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Exhaust Note #12: The Optimistic Convertible Falters

  • May 19, 2008
  • Exhaust Note
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Last week, R.L. Polk & Co. reported that convertible registrations had dropped 8.6% in 2007. In a 16.1 million-unit year, convertible registrations dropped below 300,000 units, or about 2% total light vehicle market share. AutoPacific, VehicleVoice’s parent company, can predict with near certainty that convertible registrations will be lower yet this year – if only because overall industry sales will almost certainly end up well under 15 million units – a decline of at least 1.1 million units over 2007CY.

Pretty grim stuff, huh? But is it really surprising? We’re living in some relatively grim times by many standards. $4.00 per gallon gasoline is now a reality, the planet keeps getting warmer, the economy continues to struggle, the Iraq war rages on, and foreclosure signs keep popping up in neighborhoods across our land. It’s not exactly good times for many people. In these times, a frivolous vehicle like a convertible just seems a little out of step with the times.
Of course, the convertible is the very definition of vehicular optimism. With the top down, the sun kissing your face, and the wind blowing through your hair, a convertible’s very reason for being is to make its occupants feel great. But when fewer people are feeling great these days, the market for such vehicles becomes smaller.
Still, there are some neat convertibles on the way. Infiniti is introducing a G37 hardtop convertible next year. It’s heavily rumored that the new Dodge Challenger and upcoming Chevrolet Camaro will be available al fresco. And there are numerous refreshes of existing convertibles that will be hitting the market very soon.
We can hope that the economic outlook for 2009 will be better than now. With a new administration replacing today’s generally reviled leadership, one can hope that some measure of national optimism (along with some quantifiable better times) will return. At the point that we see the national mood rebound, it’s likely that convertible sales will rebound – at least to some degree.

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