Not so long ago summer would have triggered an annual boom in convertible sales across Europe. But the region has fallen out of love with the drop-top, and numbers have almost halved since 2003.
That year 356,555 convertibles were sold in Europe, with Germany accounting for over a third and the UK one quarter according to figures from the European manufacturers’ Association ACEA. Last year that figure was below 200,000, analysis from JATO Dynamics shows.
One reason is the death of the convertible version of the humble compact hatchback. Ten years ago most of the big mainstream makers including Opel, VW, Renault, Peugeot Ford, Vauxhall sold them. Now only VW is persisting with the Golf.
Even the French have now abandoned a sector that was reinvented by Peugeot back in 2001 with the folding hard-top version of first the 206, then the bigger 307. When Renault sells the last convertible Megane this year, it’ll complete a Gallic about-turn on open-topped cars that saw sales in the country halved to just over 15,000 in 2014 from 2010 figures.
The demise of the convertible in Europe probably goes hand-in-hand with decline of the Italian styling houses and contract manufacturers that used to make them, companies like Bertone (Opel Astra convertible) and Pininfarina (Ford Focus CC).
These days the biggest-selling convertibles have a more stylish image. The Fiat 500C was the most popular across Europe in 2014, followed by the Mini Cabrio and the BMW 4-series.
But in the main buyers have fled the sector. So where have they gone? The biggest cabrio-killer could be the rise of the compact SUV. Ten years ago, a convertible was the default choice for buyers wanting to make a style statement; now they can choose from a wide selection of crossover vehicles.”
One canny company has come to the same conclusion and reckons it has spotted a gap in the market: Land Rover has confirmed the world’s first premium compact SUV convertible will go on sale in 2016 – with more details expected later this year.
Will it be enough to tear the roof off this once vibrant sector?