Even as Britons baked during the joint hottest summer on record, the lure of open-top motoring inspired fewer car-buyers than ever, say analysts at online motor retail specialist BuyaCar.co.uk.
Manufacturers have been axing convertible models in recent years, as demand dwindles.
Today, with fewer open top cars than ever sold from an ever-shrinking range of models, all the signs are that the UK market for convertibles is moving from mainstream to niche.
Sales of new convertibles in the UK slumped 23% over the past four years, according to the statistics provided by automotive data analysis company, JATO. In 2017 just 4,311 open-top cars were registered. Over the same period the number of different convertible models offered by manufacturers reduced from 60 to 52.
But the surest sign that convertibles are slipping out of mind for British motorists is the dwindling number of times people searched online for the details of convertibles for sale, even as temperatures soared this summer.
BuyaCar.co.uk’s analysts now report that proportionally fewer car buyers even looked at convertibles during the record-breaking six week spell from the end of June to the middle of August, compared with the same period last year.
Because convertible versions of any car model have tended to be more expensive than conventional versions it might be unsurprising that sales would be hit by current economic uncertainty and the effects of austerity. But as an ‘aspirational’ or ‘lifestyle’ car choice consumers would still be expected to search for them online in their car-buying research.
But BuyaCar.co.uk found that convertibles stubbornly lagged behind the general growth of sales for all other car types offered on its site – sharing the same fate as estate cars.
Austin Collins, managing director of BuyaCar.co.uk, said: “Just a few years ago Britain’s love affair with the convertible was a perennial story on motoring pages, despite our unreliable summers.
“So when this year’s record-breaking extended hot spell appeared to provide the most obvious incentive to think about a convertible, we expected to see a proportionate increase in people searching for them. What we saw instead was interest in every type of car growing – except convertibles and estates. While actual sales can be affected by issues like reduced choice or price sensitivities, consumer searches are a reliable way of filtering out those issues to see the underlying appetite for a product.
“In the case of convertibles it certainly seems that they are on fewer motorists’ minds now, even when the weather for which they are designed is perfect. With the demise of many ‘budget’ convertibles, such as the old Peugeot 207 and 308, the new convertible market appears to be undergoing a re-set. As we recently reported on our site there may now be fewer choices for people who search for a new convertible, but the overall quality and prestige is higher. So it seems the days of the more frivolous attitude to convertibles as a mainstream car option are over.”