2024 Ford Mustang
Convertibles—once a symbol of outdoor freedom, road trips, and summer adventures—are disappearing as the auto industry shifts to all-electric vehicles and more rugged sports cars.
Sales of traditional convertibles like the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, as well as roadsters like the Mazda Miata, have fallen to less than 100,000 vehicles annually in the U.S., according to S&P Global Mobility. That’s down from a peak of about 320,000 vehicles, or 2% of all new U.S. vehicle sales, in 2006, and a peak of about 144,200, or 0.8%, in 2015.
According to experts, reasons for the decline of convertibles include practicality, durability, price increases, new panoramic sunroofs and glass tops. Automakers are also investing in off-road models and electric vehicles.
“The trajectory has been down and consumer interest is not as strong,” said Stephanie Brinley, principal auto analyst at S&P Global Mobility. “In the transition to electric vehicles and where automakers are putting their development money, it’s not just going to convertibles.”
2022 Ford Bronco Raptor
Including SUVs that are considered convertibles by federal safety standards, such as the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco, doesn’t help sales much. Even counting these vehicles, sales last year were down 26% from 2015. Between then and 2019, the auto industry fell 21%, the last year without significant production or supply chain disruptions.
The sales decline comes amid a drop in the number of convertibles and roadsters – two-seater cars with convertible or removable roofs – from 29 models in 2011 to 23 models in 2019. But most of the cars available are high-end or low-end. – Volume models of super premium car manufacturers such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and other luxury car manufacturers.
JD Power reports that convertibles have accounted for 28% of super-premium sales so far this year, compared to just 0.5% of the U.S. auto industry, including 0.3% of mainstream vehicles.
Discontinued models from more major brands since the 2000s include:
- Chrysler Sebring, PT Cruiser and 200
- Pontiac G6
- Nissan Murano
- Volkswagen Beetle
- Toyota Camry
- Smart ForTwo
- Buick Cascada
Haartz Corp.—a global leader in soft top convertible materials—reports that its sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels, but the downward trend in soft top continues not just in the U.S., but globally.
“What we’re seeing right now is electrification taking more than just the convertible world,” said Haartz planning manager Phil Hollenbeck.
2016 Beetle Dune
Credit: © Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Celebrating its centennial, the Massachusetts-based supplier developed the first “synthetic fiber coating” for automobiles in 1922.
In the early days of the automobile industry, almost all cars were convertibles or convertibles. Hardtop cars were introduced as a premium option – a changing trend in modern times. For example, the 2022 Ford Mustang hardtop starts at $27,470. The convertible version starts at around $33,000.
JD Power reports that the average price of a convertible has increased from about $45,000 in 2011 to $70,400 in 2021. In 2022, this rose to $79,200 amid supply chain issues that led to higher prices. That makes SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco among the cheapest, most accessible options.
“Combined, the Bronco and Wrangler outsell all convertibles 5:1, and both start at $30,000, making them one of the cheapest ways to enjoy the open-top experience,” said Tyson Jominy, JD Power vice president of data and analytics. . “With SUVs accounting for 59% of retail sales in 2022, these two could be the face of convertibles in the future.”
According to JD Power, the best-selling convertibles in the past two years include the Chevrolet Corvette, Mazda MX-5, BMW 4 Series and Ford Mustang.
Ford Mustang marketing chief Jim Owens said only 15% of the car’s consumer sales — 72,500 in 2019 — are convertibles. He said that the demand is slowly decreasing. However, there is still “substantial” demand in rental car fleets.
Polestar O2 electric roadster concept
Along with rental cars and SUVs, there’s still hope for new convertibles and roadsters, including EVs, in the coming years. Ford introduced the Mustang convertible last week as part of its seventh-generation lineup. Tesla has promised to bring a new roadster to the market. EV startup Polestar plans to produce an electric convertible.
S&P Global Mobility predicts sales of convertibles and roadsters will increase to about 82,000 vehicles in 2024 and 2025, before falling back to under 70,000 units by the end of the decade.
Haartz’s Hollenbeck said that once automakers come out with EVs, they will look for ways to differentiate the vehicles, and one will likely be convertibles.
“Then we’ll see what the market wants. Could we see a possible convertible electric Challenger in the future? I don’t see why not,” he said. “I can’t imagine they’ll all go away. People who are into convertibles love them.”