Among the volume brands, the big upcoming launches include this year’s introduction of the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5, which IHS predicts will account for nearly 16,000 sales in the region in 2016, and Fiat’s variant of the Japanese roadster, the 124, which is due to launch next year.
French, UK slump
The near complete exit of French automakers from the segment has had a predictable effect on sales in that country as volume halved to 15,287 last year compared with 2010, according to IHS data. The French market is expected to remain low, with a forecast volume of about 18,000 in 2018.
There also has been a big decline in the UK, the region’s second-largest market for convertibles after Germany. Cabriolet sales in the UK dropped to 49,141 last year from 116,827 in 2004. The 2014 result was the lowest volume recorded since the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders started tracking data on the segment in 2000. The UK, however, is expected to see a rebound in convertible sales to 70,000 units by 2018, according to IHS, which also predicts that Italy will bounce back from a low of 8,357 last year to more than 20,000 in 2018. Germany is forecast to remain relatively stable at a little more than 90,000 convertible sales in 2018, up from 89,396 last year.
The limited practicality of convertibles has always hindered sales, but some automakers have found a way to turn this negative into a positive by adding cabriolets to their car-sharing schemes.
One reason that European sales of the open-top variant of the Mini grew 18 percent last year was high demand for the car within the DriveNow car-share program operated by Mini parent BMW Group and rental firm Sixt. A combined 400 Mini Cabriolets are available for use at DriveNow locations such as Munich, Berlin and Hamburg, Germany. The car also might become part of the car-sharing program’s arm in the UK, DriveNow London boss Joseph Seal-Driver told Automotive News Europe.