Sales of convertible cars have slowed their decline in 2014, but the segment still has reached a record low for the continent. An easy explanation for this is the crisis that has hit many European manufacturers hard, so they can no longer afford to spend a lot of development and marketing Euros on slow selling models, even if they could work as image-builders for the brand. Faced with the decision whether to develop a low-volume cabriolet or a potential high-volume crossover, most of the mainstream manufacturers have opted for the latter.
It doesn’t help that droptop models don’t sell outside of Europe and the US, which means that the market remains limited to just Europe in the case of the French brands, who used to make some of the most popular cabriolets on the market with the Peugeot 207CC and 307CC / 308CC or Renault Megane CC. As these models are being phased out without any word on a ragtop version of their successors, sales of convertibles in France are down the harshest of all markets.
The Fiat 500C continues to lead the segment, although it’s technically not a 100% cabriolet, because its B-pillar and C-pillar remain intact as its roof is basically not much more than a large sliding canvas sunroof, a similar system as the DS3 Cabrio. The 500C sells more than double of its closest rival, the Mini Convertible. I usually display Mini in a premium segment, but I think the convertible is more cross-shopped vs. the VW Golf and Beetle than vs. the BMW 4-series Convertible or Audi A5 Cabriolet.
The Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio holds on to its third place by leapfrogging its stablemate Golf Cabrio, while the third VW player in this segment, the convertible hard-top Eos, is about to be discontinued. The Opel/Vauxhall Cascada, in only its second year on the market, doesn’t improve much and appears to be stuck outside the top-5 of the segment. I guess they can’t dump this thing in rental fleets in high numbers as they do with some of their models. Considering the low volume General Motors is getting from the Cascada, they could’ve spent their money more wisely, for example by developing an all-new Corsa instead of a half-assed facelift and calling it a new model.
The fourth generation Mazda MX-5 is due this spring, which should help the Japanese roadster to jump onto the segment podium, as the tiny Smart Fortwo Cabrio is the only other model to be refreshed in the near future. Fiat will roll out their own version of the MX-5 as well, but that won’t appear in the sales charts until next year.
Sales of premium convertibles have proven to be more stable, and the all-new BMW 4-series Cabrio is to thank for that. In its first full year of sales, the Beemer storms up the charts into first place in the same way it has done in the premium coupe segment, kicking down the Mercedes-Benz SLK which has led the segment for a few years running. With the introduction of the smaller 2-series Cabrio early 2015, BMW may have a one-two finish in its hands for this year.
With the exception of the Audi A3 Cabrio which has moved onto the segment podium, all other models see declining sales, with the Audi TT Roadster suffering the most, as it awaits its replacement this year as well. The Porsche 911 Cabrio actually outsells its smaller sibling Boxster, as the 911 Coupe has done consistently with the Cayman, while sinking sales of the Mercedes-Benz SL prove I’m not the only one to think that slapping a corporate grille on every car in the line-up doesn’t automatically improve the visual attractiveness of every model. The Jaguar F-type Roadster suffers from internal competition from its arguably even better looking Coupe version.
Premium Convertible Segment
BMW 4-series Cabrio
Audi A3/S3 Cabrio
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabrio
Audi A5/S5/RS5 Cabrio
Porsche 911 Cabrio
Audi TT Roadster
Jaguar F-type Roadster
Click on any model to see its annual sales from 1997-2013 and monthly sales in 2012, 2013 and 2014, or use the dropdown menu in the top right of this site. Sources: Manufacturers, ANDC, JATO Dynamics.
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