looks and Al Capone swagger. In a sea of bland Honda Civics and Toyota Camrys, it was a retro hit.

On Friday morning, the last Cruiser rolled off the assembly line in Mexico, finally killed off after years of declining popularity.

What happened in between is symbolic of the larger problems that helped drive Chrysler into bankruptcy — and a cautionary tale for its new owners, who are planning to release a similarly stylish car later this year.

Love it or hate it, the Cruiser was a head-turner. With flared fenders, a sloping hood and tall doors, the Cruiser was a cross between an old-time milk truck and luxurious sedans of the 1930s. Its looks were different from anything on the road.

It spawned imitators like the retro Chevrolet HHR, and appreciation for the historical American design embodied by cars like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro.

“I remember the first time I saw one at an auto show. It was jaw-dropping,” said John McEleney, an Iowa car dealer who sold Chryslers at the time.

The Cruiser was a demographic-buster: It appealed to everyone from retirees to customizers to young people looking for something spacious and inexpensive, said Aaron Bragman, an analyst with IHS Automotive who owned a turbocharged PT Cruiser GT.

But Chrysler failed to invest in the car or think of ways to expand its appeal beyond new paint colors or a convertible top. Although fans clamored for two-door and panel van versions, Chrysler never made a significant update.

“If Chrysler had invested money in a major restyling, there could have been a positive payback on that,” McEleney said.

While the Cruiser was waning, Chrysler was starved for resources. After a nine-year partnership with Daimler AG, the company was sold in 2007 to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, which led it into bankruptcy last summer.

Other Chrysler cars languished in the chaos, including the Sebring sedan, which was panned for its cheap materials and mediocre performance.

While Chrysler’s new owner, Fiat Group SpA, plans to revamp most of its lineup, and new vehicles like the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee have gotten positive reviews, Chrysler still isn’t updating models as quickly as its competitors are.

Between 2011 and 2014, the average Chrysler model will be on the market for 3.1 years, compared with an industry average of 2.5 years, said Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy.

That means Chrysler will have to fight harder to get noticed.

Because Chrysler made so many Cruisers, the car is unlikely to attract collectors, so its price will probably depreciate just like most other cars, said Dave Kinney, publisher of “Hagerty’s Cars That Matter,” a guidebook of classic car prices.