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Convertibles Facing a Cloudy Future

Demand shrinks despite new offerings.

by on Jul.22, 2011

Despite sluggish ragtop sales, the buyers are lining up for the new Chevy Camaro Convertible.

With the temperature nudging 100 in much of the country, even the most diehard convertible fans have folded up the top and turned on the air conditioning.  But the ongoing heat wave doesn’t explain why convertible sales have gone cold.

Now, drop-tops will never again match the numbers of yester-year, when they were as common as station wagons parked in the driveways of ‘50s-era suburbs.  But even as recently as 2006, convertibles accounted for about 2.0% of the U.S. auto market, according to data from R.L. Polk.  Last year, that plunged to an even 1.0% and the question is whether there’s a sunny future ahead.

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“Will this market be able to rebound?” asks Polk analyst Mark Pauze.  “We are seeing a slight uptick” in sales this year, but the increase in convertible sales isn’t keeping pace with the overall improvement in the U.S. new car market, he adds.

There are some exceptions.  Audi can barely keep up with demand for models like the A5 Cabriolet, many customers waiting for backorders to be filled from the factory in Germany.  The new Chrysler 200 Convertible appears to be making up for the declines suffered by the unloved Sebring drop-top.