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The Topless One-Percent

andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,629
edited February 3 in General

No, not that One Percent. In a recent Car and Driver essay, columnist Aaron Robinson examines the apparently impending demise of convertible automobiles in which he notes that production of ragtops has declined to less than 1% of total auto production.

It's worth a read: caranddriver.com/columns/aaron-robinson-so-long-convertibles-column

I can't disagree with his conclusion that in the age of maximum efficiency, safety and packaging, not to mention universal air conditioning, convertibles appear to be on the way out. He is correct in noting that the post-war convertible boom was a Baby-Boomer driven and looks as if it will pass into history with the post-war generation.

Recently a friend of mine noting that he owned a flip-top during the 50s and 60s made the remark that "convertibles are for young guys but you outgrow them". He'd either insulted me (on my 5th convertible at age 70) or forgotten what I drive but what went through my mind was something like "Go ahead, lump around sealed in your air conditioned truck while I enjoy the real fun of driving."

I had, for a time myself, forgotten how entertaining it is to be out in the world instead of enclosed into a capsule. I did without a ragtop for nearly twelve years, yielding to the pressures of work, finances and the inhospitable climate of New England. Then, post-retirement I found myself wintering in Arizona where there are more perfect convertible days in any given winter month than there are all year in New Hampshire.

I reintroduced myself to topless driving by way of an E46 BMW that cost no more with low mileage for it's 12 years than a new Focus and have not looked back since. At the end of his column Robinson volunteers "someone else" to save the convertible saying that he'd do it but alas, he is not as young as he used to be. Neither am I but I'm grateful that there's a part of me that is young enough (or immature enough) to savor the sublime pleasures of roof less driving.

2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

Comments

  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 40,575

    Dang, I don't think I want to know the percentage of verts with manual transmissions.

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  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,629

    Given that many convertibles are also Sports Cars (Miatas, Boxsters, 911s) I'd guess that there are proportionatly twice as many manuals as in general for light vehicles.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,902

    I dunno about Boxsters--when I was seriously looking for one, most of them I found were automatic in the base model, but I found more "S" models with manual transmission.

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  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,727

    @andys120 said: No, not that One Percent. In a recent Car and Driver essay, columnist Aaron Robinson examines the apparently impending demise of convertible automobiles in which he notes that production of ragtops has declined to less than 1% of total auto production.

    I can't disagree with his conclusion that in the age of maximum efficiency, safety and packaging, not to mention universal air conditioning, convertibles appear to be on the way out. He is correct in noting that the post-war convertible boom was a Baby-Boomer driven and looks as if it will pass into history with the post-war generation.

    I will disagree with his conclusion, the ragtop is going nowhere. Back in 1976 the Caddillac Eldorado was the last convertible, the last of an era. That didn't last long as Chrysler brought back the convertible a few years later. I also disagree with the claim that they are only good for short amounts of time when it's not to cold or to hot. I have my top down anytime when it's in the 50's on up, it's never to hot to have the top down.

    My guess is if the economy every picks up again we will see an uptick in convertible sales.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,902

    It'll be interesting to see how it turns out. There have been major shifts in the open/closed car preferences before. In around 1919, most care were open; by 1929, most were closed.

    These are hostile times for convertibles---fear of skin cancer, increased chance of theft, noisier, more crowded roads and...well...the price of convertibles vs their otherwise identical roofed siblings.

    Some automakers are trying to counter this with more hardtop convertibles, but that adds expense and costs luggage space.

    Maybe this really is a pickup truck/ SUV world now?

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  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,629

    @MrShift@Edmunds said: d.

    These are hostile times for convertibles---fear of skin cancer, increased chance of theft, noisier, more crowded roads and...well...the price of convertibles vs their otherwise identical roofed siblings.

    Some automakers are trying to counter this with more hardtop convertibles, but that adds expense and costs luggage space.

    Worst of all it adds weight at a time when makers are desperately trying to lose it (I know the feeling)

    Maybe this really is a pickup truck/ SUV world now?

    Just shoot me now.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,727

    @MrShift@Edmunds said: It'll be interesting to see how it turns out. There have been major shifts in the open/closed car preferences before. In around 1919, most care were open; by 1929, most were closed.

    Early cars were open more due the fact that early cars were little more than a carriage with a motor attached than any preferences to an open top.

    These are hostile times for convertibles---fear of skin cancer, increased chance of theft, noisier, more crowded roads and...well...the price of convertibles vs their otherwise identical roofed siblings.

    As for the fear of skin cancer the vast majority of people drive less than 50 miles a day, thats not that much time in the sun. I usually spend more time in the sun doing some lawn or garden work than I do driving to and/or home from work. Long trips just use sunscreen.

    As for increased chance of theift, convertibles are between 1-3% more likely to be stolen, a statistically insignificant difference. Now having things stiolen from the car, it only increases if you leave it parked with the top down and things left out in the open. With the top up and doors locked it is the same as any other car.

    Noise in a convertible with the top down isn't much worse than in a sedan with the windows down.

    Now price is a big consideration, there are only two with a starting costs of under $20K and IMHO are not real convertibles. The ones with starting prices under $25K are way to small for many people.

    Some automakers are trying to counter this with more hardtop convertibles, but that adds expense and costs luggage space.

    Maybe this really is a pickup truck/ SUV world now?

    Hope not.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,902

    If you have only the soft top, snatch and grab is very very easy. One pocket knife, one swoop of the hand, and there goes whatever was in the car. And it's noiseless in many cases.

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  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,727

    @MrShift@Edmunds said: If you have only the soft top, snatch and grab is very very easy. One pocket knife, one swoop of the hand, and there goes whatever was in the car. And it's noiseless in many cases.

    I once knew a Chicago cop and we were talking about that. He said that of all the police reports he did of a covertible that had it's top up and doors locked that were broken into there was exactly zero were access to the vehicle was done by cutting through the roof.

    Think about it, you're a thief who spots something of value in a convertible thats parked in the street. There is no one around but anyone could show up at any moment so speed is paramount. Do you take the time of cutting through the roof, climbing onto the car and reaching into the car or do you smash the window and grab what you see and run off?

    You smash the window, by doing so you get what you want and are long gone before you can cut through the roof.

    Snatch and grab is easier in a convertible only when the top is down.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 40,575

    Slicing would be quieter. I never had any issues with my CJ-5. Be even faster just to unsnap the top on it though, or ... just open the doors. :p

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  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,727

    Slicing might be quiter but it takes much longer and in cases like this speed is better than silence.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,629
    edited February 8

    I parked convertibles on the street in Manhattan for eight years and never had the top slashed or anything stolen. The only vandalism was a broken antenna but they got every car on the block not just convertibles. Granted this was a good neighborhood but it was a long time ago when street crime was rampant compared to now.

    I think Mr Shifty's points about the negatives associated with ragtops are all valid if you look at them in terms of public perception. Correctly or not people see them as less safe, less secure and even perhaps more troublesome. For myself I can see that there are certainly negatives but happily embrace the positives that come with owning a flip-top.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 9,702

    Speaking of the SUV world, maybe it's truck's and motorcycles.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,902

    yeah, that's what I was pointing at---public perception of convertibles. And perception is a powerful force in the marketplace, as you know. People believe all kinds of unsupportable things and spend their money based on these often irrational or incorrect assumptions. Look at all the money spent on worthless health remedies and "organic" foods.

    There's a reason for this 1%.

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  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHPosts: 16,629
    edited February 8

    @MrShift@Edmunds said:

    There's a reason for this 1%.

    Oh there's lots of reasons, even the most ardent convertible lover can't give you a lot of logical reasons to buy a topless car. It's an emotional thing and I don't think there's a lot of middle ground, you either love them or you're indifferent. Frankly I'd rather put my money where my heart is.

    IMO the only real chance to increase the popularity of flip-tops is if folding hard-tops catch on, they have in Europe where there some fairly low end cars that offer them.

    Personally I'm indifferent to the metal flip-top but I could deal with the disadvantages if it were attached to the right car. The BMW Z4/3.5 comes close but there are rag-top alternatives that are just better cars for the money.

    2000 BMW 528i, 2001 BMW 330CiC

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,727

    @MrShift@Edmunds said: yeah, that's what I was pointing at---public perception of convertibles. And perception is a powerful force in the marketplace, as you know.

    Yes perception is powerful but if it is wrong one must point it out. Like last month when I was driving to work in 15-20 below temps a co-worker of mine was sorry for me driving in that weather in a drafty convertible. It took me a while to convince her that my car was as tight as any other car.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • snakeweaselsnakeweasel a Certified Edmunds Poster.Posts: 11,727

    @andys120 said: Oh there's lots of reasons, even the most ardent convertible lover can't give you a lot of logical reasons to buy a topless car. It's an emotional thing and I don't think there's a lot of middle ground, you either love them or you're indifferent.

    I really don't think that there are many reasons not to buy a ragtop over a comparable coupe. Yes there are differences but not as many as people would really think, the big one being price. As an example the base Mustang convertible is $5,000 more than the base Mustang, or 22.2% more. And while buying a convertible is an emotional thing most car buying is. If it wasn't a lot of car manufacturers would go out of business in a month.

    IMO the only real chance to increase the popularity of flip-tops is if folding hard-tops catch on, they have in Europe where there some fairly low end cars that offer them.

    Ragtops have always been low in numbers with relation to all cars, I would think that to increase that it would be better to get more low end cars as ragtops. However we don't have much in the US for low end ragtops, the two lowest priced ones are the Smart and the Fiat not only do both makes have an image problem their convertibles are basically cars with oversized sunroofs.

    The sign said "No shoes, no shirt, no service", it didn't say anything about no pants.

  • steverstever Viva Las CrucesPosts: 40,575

    "In 2013, the outgoing 200 convertible accounted for less than 5 percent of the 122,480 Chrysler 200s that were sold, according to company officials.

    "We decided we'd be putting our best foot forward by concentrating all of our available resources into the sedan versus dividing them between the sedan and a convertible," a Chrysler spokesperson said."

    Chrysler Skips Convertible Version of 2015 200 Sedan

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