Like a modern day version of The Black Death, this plague has already ravaged Europe. Despite published reports of rampant mechanical problems and ridiculous engineering compromises not seen since the Eisenhower Administrationpeople are yet again being suckered into buying hard top convertible automobiles.
Each year as summer arrives many people find themselves being overcome by the notion of owning a convertible. The purchase of a convertible car is the least practical automotive proposition bar perhaps a Lamborghini Murcielago (although that vehicle does come in an even less practical convertible guise as well). While you buy an SUV for your family and your duties, you buy a convertible with your heart. Convertibles, like sports cars, are the purest form of the automotive art. If a convertible is no fun to drive and ugly what is the point?
Sacrilegiously enough, some people are trying to turn convertibles into a quasi-rational proposition with highly technical hard tops that fold into the trunk. Or I should really say, what is left of your trunk. Hardtop convertibles may look cool when the metal roof folds into little pieces of origami but it will still leave you with no trunk space. Essentially the only time you can use the trunk is when the top is up.
So who do we have to blame for this? Well, in this country Mercedes started the trend anew (Lincoln used to sell a hardtop Continental in the 1950s) with the SLK but on the global stage it was Peugeot who took the lead. As the SLK is a pricey luxury car and not a low budget French compact it has taken a while for competitors from BMW, Lexus, Infiniti and Volvo to follow suit with inevitable copycats.
Currently selling 2 varieties of hardtop convertible around the world, the first Peugeot to use the technology was the low priced 206 hatchback. This regular version of the 206 that had a roof wasn't very reliable or rigid in the first place so once they turned it into a hardtop convertible it turned out to be a downright tart French lemon. But that didn't stop Peugeot from selling these convertibles by the absolute boatload. The fact that the hardtops had a habit of getting stuck as customers pulled off the dealer lot was beside the point.
Oddly enough, this summer we are seeing a huge influx of new hardtop convertibles on U.S. soil. No, Peugeot isnt coming back to the United States yet but who knows? If Fiat can buy Chrysler then why cant Peugeot take over GM? Scratch that. I dont think we need Escalades assembled by unionized French employees. They already hate us enough.
Pretty much all of these new convertibles are from the luxury spectrum with the new Infiniti G35, Lexus IS350, BMW 3 series and Volvo S40 all making entries. The only mainstream manufacturers to offer them are VW with the Eos and Mazda with its hardtop version of the Miata. (Another act of heresy but I will get to that later.)
Many buyers rationalize the purchase of a hardtop convertible by saying that it affords them the quietness and security of a coupe mixed with the fun of being able to put the top down. Well, if you haven't driven a modern day soft-top then you would be shocked by how quiet they are at freeway speeds. And if you are worried about car security, why aren't you demanding shatter proof windows on your next car? A thief can put a hammer through a side window as easily as he or she can use a knife to cut open your soft top.