In the last couple of years there have been some clear trends in the car industry. It would be wrong to say that convertible sales are drying up but the market is certainly shifting. The number of mass market brand convertible cars has dropped steadily while premium brand drop-tops have shown a sharp increase. The faux-SUV Crossover has gone from a novelty to being a mass market vehicle competing across the board from low-cost to luxury vehicles. Tastes are changing considerably and traditional car styles such as hatchbacks and sedans are loosing traction in the marketplace.
A general consumer trend towards premium brands means that while in the past individuals may have been attracted to luxury model from a mass-market brand, they now would prefer a lower spec’d car with a premium badge. Add to this the increasing wealth in the upper reaches of society and the stagnation of incomes at the other end and it becomes clear that the luxury of the convertible roof will increasingly become confined to more expensive cars.
While the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche can’t make enough convertibles to keep customers at bay, the likes of Volkswagen, Toyota and Peugeot are reducing their convertible alternatives. Toyota for example had left the market completely including their more upmarket Lexus brand, until the the Aygo X-Wave city car was introduced.
The evidence is most clear in the hardtop convertible segment where models such as the Ford Focus, VW Eos, Chrysler 200 and Volvo C70 have been phased out without replacement. Meanwhile BMW, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren are enjoying great success with their hardtop convertibles.
Small, youthful convertibles are an exception and continue to be popular however manufacturers have moved to a more rigid and cost effective roof style with fixed door frames and fabric centre roof sections. This traditional style was reintroduced by Citroen for the C3 Pluriel followed by the Fiat 500C before more brands caught on to the trend. These have proved popular as they offer a rigid chassis with little modification from a standard hatchback keeping prices down and the feeling of security remains while keeping the open air feeling.
The Roadster market has slowed a little however Mazda hope to inject new blood with their new MX-5 Miata which will be released later this year. The climate of change is also set to continue with Range Rover testing the market with a convertible version of their Evoque compact SUV joining the Nissan Murano Cabriolet with a new style of open topped crossover. It gets a mixed response from anyone who sees it but it is unlikely to be the last unusual concept we see in the next few years.