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Soft tops succumb to indifference as sales fall

Soft tops succumb to indifference as sales fall

Drivers may have fallen out of love with convertibles, according to vehicle information provider Glass’s, following a slump in registrations.  

Data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders shows that sales have fallen consistently over the past 10 years from more than 104,000 in 2007 to around 47,000 last year. The sector now holds less than a 2% market share compared to close on 4.5% back in 2007.  And, figures show that 2017 sales are on track to be no better than last year.

What’s more, despite there being fewer new variants sold, and therefore less available in wholesales channels, average residual values have also been in decline, which perhaps further underlines their fall in popularity, according to Jonathan Brown, Glass’s car editor.  

Average residual values expressed as a percentage of original cost new at two years of age in 2007 were just under 60%, however that fell below 49% in 2016, although values for five-year-old variants fell but by a lesser degree.  

Mr Brown poses the question as to whether “this growth was led by manufacturers responding to consumer demand or was it a desire to keep up with the competition, which seemingly led to the market nearing the point where we had a convertible version of almost every car model?”

He continues: “The question now seems to be, have we fallen out of love with convertibles? It is possible that too many ordinary cars were given this soft top treatment or even a metal folding roof - nothing short of benign some say and impractical due to roof storage issues - subsequently these once aspirational vehicles no longer evoke the dream that was the open top sports car.”  

Asking whether or not there was a future for soft tops, Mr Brown’s conclusion is: “Yes definitely, but perhaps like other segments of the market that have surpassed their heyday, it has to be accepted that it is a niche more than a segment. Exciting cars do not necessarily need to be roofless, but sometimes it helps.”