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Here’s how much British drivers have fallen out of love with convertibles in the last 20 years

Despite our relatively tepid summers and changeable all-year-round weather that can trigger a downpour at any moment, Britons have a long-running love affair with convertible cars that has seen us buy more than far warmer countries across Europe.

But not anymore.

A new study shows a huge decline in convertible sales in the last two decades.

And it claims the shift away from drop-top cars isn’t just a change in attitude but due to manufacturers having fewer convertible models in their ranges.

Britain's love affair with convertible cars is over: Lack of available models, hotter summers and shift to SUVs has taken a huge hit on drop-top vehicle sales, according to a new report Britain's love affair with convertible cars is over: Lack of available models, hotter summers and shift to SUVs has taken a huge hit on drop-top vehicle sales, according to a new report

Britain’s love affair with convertible cars is over: Lack of available models, hotter summers and shift to SUVs has taken a huge hit on drop-top vehicle sales, according to a new report

According to a study by online marketplace CarGurus, in today’s market, consumers have the choice of only 24 new convertible models across the UK’s 30 most popular manufacturers. 

That’s a pretty sharp decline of 56 per cent compared to the 54 models that were in the line-ups of these mainstream car makers between 2005 and 2010.

In fact, the research found that 17 out of the 30 volume-selling brands don’t have a single convertible in their UK model range. 

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By comparison, only six of the same manufacturers didn’t offer one between 2005 and 2010.

And this shrinking availability is starting to show on vehicle sales. 

Despite being regarded as the ‘convertible car capital of Europe’, the number of new convertibles registered in the UK reached an 18-year low in 2022.

According to Department for Transport figures, only 16,486 were bought by Britons last year.

This marks an 83 per cent fall over the course of 18 years when convertible sales peaked at 94,484 in 2004.

It also means that convertibles represent a mere 1.04 per cent of the new car market today. 

At the height of convertible car sales in 2004, over 90,000 new models were registered a year. But in recent times, convertibles have accounted for just 1% of the new car market At the height of convertible car sales in 2004, over 90,000 new models were registered a year. But in recent times, convertibles have accounted for just 1% of the new car market

At the height of convertible car sales in 2004, over 90,000 new models were registered a year. But in recent times, convertibles have accounted for just 1% of the new car market

According to DfT figures, only 16,486 convertibles were bought by Britons last year. This marks an 83% fall over the course of 18 years since the 2004 peak According to DfT figures, only 16,486 convertibles were bought by Britons last year. This marks an 83% fall over the course of 18 years since the 2004 peak

According to DfT figures, only 16,486 convertibles were bought by Britons last year. This marks an 83% fall over the course of 18 years since the 2004 peak

Which brands are – and aren’t – selling us convertibles? 

Of the UK’s 30 most popular car brands under review, Hyundai, Kia, Seat, Skoda, and Dacia have never offered a convertible model for sale. 

Since the year 2000, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Mini, Fiat, Mazda, Jaguar, Lexus, Porsche, Smart, and Jeep have continuously offered convertibles in the UK.

Among the longest running are the Mazda MX-5, known for its easy-to-operate soft-top roof, which has been on sale in the UK since 1990, while the iconic open-top Jeep Wrangler has been available in the country since 1997.

READ MORE: End of the road for the Audi TT: German brand to lower the curtain on 25 years of one of the most popular modern-era sports cars

The UK’s second most popular brand, Vauxhall, stopped selling its only UK convertible model, the Cascada, in 2018. 

Toyota has not sold a convertible in the UK for over 15 years, with the MR2 ending production in 2007, although its luxury brand Lexus does still offer its LC in soft-top form.

And a couple of modern-classic convertibles will be disappearing from dealerships at the end of the year.

This includes the once hugely-popular Audi TT, which will cease production by the end of 2023. As will Jaguar’s F-Type convertible as the British brand looks to build towards its electric future from 2025. 

For early electric vehicle adopters who want a battery-powered convertible, the choice is exceptionally limited for now. 

There are currently just four to choose from: the Fiat 500e Convertible, Abarth 500e Cabrio, Smart EQ Fortwo Cabrio, and the Mini Electric Convertible – of which only 150 units are available in the UK and at an astronomical starting price of £52,500.

MG’s Cyberster will arrive next summer to bring the total to five, though the two-seat roadster will also have a starting price in the region of £50,000. 

CarGurus believes the drop in sales is due to there being fewer manufactures selling new convertibles. Its research has tracked how many models are on sale today compared with years dating back to 2000 CarGurus believes the drop in sales is due to there being fewer manufactures selling new convertibles. Its research has tracked how many models are on sale today compared with years dating back to 2000

CarGurus believes the drop in sales is due to there being fewer manufactures selling new convertibles. Its research has tracked how many models are on sale today compared with years dating back to 2000

If today's market is anything to go by, car makers won't be prioritising electric convertible models. There are currently only four drop-top EVs on the market - one being this limited-edition Mini SE Convertible, which costs over £50k If today's market is anything to go by, car makers won't be prioritising electric convertible models. There are currently only four drop-top EVs on the market - one being this limited-edition Mini SE Convertible, which costs over £50k

If today’s market is anything to go by, car makers won’t be prioritising electric convertible models. There are currently only four drop-top EVs on the market – one being this limited-edition Mini SE Convertible, which costs over £50k

The MG Cyberster Roadster will hit UK showrooms next summer and will be the first mainstream convertible electric sports car The MG Cyberster Roadster will hit UK showrooms next summer and will be the first mainstream convertible electric sports car

The MG Cyberster Roadster will hit UK showrooms next summer and will be the first mainstream convertible electric sports car

Commenting on the findings from the market analysis, Chris Knapman, editorial director at CarGurus UK, said: ‘UK motorists’ love affair with convertible cars is well documented. Historically – and despite our variable summers – the UK has generally purchased more convertibles than our European neighbours.

‘However, our data shows interest in open-top motoring has been in decline. 

‘Reduced choice in new inventory hasn’t helped this as manufacturers have increasingly switched their model lines to crossovers and SUVs, which are rarely available as convertibles. 

‘And, while we are seeing the first electric convertibles enter the market, they are still a rare commodity, at least for now.’

While CarGurus claims a lack of available convertibles is stalling sales, Auto Trader thinks otherwise.

Last year, it told us that Britain is simply now too hot for drivers to enjoy open-top vehicles.

Following the incredible summer 2022 heatwave and record temperatures recorded in June this year, 

Auto Trader thinks demand for open-top cars in the UK will follow a similar decline to that seen in Spain in recent years, as Britons fall out of love with the wind-through-the-hair driving experience and prefer the comforts of air-conditioning in hard-top motors.

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