Convertibles have been part of the model mix at Chrysler ever since the mid-1980s when then-Chairman Lee Iacocca re-introduced the Chrysler LeBaron. And it lived on in the later Sebring model — which itself was renamed the Chrysler 200 a few years back. But as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles gets ready to launch its new Chrysler 200, the “D-segment” convertible is going away, with no plans to replace it, the maker confirms.
“We built the last (Chrysler 200 convertible) in October,” Andy Love, senior manager for the Chrysler brand and the Chrysler 200, told TheDetroitBureau.com. “Dealers still have some stock so we’re still going to be selling them,” he added, but once the old model runs out there’ll be no 200 convertible to follow.
Love explained that the ragtop segment is steadily shrinking. The days when manufacturers automatically included a convertible version of their midsize and compact models is rapidly coming to an end. That doesn’t mean the convertible is going away, it’s just shifting to sportier and more luxurious product segments.
General Motors continues to sell a convertible version of the recently updated Camaro, and a ragtop version of the C7 Chevrolet Corvette is just hitting market. Ford has long had a convertible version of the Mustang and is completely updating the ragtop for 2015 – among other things offering a simpler-to-use, more aerodynamic version of the foldaway top.
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Cabriolets are particularly popular among European manufacturers. Audi just unveiled a version of its new A3 model, and offers open-air versions of its A4, A5 and R8 models. Mercedes-Benz introduced a convertible version of the new E-Class and has several other offerings, including the SL and SLK roadsters. And BMW scored a solid hit when it added retractable hardtop versions of several models including the 3-Series.
Jaguar, meanwhile, has had a hit on its hands since launching the F-Type convertible last year – though the British maker expects the upcoming F-Type Coupe to be a bigger seller, and is dropping its XK line, including a convertible version.
And Volkswagen hasn’t done much better with its mainstream convertible offerings, such as the EOS, sales of that model falling by a third last year and after an initial sales surge. Sales of the third-generation Beetle Convertible have struggled, as well.
The reality for most buyers is that ragtops are either too expensive or too impractical for daily drivers. “If you look at it, convertibles have become third cars,” Love said.
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There are other reasons why convertibles are losing traction, said Love, pointing to the rising popularity of sunroofs among customers who use their cars every day. Sunroofs have become larger, wider and easier to use over the past decade, and are now standard equipment on many models.
The decline in demand for convertibles also coincides with the slide in sales of coupes and two-seat models which have waned since the recession.
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The coming demise of the Chrysler convertible doesn’t mean the convertible will disappear completely from the Fiat Chrysler family. There’s a folding-top version of the little 500, and a prototype 4C Spider was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month which suggests that, going forward, convertibles will be coming from the Fiat and Alfa-Romeo side of the house.
(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)
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