Few things match the joy of open-roofed motoring. The wind runs through your hair, the sun beats down and the trees flash overhead, and it's then that you realize that this elemental experience is just better than being permanently ensconced in stylized cage of steel and glass. Unfortunately for a lot of convertible manufacturers, consumers are unaware of this truth.
That's bad news for the sun worshipers among us, as a new report from Automotive News Europe
indicates that falling demand for droptops is not just turning off automakers, but it's actually impacting the contracted manufacturers whose primary focus is canvas roofs and folding hardtops.
According to ANE, convertible sales are down from 5.4 per cent of sales in the first half of 2007 to just 3.3 per cent in 2014
, a situation that is untenable for the three largest manufacturers of convertible roofs, according to one CEO.
Holger Engelmann, the CEO of the world's largest convertible system supplier, Webasto
, told ANE if convertible sales continue to decline, the market won't be strong enough to support his company and its two main competitors, Magna CTS
, the second and third largest manufacturers, respectively.
The reasons for the decline of convertibles are wide and varied, but a few obvious things can be blamed – first, there are changing tastes. In the past, people opted for droptops "because they wanted to show that they belonged to a certain community," trend research Sven Gabor Janszky told ANE. "Today, people would rather show that they are something special or that ecology is very important to them by buying an electric car such as the Tesla or the BMW i3."
Beyond that, things are easier to pin down. According to the analysts that spoke to ANE, the market-wide shift towards crossovers and SUVs isn't just hurting sedans, it's having an impact on convertibles, too. Factor in the proliferation of glass roofs and panoramic sunroofs, which provide the sort of elemental experience typical of convertibles, but without the increased price, complexity and sometimes off-putting driving dynamics, and it's not too hard to see why convertible sales are facing issues.
Still, this isn't a trend we want to see. Here's hoping Joe Consumer realizes the error of his ways and moves back to open-roof driving.