By on October 17, 2014

Opel Cascada

If you’re a fan of convertibles, then you may find your selection dwindling as more consumers go for a different image, affecting automakers and suppliers alike.

Automotive News Europe reports manufacturers like Volkswagen and Peugeot are cutting down the number of cabriolets in their portfolios as a result of the following:

  • Popularity: In the two biggest markets for such vehicles — North America and Europe — the convertible experienced sales of 827,000 unit in 2007, but only 444,000 in 2013. The drop is likely the result of consumers moving toward crossovers and SUVs, along with other image-making vehicles like the Toyota Prius and Tesla Model S.
  • Limited market: Even when popularity was at its peak, not everyone wanted the wind in their hair. Convertibles were most popular in places like England, Sweden, California and Florida — the latter two were the result of transplants from colder, wetter regions who now wanted to soak up the sun — while few were sold in places like Dubai, China and Singapore.
  • Other options: Consumers shopping for new vehicles can have theirs with a panoramic roof, delivering blue skies to all without needing to apply a ton of Aqua Net or toupee glue before heading out. Further, SUVs and cabriolets are image vehicles that can replace each other, though such a swap hurts the latter more than the former in the new-vehicle market. Finally, convertibles have a higher residual value, and tend to do better in the used-vehicle market than when first purchased.

Thus, as automakers trim their open-top offerings, suppliers like Valmet and Magna CTS fear their time may soon come to call it a day. CEO for the largest supplier of roof systems, Webasto’s Holger Engelmann, says the market won’t be able to sustain three major players in the supply game. Both Webasto and Valmet — the third largest; Magna CTS is No. 2 — have shuttered facilities over the years amid the shrinking market, with Valmet closing its German operations by 2017.

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55 Comments on “Dwindling Cabriolet Market Affecting Automakers, Suppliers Alike...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    It comes down to what type of convertible it is, the Buick above certainly won’t save the market. It’s another segment that needs to be realigned, make it appealing for men and women will also like it, however make it appealing for crazy cat ladies like the cavalier convertible, and your hurting the image as a whole.
    No one is going to be shy riding in a classic American steel convertible, but when your only desirable vert is the vette and the more expensive euro super cars, your doing it wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “make it appealing for men”

      As long as there’s enough engine under the hood (Camaro, Mustang) convertibles will be appealing to men

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        I thought they already appealed mostly to middle-aged men. Complaining about a messed up hairdo is like a favorite pastime with the fairer sex. My wife once drove a vert with the license plate WNDBLWN (“Liar!”). That top NEVER came down.

        Sounds like people figured out that they never use these things. They are no fun to sit there broiling in the sun in traffic. The tops are often cumbersome, problematic, loud, poorly insulated, and rot out. Most rag convertibles look terrible with the top up.

        IMO, we’re in an age where our society has less of a tolerance for anything. Probably a factor as well.

        • 0 avatar
          319583076

          Most people have never been in a convertible with the top down and experienced it – instead they rely on these sorts of arguments against convertibles.

          My gf has a Mini convertible and I’m driving my second Miata – bought in part after I got some miles driving her Mini. I love driving without a top pretty much anywhere and given temps from 45 degrees to 75 degrees. Most folks I see in convertibles only drop the top when it is sunny and 90 degrees + which is when people roast. Auto engines generate a ton of waste heat, therefore, the sensible way to enjoy a convertible IMO is with the top down in cooler temps and the heat adjusted to a comfortable level.

          Her Mini is a soft top – it is well insulated, quiet, operates quickly and painlessly and after 7 years still looks remarkably good. My first Miata was a soft top, my current is the PRHT. I have never had a problem with either. So, in my experience, they are not cumbersome, not problematic, nor particularly loud. My beater is a 96 Cherokee – it is plenty loud! And…I think the Mini and Miata convertibles look good with tops up.

          I already bought my car – I guess I don’t really have an in interest in this one way or another except to point out that like most things, convertibles today are better than they have ever previously been. If you’re dismissing them based on the same old tropes, I don’t think you’ve probably been in a modern convertible. IF you’re predisposed to like topless motoring, you will certainly enjoy a modern convertible.

          • 0 avatar
            petezeiss

            Chilly weather motoring in a convertible is magnificent. Bracing. Gives you that ruddy Highlander complexion.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I’ve had several convertibles over the years and enjoyed every one. I’m just no longer interested in that kind of impracticality. I find a nice big sunroof a satisfying compromise

          • 0 avatar
            Secret Hi5

            Sunroofs are quite ineffective for the driver nowadays due to severely-raked windshields – Makes the sunroof too far to the rear of car.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I think putting the soft top up and down on my Allante is quite cumbersome for what was a $60K car.

            My hard top was long ago lost to oblivion but if I had it that would add a whole new level of annoying.

            It does look nice with the top down though.

          • 0 avatar
            Cole P

            I’m glad to know that a convertible can be enjoyed well into the Fall. Just crank up the heater and enjoy a bracing breeze. Looking forward to this Cascada.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        I commute about 30 miles one-way to work. I recently found a couple two lane highways that are brilliant driving roads, lots of twists, elevation changes, beautiful scenery, almost zero traffic, good sight lines, and relatively high speed limits.

        On my way home last night – in a Miata with the top down – I saw a C5 Corvette turn onto the first highway ahead of me. I was looking forward to seeing how long I would be able to keep up.

        The Vette was consistently driven 5-10 mpg below the posted speed limit, he crossed the center line in 75% of his turns, and he kept a foot on the brake nearly 25% of the time. It was a travesty. I kept a safe distance behind him well off a decent pace. I had a couple of opportunities to pass, but just stayed back. He seemed uncomfortable enough as it was.

        “Men” that require big engines to justify convertibles probably don’t know how to drive, let alone manage and use that power. It’s just self-deluded image/lifestyle bs. Go cruise Main St or the malt shop parking lot and discuss the finer points of your lopey cam V8 burble at idle and cherry bomb mufflers or whatever.

        This guy will be hustling through some technical roads in his cute little hairdresser’s car…

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          It’s been said before: It’s more fun to drive a slow (or in this case, small) car fast than to drive a fast car slow. Which is the reason any Corvette short of a C2 won’t elicit more than a passing glance from me, while the poor rear tires on our little ’95 Yamaha Timberwolf 250 4×2 are nearly bald.

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          Like a motorcycle, a convertible is all about being *of* the environment you’re driving through. Smells (grass, wildflowers, water, blacktop), temperature gradients and the Holy White Noise of wind on a highway did it for me.

          The lighter and simpler the industrial enclosure around you, the better. My youthful fling was a baby-blue TR-4. Drove well into Novembers with the top down, modulating with the powerful heater it had.

          • 0 avatar
            319583076

            Exactly! They are also awesome cruising through Chicago’s loop, for example, skyscrapers towering above, blurring the line between motorist and pedestrian. Convertibles allow you to experience more of your environment than closed-cockpit transpo.

          • 0 avatar
            DC Bruce

            Yep. You got that right. As an 11-year convertible (roadster) owner, I appreciate that he driving experience is totally different. People who become accustomed to the car as a cocoon won’t like convertibles. Unfortunately, with the advent of even better sound deadening, climate control systems and electronics, the “car as cocoon” model is very much on the ascendant. And, I will admit that sitting in a convertible in stop-and-go rush hour traffic is no fun in a convertible, and makes me wish for a cocoon.

            I’m spoiled; I don’t have to do that. But I appreciate the fact that many people have no choice but to use their cars as commuting vehicles.

            Also, a truly “fast” convertible is not much fun. Running with the top down at 80+ mph, even with the windows up and a draft blocker, is a somewhat punishing experience. The perfect convertible experience is a slow, curvy two-lane being run at speeds no more than 60 mph . . . just right for a Miata.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            Night driving is my favorite! One of our school’s annual silent auction items is a ride in my car for 3, dinner, and a cruise through downtown with all the skyscrapers. HUGE list of bidders, and we have a blast with it.

            Every car I’ve owned has had a sunroof. Life’s too short not to have one!

            Back in my 20s I had an old TR6, which turned me on to convertibles. My weekend car is the Saab, a simple turbo 4. It gets the job done quite adequately and is a treat to drive as a little me-reward…

        • 0 avatar
          Japanese Buick

          Well said 319

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Id maintain the camaro cannot mass-market appeal to men in convertible form, mustang, yes probably at least in the current outgoing form.

        Blobby styling just doesnt work on convertibles.

        Big V8 or economy i6, doesn’t matter if the styling isn’t there.
        I leave the murano crosscabriolet as my example, it looks terrible and is probably why most modern cars don’t offer the option, it can’t be done with the status quo styling.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    I wonder if convertibles would be any more popular nowadays if they weren’t required to have 30⁰ A-pillars trying to take a chunk out of your head as you enter & exit.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      You nailed it.

      Convertibles were cheerful and airy. Modern cars are angry bunkers. Cutting off the roof on a Camaro isn’t airy, you’re still buried to the neck and way too close to the A pillar. A convertible not shaped like a bunker – Sebring, whatever the VW is called, etc – looks like 1995 and fashionable people don’t want them.

      Crash test requirements don’t help either, the B pillar and roof deepen the girder considerably and reinforcing to pass the test without them them adds 400+ pounds, overburdens the base engine, cuts mileage.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The low roof and extreme windshield rake on modern “sporty” cars, really mutes the “convertible experience.” Your peripheral vision no longer see blue sky above the windshield header. The Bug, Mini and Miata are different, and teh Boxster kind of, if you’re long of leg. But in a ‘Vette or 3 series, you’re basically driving in a car with a glass roof ending midway above your head. Not at all the feeling evoked by old 50s convertibles or British roadsters.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I wouldn’t read too much into this. In the US, the convertible market is down because (a) FCA took the 200 convertible off the market, probably because Hertz was their only real customer for it; and (b) two of the hottest convertibles – the Mustang and Miata – are at the end of their current generation and are being replaced.

    I find it interesting that the convertible market is viewed as an “image vehicle”. My history with droptops (Alfa Romeo) has been that a convertible was more about how it made you feel, not how it made you look.

    Obviously, I’m in the minority.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      I’m with on this, convertibles weren’t bought to be ‘seen in’ they were bought to be enjoyed by the owner. This is kind of why if you look through history of automotive drop tops the best sellers actually were the rather cheap or mundane plates. A Pontiac Catalina is and remains a modest person’s car. So all the caterwauling about the lack of ‘image’ is more so the fact that modern makers just don’t offer a drop top Corolla or Camry anymore. The Solara and 200 were the last of the big competitors at a modest price point. The 200 soldiers on but I doubt for much longer.

      The entry point for 4 usable seats in a convertible has gone up dramatically. So the coupe market has become the last real place of convertibles which is kind of a shame because cavaliers, sunfires, and the rest of the cheap econobox convertibles were never great cars but they were fun cars for warm weather. It makes me wish I had a miata for tooling around New Orleans right now simply because the weather is near perfect.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        …and will be for the next 4 months as long as you have seat heaters! Do it! Do it! (Devil on your shoulder…)

        There are a number of decent convertibles in the $25-35k range….MINI, Beetle, Mustang, Camaro, BMW 1 series, Eos, even the Fiat 500. Sure, you may not get many bells and whistles at that price point, but the experience is worth it….

        While I don’t fit very well (6’3″, 200#) in the MINI, I had the chance to squeeze in one and really loved the way it drove. Maybe the plastics were a little cheap, and perhaps the back seat tight…but it was a lot of fun.

        Food for thought when my SAAB gives it up….

  • avatar
    geee

    One BIG factor in this is Asian women. I have quite a few friends who would never own a convertible because they don’t want to be in the sun. The goal for them is to stay as light skinned as possible (if you don’t believe me, please examine the skin-lightening industry in Asia.) So if you are wondering about China, you can stop wondering.

    Here in the US, many Asian women consider tan skinned to be the look of a peasant/country/island girl, and not a desirable skin color at all. This isn’t a racist attitude on my part by the way, or a misogynistic one either, but possibly is a classist attitude on the part of those espousing it. But I can’t tell you how many times I heard this from the people I knew in a particular west coast city, who also informed me that the attitude holds in their home countries of Taiwan, China and Vietnam, to name just three. Two of those countries I visited and confirmed the sentiment. I’m not judging it, by the way, it is just what it is and likely a big factor in sales. What I dont know is how much this attitude has changed/grown over time, so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This is very true. I am a pale white person, and in Korea the children (upon seeing me and working up the nerve to talk):

      “Oh your skin! Is very white. You are rich?”

      I’m like OH YES THAT’S HOW IT WORKS.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      Being Asian, and married to an Asian woman, at least in my experience, the sun exposure issue hasn’t really come up. I happen to like fresh air (and minimize turning on the A/C), with the windows rolled down. My wife, however, doesn’t like the noise and the wind, and uses the A/C a lot more often than me.

      Granted, a lot of Asian countries have subtropical or tropical climates and it’s not very conductive to open air motoring, so folks from those countries, or precisely, who grew up there, aren’t used to a soft top. In fact, it’s a lot more comfy to have the A/C running to keep from sweating hard.

  • avatar

    The lack of a truly ‘affordable’ mass market convertible certainly hurts the appeal. Also, the move towards overly-complicated folding hardtops which – simply – don’t last.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Like the Eos’ Rube-Goldberg hardtop. I think the Ideal Toy Company designers, that came up with the Mousetrap boardgame, may have been on the VW design team for the Eos.

    • 0 avatar
      bosozoku

      True. “Real” convertibles (completely open roof vs folding top with pillars still intact a la Fiat 500) start at $20k+ for a Miata and go up from there.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      I disagree. I had a Miata soft top for 15 years before getting a PRHT three years ago. The PRHT has been rock solid and has made the car much more flexible and usable. My brother has a G37 power hard top and it’s been trouble free. Don’t let overly complex and unreliable German hard tops ruin the segment for you.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I wonder if any of it has to do with the fact that the average American is climate-controlled for 95+% of his or her existence. We leave our heated/air-conditioned homes, get into our heated/air-conditioned cars, and drive to our heated/air-conditioned workplaces, schools, or recreational facilities. Those who do work out in the elements are doing the kinds of jobs we think of as either below us or acceptable as a stepping-stone to “bigger and better” things–construction, farming/ranching, groundskeeping, etc. So those of us who don’t experience nature’s full fury–I mean, range of emotions–in their daily lives don’t really feel eager to do so on the weekends either.

    …After looking all this over, it makes it sound like I’m bitter. Not really.

    • 0 avatar
      petezeiss

      Sweating under the summer sun sucks more than anything I’ve ever done. Never again. God Bless climate-controlled Murica!

      I effin’ HATE the sun. That’s why I loved Fall driving in my convertible. Give me overcast, 40 degrees and let me chase the geese in an open car!

  • avatar
    mikey

    If I could, I would drive my 6 cyl auto Mustang, convert everyday. I live in Southern Ontario, so its not always practical. I’ve had a few convertibles over the years.

    I nice crisp fall day, you need a hoody, a ball cap,and the heater on max blasting through the floor vents.

    These days I keep my Mustang plated, and insured 365 days of the year. It may sit in the garage and never move for 3 months. Somedays I pull it out, wash it and drive it back in to the garage. However if I get a chance to take it out for a cruise, its there for me.

    They will have to pry my rag top from my cold dead hands.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Most popular drop top here (Charlotte, NC) is a Jeep Wrangler. Best of both worlds. I can see why Nissan tried to marry the two vehicles as well.

    Strange thing is I see a lot of convertibles down here, but in a year and a half of living here I have yet to see anyone driving with their top down. Driving around at 60-80 MPH exposed probably just doesn’t appeal to the masses.

  • avatar
    Toad

    My wife had two VW convertibles back to back and the top on either car came down less than a dozen times per year. It was either too hot, too cold, or the wind would mess up her hair on the way to wherever she was going. I think she is typical of most drivers; they like the IDEA of the convertible but on any given day have a reason not to use it.

    Tack on the additional purchase cost, budget for a new top every few years, repairs on the motorized systems, increased noise, risk of damage due to break in or vandalism, plus loss of body stiffness and a convertible becomes more trouble than it is worth for the vast majority of motorists.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I might as well weigh in here.

    Wifey and I are/were convertible people.

    I used to have a “dream” commute – virtually a ride in the country every day – perfect for a drop-top until… a job change.

    At for the first 3.5 years, my commute was a miserable 21 miles, 30-45 minutes average drive-time down I-75 into Cincinnati – the worst-designed highway ever. Although I drove it most of the time, on occasion I would take parallel U.S. 42 into town. Those routes made driving a convertible not too bad, but not ideal, either.

    THEN in August 2011, my company re-located to Hebron, KY – behind the airport! Now I drive the I-275 loop for a roughly 2 hrs. a day, 100-mile-R/T commute. Not much fun, but I did it in our 2007 MX5 for a year until we decided to cut back and get rid of the toy.

    No more convertibles for us for the foreseeable future, as I need a 4-door because I carry passengers once in a while – plus my Impala eats up the miles rather nicely.

    Add to the fact that there are simply no convertibles on the market right now that remotely appeal to me. I like the Camaro, but still can’t see out of the thing and would be dangerous for me and other drivers. I enjoyed our old Jeep Wrangler, but the fuel economy was horrible, plus the top was a nightmare!

  • avatar
    MK

    Nah, it’s all about the global warming making it too hot for people to want to put the top down. Bush’s fault.

    I enjoy the cabrio driving experience but I got pretty tired of the leaks (ALWAYS into the driver’s side seat cushion because of the raked a-pillar), also got pretty tired of the dirtbag thieves cutting into the tops thinking it was the “easy” way to get in the car….three times this happened, once right before a 4-inch rainstorm.
    Damn dude, just break the glass, it’ll be easier on all of us.

    Like crabspirits, my wife didn’t really like the wind or the sun exposure and we usually drove my car. Nighttime and cooler weather was great but I can’t justify buying another one other than a wrangler or something.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      I live in NC and during the summer the top is down on my Miata during the morning commute and whenever driving at night. Top down driving in the southern night is great, driving by fields of crickets or ponds with frogs chirping, thickets of honeysuckle, etc. When I turn onto my neighborhood’s private dirt road, it’s time to turn off all the lights and drive the rest of the way home by moonlight and starlight.

  • avatar
    Swedish

    I suspect people’s concern for UV exposure maybe a significant factor especially with people living longer. UV concerns & resulting skin cancer weren’t at the forefront of the news 20-15 years ago like it is now.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Funny they show the Vauxhall Cascada in Monaco – where it isn’t sold.

  • avatar
    dtremit

    I would wager the declining number of coupes also plays a role here — it’s a much more expensive proposition to develop a convertible out of a sedan, making higher sales numbers a prerequisite.

  • avatar
    Joh

    Nothing like a starry night in a convertable!

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    There are plenty of reasons for the demise of the convertible. But frankly I lay some of the blame on automakers. I really wanted to get a convertible for the car I just bought, but there wasn’t a single one that could fit a child seat in the rear comfortably. Not the Mercedes E (which is really a C), the 4-series, the A5, etc. Not one.

    But beyond my specific needs, convertibles are so constrained and one-dimensional.
    1. Where is a cheap cheerful convertible for younger drivers? Take 1 civic, lop the top off, call it the new Del Sol. No hardtop BS, just a nice, cheap fabric manual top.

    2. What about a full size convertible? The Mercedes Ocean Drive sounds awesome, and if it was out when I bought my last car, it might have won. There were rumors of a Panamera convertible for years, that would have been sweet as well.

    3. Toyota missed the boat with the FJ not having a soft-top option. Wranglers are super-popular partially because of their soft-tops.

    4. Hell, I think a fair number of people would like a 4-door convertible. There hasn’t been one since the 50s I believe. I believe NCE does one of the Tesla aftermarket which doesn’t adversely affect the Tesla too much since it has its structure in the base, so it is doable.

    But instead we get compact-sized sport sedans, 2-seat sport cars, and the far better offroad than on it Wrangler as our only options.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Over the years i had quite a few convertibles. Had a Hillman Minx and a Renault when i got married but then the kids came along and that took care of that. When the kids were teens we brought a Bug convertible and that was great. That was stolen about 8 months later but the insurance company paid me $4,000.00 more then i paid for the car. After that i brought a MG that i learned was just too small and i sold it to my coworker’s brother in Switzerland. after a few years i found a 1991 VW Cabriolet that was stored in a barn for 10 years. A new top, battery & tires and i had that car for 6 years. wonderful build quality and you could fit 4 people nicely. Someone stopped me one day and made me an offer i could not refuse. To be honest it was one of the best cars i ever had. I still keep looking for one to buy again but not too many for sale now. Finally brought my Miata and life is good. We have two VW GTI’s but i love driving the Miata. This time of year in New York on a nice day on a country road is living. .

  • avatar

    Wrangler is easily convertible even with a hardtop. There are some prerequisites, of course. The biggest is, you cannot carry the hardtop with you if you take it off (unless you tow a trailer :-). Therefore, hardtop Wranglers are converted at a campsite or in garage. I drop my top pretty often in the warm weather.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Zachman–I live in Hebron, KY and commute to downtown Cincinnati on the bus. There would be few times that I would use the top down on a convertible but on occasion we open the sunroof.

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