Automakers just reported their most recent sales numbers, with things looking up virtually across the board. Despite that, and despite the fact that it's summer, sales of that quintessential warm-weather car, the convertible, are down. Droptops normally account for two percent of the overall car market, but that tumbled to just above one percent in 2011. What happened to bring down the car that was once a symbol of hedonistic driving freedom out on the open road?

According to Smart Money Magazine, cost is a big factor. There's always been a price premium for convertibles, but that gulf has widened over the years, and it's not like there's very many affordable conertibles in the first place. Age is another reason. While Baby Boomers still like covertibles, their kids, Generation X and Y, seem ambivalent. Compounding those factors is a sluggish economy that has buyers focused more on practical cars that don't break the bank than splurging on some kind of roadgoing confection.

We might also suggest that given the frosty global economy, we're also seeing fewer new convertible models go on sale in volume segments (exotics seem to be immune to this trend). And since convertibles, like coupes, tend to have particularly short sales lives, we're not terribly surprised to learn that sales are down.

But it could be a vicious cycle – there less demand for a bodystyle that's not as popular as it once was, and those models that remain tend to be pricey. That doesn't mean that the convertible is dead – that rumor has failed to stick in the past – but it does suggest that automakers are likely to stare even longer at the beans they are counting when figuring out whether there's a business case for a new convertible.


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  • 124 Comments
      whofan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think people are addicted to air conditioning. So that rules out a convertible.
      the.ting
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is a non-story really. Convertible sales, as with any big ticket purchase, is always affected by the economy and is always cyclic. It's never changed. The cars are not practical, and it's not considered as an option unless there is expected increase in income or spare cash laying around.
        brian
        • 2 Years Ago
        @the.ting
        Convertibles were perfectly practical when they were available as large 5-6 seaters with fabric tops and huge trunks. 2 seaters and tops that retract into the trunk and eliminate most luggage space are never practical.
          the.ting
          • 2 Years Ago
          @brian
          Yes, but this article is not talking about convertibles from several decades ago.
      fivespeeed
      • 2 Years Ago
      We have an A4 cabrio, and the best feature has to be that the roof is insulated. Couple that with awd, and it's a legitimate year-round car in any climate. Car manufacturers have to be more progressive. I'm aware of the expense of designing a new car, but take a look at your competitors. A convertible doesn't have to be a manual top made out of t-shirt material.
      AJ
      • 2 Years Ago
      Excluding the the really expensive stuff, most convertibles in the sub 50grand category suck. The only convertible that I would consider buying would be the Miata. All the other convertibles are floppy afterthoughts.
      ThucBiDza
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't knooww...but that picture of that new mx5 is really making me wanting to buy it for some reason. It just look incredible!
      thumerzs
      • 2 Years Ago
      Convertibles used as such, have a very limited optimal climate operating conditions. Maybe low 60's - high 70's. Colder than that, everybody bundles up too much to enjoy the experience; warmer, and the sun melts you to the seat. I've had a couple and they're wonderful vehicles to drive around on a 75 degree summer night with the stars overhead. In practical terms though, I'd much rather have t-tops (extinct) or a targa (no affordable options) which would allow me to enjoy the car as intended on a far greater range of climate conditions.
        Clock
        • 2 Years Ago
        @thumerzs
        T-Tops and targa tops rule! It's one reason I took an MR2 over an RX7. I also agree with you on the optimal temperature range. I think driving around topless when its nearly 100 degrees (like they do around here) is absolutely ridiculous.
      P
      • 2 Years Ago
      C'mon, does no one have any historical context?! In every one of the major economic downturns of the past century, convertibles of every form plummeted in sales. The last major occurrence happened in the 70's. It wasn't until the Miata came around before the industry realized that demand had been back for some time (but no product to serve it). Nowadays, we have a trifecta of problems: 1) An economy that continues to slowly rebuild after the last decade's mess. 2) A dearth of affordable AND credible product. Miata's MSRP has grown a bit pricey (though they actually sell very affordably) but it lacks the credibility today's buyers demand (based on horsepower, like it or not). 3) Cultural ambivalence toward cars. Younger buyers in particular no longer obsess over cars at all and those who do are in an increasingly small minority. That makes specialized vehicles like convertibles a little bit more "ho-hum." Such is the way of the market and, sadly, the way convertibles will soon go without a profitable "leader" to show the way.
      mhwyman7
      • 2 Years Ago
      I remember the day the "last" '76 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible roll out. it was the "last" production convertible made in America, never to be seen again. we were also going to be out of oil by '84, California was going to slide into the Pacific Ocean by '86, I had a friend who paid $29.95 to see if his microwave oven was Y2K compliant in '99, (I will never let him live that one down) here we are 36 years later still shaking are heads at pundits, idiots, politicians, and any other fool with an opinion of what we've seen the last of.
      moorewr
      • 2 Years Ago
      I was just looking at the prices for the Audi TT Roadster and BMW Z4 - they are insane! Add a few typical options and you are in the upper 40s MSRP.
      Chris
      • 2 Years Ago
      The economy and practical sense aside... A lot of current models just don't look as good in convertible form. The Mazda Miata is an exception, but their aren't too many affordable two seat sports cars to choose from these days. Other cars such as the Mustang, Nissan Z, and Infiniti G37 lose their slick fastback rooflines, and look more chunky and blocky as convertibles. Despite all of that, I don't see convertibles going away. The fact that people are starting to gravitate back toward smaller vehicles is actually a hopeful sign for convertibles over the coming years. I can see the new Alfa Romeo and Mazda twins reigniting some excitement for convertibels as well.
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      Convertibles won't go away unless they're effective legislated out of existence (which I doubt will happen).
      ROB G.
      • 2 Years Ago
      To me it's an economic an psychologic issue, both related to the present global economic crisis, that's mainly felt in Europe where I live. Convertibles are still much liked, but they remain a dream for the most. A normal dude with a normal salary and a normal life, would think he's throwing his money away should he buy a convertible, mainly if he happen to have a family. Convertibles are the cars of the happy times, when you feel safe for your future and you're glad and proud of yourself, when you feel you owe nothing to the others because you already gave them all that you could give and then you can spend some money for yourself, for the only sake of your happiness, and because life is beautiful and you only live once. These are not such times, being for the normal people almost impossible to buy a house, to be safe of their working future and of the future of their children. No, Sir. These are not the times for a convertible.
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