Opinion

Retractable Hard-Top Convertibles Are A Doomed Fad

Illustration for article titled Retractable Hard-Top Convertibles Are A Doomed Fad

Photo: Pontiac

The onslaught of retractable hard-top convertibles over the last two decades basically died overnight, and since I don’t think many people cared enough to realize it, I also don’t think anybody is going to be upset over it.

The writing has been on the wall for the retractable hard-top concept for some time, but the latest video from the Big Car YouTube channel made me realize that we are living through the final throws of the hard-top’s death right now:

In the last 20 years, there were hard-top models of the Lexus IS, Chrysler 200 and Sebring, Infiniti Q60, Cadillac XLR, Volkswagen Eos, Volvo C70, and even the Pontiac G6. In the early 2000s, automakers were putting retractable hard-tops on their wildest production designs, including the infamous Chevy SSR and dead-on-arrival Fisker Karma S Sunset Edition. This doesn’t even account for all of the European retractables that came and went, which the Big Car shows more of.

As Big Car notes, making the metal panels of the car move and disappear was a very cool and novel idea for the industry back in the 1990s, when the Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster brought the concept to mass popularity. However, it’s very easy to point out the increased weight and complexity versus a soft fabric roof setup.

Mercedes finally realized its obscenely bloated lineup of over-100 vehicle variant offerings in the U.S. were a problem when it announced some models, including mostly coupes, were finally under consideration to be cut a year ago. As an example, Mercedes had 19 soft- and hard-top convertibles on sale when we wrote about the apparent issue in Sept. 2019.

Illustration for article titled Retractable Hard-Top Convertibles Are A Doomed Fad

Photo: BMW

Other companies have already silently replaced retractable hard-top models with new generations featuring soft-top mechanisms, like the latest BMW Z4 and 4 Series convertibles. Lexus killed its hard-top offerings and now only sells the soft-top LC, and most other premium or luxury automakers just gave up on their convertibles altogether.

Today, the only truly-affordable retractable hard-top on sale in the U.S. is the Mazda Miata RF, which is more of a retractable Targa top. Otherwise the modern shopper has to aim higher, with one of the multiple selections still available from Mercedes-Benz, or even higher with models like the McLaren 570S Spyder and Ferrari Portofino.

I’m not really setting up for an argument of any sort here. I am perfectly comfortable leaving retractable hard-tops as a fad. They had their time and place, you can still get one at the three major market price points (which are “Maybe Next Year,” Maybe One Day,” and “Maybe If I’m Lucky”), but two things are certain; the fad is nearly dead, and it’s absolutely never going to be applied to a commercial pickup again.


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