Much digital hand-wringing has taken place here at Curbside over the seemingly inevitable demise of the sedan and station wagon body styles. Regardless of your opinion on this, as enthusiasts we should be concerned about some of the collateral damage of the Carpocalypse: The demise of the convertible, a body style near and dear to my heart. So are we headed for another convertible dark age, a repeat of what happened in the late ’70s and early ’80s?
Let me clarify by saying that I am mostly referring to affordable convertibles disappearing (less than $50K for the purposes of this analysis). If you are willing to spend high five figures or more for a car, there are lots of manufacturers from Porsche to Jaguar to Bentley to Ferarri that will likely always have a convertible model on offer for you. But if you are looking for offerings affordable by mere mortals, the pickings are starting to get slim. I’ve tried to track down every reasonably-priced convertible model still for sale in the US, and here are my findings, in no particular order.
If you go to their website, Mercedes’ cupboard appears to be overflowing with dropheads. Six different convertible models, way more than any other manufacturer! Three roadsters (SLC, SL, and AMG GT), along with soft-top versions of the C, E, and S-Class coupes. However, looks can be deceiving: Upon closer examination, you will see that all is not well with open-air motoring in the land of the three-pointed star, especially on the lower end of the price range.
For starters, the SLC Roadster (Mercedes’ most affordable convertible model, and the only model starting at under $50K) actually went out of production last year, so dealers are selling down what few 2020 models remain on the ground. Ditto for the S-Class cabrio: The seventh-generation W223 S-Class will be sold as a four-door sedan only. The next-generation 2022 C-Class has only been shown in four-door sedan form – no coupe or convertible has been announced (nor have any been spied in pre-production form). So within the next 12-months, the Mercedes drop-top lineup will be limited to the E-Class, SL, and AMG GT, the cheapest of which (the E-Class) starts at over $70,000.
That said, it is a safe bet that Mercedes will always have some sort of convertible for sale, even if it not particularly affordable. Recall that the SL Roadster was one of the few convertibles that remained in production during the last convertible dark age, even after all American automakers stopped making convertibles in the 1970s.
BMW, like Mercedes, is also rationalizing their convertible lineup. As production of the F22 2-series winds down, it appears that the 2-series convertible (BMW’s most affordable convertible) has already disappeared from their website. The next-generation 2-series, expected next year, will not have a convertible model. On the upper end of the lineup, the hybrid-electric i8 Spyder disappeared last year, but no one really bought those.
This leaves BMW with three remaining convertible models, still more than most other manufacturers: The third-generation Z4 Roadster (platform-mate of the Toyota Supra) launched in 2018, with a starting price of $49,700, just under my $50K marker. The G14 8-series convertible also launched in 2018, while the second-generation (G23) 4-series convertible just launched just last year. How many of these products will receive a subsequent generation is anyone’s guess, but since they are all relatively new for now they should stick around for the foreseeable future.
Audi’s convertible lineup has shrunk considerably as it has turned its focus to electric vehicles, CUVs, and electric CUVs. The A3 convertible (Audi’s cheapest convertible offering) disappeared with the newly introduced fourth-generation 2021 A3. The slow-selling TT Roadster is living on borrowed time: Originally scheduled to stop production in 2020, the TT has received multiple stays of execution of the past year, but rest assured that its end of production is imminent (ditto for the R8 Spyder). This leaves the $50,400 A5/S5 as the only convertible in Audi’s lineup whose future is secure.
The good news is that for the first time since the demise of the folding top IS300 in 2015, there is a convertible back in Lexus’ lineup, one of the few bright spots in this report. Better yet, by all accounts, the LC500 convertible with a 471-hp 5.0 liter V8 is a pretty spectacular car. The bad news is that, unlike the IS convertible, the LC500, starting at $101,000, is hardly affordable, continuing the trend of convertible models moving from low- and mid-range models to the higher-end models.
Rental lot darling Buick Cascada disappeared in 2019 as Buick has transformed into a CUV only brand. This leaves the Corvette and Camaro as the sole remaining convertible offerings for all of GM. Development on the seventh-generation Camaro was shelved a few years back, so I wouldn’t bet on the current model making it past 2023 (although who knows, maybe the Camaro name will come back as a BEV CUV). This leaves the Corvette as the only convertible model whose future is secure. While undoubtedly a bargain for what you get at $68,500, the Corvette roadster is certainly not cheap.
The forthcoming $100K+ 2022 GMC Hummer EV truck will feature removable roof panels, which I guess is kind of a convertible.
The Mustang is the sole remaining car in Ford’s domestic lineup of either the fixed- or soft-roof variety. So long as there are vacationers renting cars in sunbelt locations, the future of the Mustang convertible would seem to be secure. Starting at just over $32,000, the Mustang is one of the last “affordable” convertibles and one of the cheapest convertibles you can still buy.
The 2021 Bronco with removable roof panels is the first open-air Ford not named Mustang name since the 2005 Thunderbird.
Thank heavens for the Miata. Not only is it one of the best new convertibles you can buy, but starting at $26,580 it is also the cheapest. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
The Fiat 500 Convertible was last sold in the US in 2019. The Fiat 124 Spyder (a rebadged Miata) was discontinued in 2020, so in the course of just two short years, Fiat went from having two affordable convertible models to none.
The convertible has been a centerpiece of Mini’s US lineup almost since day one, and will likely remain here as long as there are buyers for it. Starting at just under $28K, it is also one of the cheapest new convertibles still for sale.
Here’s a question that always trips people up whenever I ask it: What is the best-selling convertible in the US, and has been year in and year out for the past several decades? It is a difficult question to answer unless you expand your definition of convertibles beyond just cars, in which case the answer is obvious: The Jeep Wrangler. The Wrangler remains an enduring anachronism, with its removable doors and fold-down windshield, which I don’t see ever going away.
The unloved Murano CrossCabriolet disappeared in 2015 after failing to launch the convertible CUV segment. The last Infiniti convertible (the G60 with a retractable hardtop) was sold in 2016. The 370Z Roadster quietly disappeared in 2019, (I actually didn’t know it was gone prior to researching this piece) leaving Nissan without any convertible models. The replacement 400Z model will be sold only as a closed coupe, leaving Nissan without any open models for the foreseeable future.
To summarize, it is not your imagination: the amount of convertible models for sale is steadily shrinking and will continue to shrink, especially on the affordable (less than $50K) end of the market. While some models like the Mustang, Miata, and Wrangler will likely be evergreen, for most other manufacturers the answer for an affordable convertible will increasingly be a two or three-year-old CPO model. Much like the overall automotive market, the models that are left are not only becoming more expensive, but more trucky, as many new convertible models (like the Jeep Gladiator, Ford Bronco, and GMC Hummer) seek to cash in on the rising popularity of trucks.