Convertibles Might be the Biggest Casualty in Our Switch to EVs

Convertibles Might be the Biggest Casualty in Our Switch to EVs

A photo of a Chevrolet Camaro convertible with The Morning Shift graphic on the bottom.

Photo: Chevrolet

Drivers in the U.S. are falling out of love with the convertible sports car, electric car buyers still want to be able to shop at a dealership, and Mazda is thinking about closing its operation in Russia. All this and more in The Morning Shift for September 26, 2022.

1st Gear: No More Convertibles

It’s great to see sales of electric cars rising across America. Thanks to the likes of Hyundai, Ford and Tesla, global EV sales have so far increased by 75 percent compared with 2021. But this stellar growth of EVs has come at a cost. It turns out that sales of convertibles have been plummeting while EVs blossomed.

Convertible sports cars have been tossed by the wayside in America as people opt to electrify their garage or switch to an SUV instead. CNBC reports:

Sales of traditional drop-tops such as the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, as well as roadsters such as the Mazda Miata, have plummeted in the U.S. to fewer than 100,000 vehicles annually, according to S&P Global Mobility. That’s down from a recent peak of nearly 320,000 vehicles, or 2% of all new U.S. vehicle sales, in 2006, and roughly 144,200, or 0.8%, in 2015.

Reasons for the decline of convertibles include practicality, durability, cost increases, and new panoramic sunroofs and glass tops, according to experts. Automakers are also investing capital in off-road models and electric vehicles.

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Even if you include convertible SUVs like the Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco, things still don’t look good for drop-top cars. CNBC reports that with cars like that included, sales last year were down by 26% on 2015 levels.

Interestingly, there was also a 20 percent drop in the number of convertibles on sale in America between 2011 and 2019. Now, the roof-less offering is dominated by high-end brands like Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Porsche.

2nd Gear: GM Plows $760 Million Into EVs

While they might be killing the convertible, it is still great to see automakers pivot to EVs. The latest sign of health in the sector came when GM announced it was investing $760 million into its Ohio plant to set it up for EV production.

Reuters reports that the investment will see the factory in Toledo, Ohio, switch to build drive units for electric trucks. It makes the Ohio site GM’s first U.S. powertrain facility to be repurposed for EV-related production. According to Reuters:

The largest U.S. automaker currently builds GM’s six-speed, eight-speed and 10-speed rear-wheel drive and nine-speed front-wheel drive transmissions in a variety of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac at its 2.82-million square foot Toledo, Ohio, transmission plan that it has renamed Toledo Propulsion Systems.

“Once the plant is converted, it will produce GM’s family of EV drive units, which convert electric power from the battery pack to mechanical motion at the wheels,” GM said, adding the plant will produce transmission products while building drive units simultaneously during GM’s EV transition.

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The updates to the Ohio plant are all part of GM executive vice president Gerald Johnson’s aims to increase electric vehicle capacity at the company. Its current goal is to be able to build 1 million EVs in North America by 2025.

3rd Gear: People Still Prefer Dealers to Websites

Once GM is capable of building a million EVs a year, where would you like to go to buy one of them? Do you want to be able to place your order in the comfort of your own home, or would you rather head out to a dealer and make the trade face to face?

Well, according to a new report from Automotive News, 74 percent of people would prefer to purchase their new EV at a dealership, instead of online. The news outlet reports:

The dealership will remain a pivotal part of an EV intender’s shopping experience, according to the report. The survey finds 74 percent of respondents would prefer to buy an EV at a dealership, rather than from an auto manufacturer or third party.

Participants who own an EV, EV intenders and younger buyers are more likely to prefer purchasing directly from an automaker. However, a majority of each group still prefers buying from a dealership.

The study, which was carried out by the EVForward team at advisory firm Escalent, surveyed 1,289 people, of which just 88 were current EV owners.

4th Gear: Mazda Looks to Stop Production in Russia

Mazda has become the latest automaker to think about shutting up shop in Russia, following in the footsteps of Toyota and Nissan. Following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, automakers across the world closed dealerships and production sites across Russia. Now, it sounds like those moves may become permanent for the likes of Mazda, according to Nikkei Asia.

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Mazda currently operates a site in eastern Vladivostok with local carmaker Sollers. Under the deal, parts for Mazda cars are assembled at the plant, which reached an output of roughly 29,000 cars in 2021. Nikkei Asia reports:

Manufacturing had already been suspended, and Mazda is now considering a full exit. No decision has been made on ending sales or maintenance.

This comes following the announcement on Friday by Toyota that it is withdrawing from Russian operations. Exits from Russia by Japanese automakers and the ongoing shift to electric vehicles could spur a reorganization of auto parts production in Europe.

Mazda and Toyota join the likes of Ford, GM, VW, and Ferrari in ceasing their operations in Russia as the country continues its invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

5th Gear: Bollinger and Wabash Make EV Trucks

After announcing it was closing the order book on consumer EVs and making a pivot to commercial trucks, startup Bollinger Motors has found itself a new partner in the electric truck space. The Michigan-based startup has partnered with Wabash to make refrigerated electric trucks.

Bollinger announced the pivot to commercial vehicles earlier this year. Now, it will work with trailer and truck body manufacturer Wabash to create its first commercial trucks. Automotive News reports:

Wabash’s lightweight composite technology, called EcoNex Technology, will be combined with Bollinger’s electric chassis cab to create a Class 4 refrigerated truck. EcoNex reduces the amount of electricity needed to maintain cool temperatures, according to the statement.

According to Bollinger Motors founder, Robert Bollinger, the refrigerated EV will “act as last-mile transportation for consumer delivery.” A production timeline for the new truck’s rollout has not yet been given.

Reverse: It’s Called Radio

Neutral: What Could Save the Drop-Top?

I was pretty surprised to hear that convertibles are on the way out, because what’s more fun than driving ‘round with the wind in your hair?

If we’re saying their dwindling popularity is due to a shift to EVs and SUVs, that surely means there’s just one solution to protect them: build convertible, electric SUVs. A modern-day Murano Cross Cab, perhaps.