In what can only be called a daring move on VW’s part, it began production today of the 2020 T-Roc Cabriolet. Why so daring you ask? Because it’s a convertible crossover and the last two that tried this were dismal failures. But we love oddball attempts like this so we’ll fill you in on the details. First some history.
No one ever thought of turning an SUV crossover into a convertible until Carlos Ghosn, the former CEO of Nissan, pushed the idea a few years ago. In spite of the obvious lack of demand for such a freak, Nissan brass acquiesced and the Murano CrossCabriolet became an experiment more than a product in 2011.
Nissan’s similar most daring move
If it was only a matter of whacking off the top and fashioning a convertible replacement it would have been OK. But, the Murano is a five-door crossover. It needed to be converted into a two-door before the whole convertible conversion could commence. That’s some costly tooling.
With costly development comes a more lofty price. At almost $45,000 the CrossCabriolet became not only quirky but expensive-quirky. That’s where you lose a lot of potential customers whose enthusiasm for such “different” transportation evaporates. For about the same price you could slip into a new Porsche Boxster or 3-series BMW convertible. We hate to ask but why would you consider driving around in a convertible clown car when you could slide into these?
Inevitably, the CrossCabriolet didn’t do well. In 2011 Nissan sold only 1,159 CrossCabriolets. Not good. In 2012 things looked much brighter, but only within the CrossCabriolet Kool-Aid. It sold 3,278 units. At least Nissan could say it did better in 2013 than the first year of production. It sold 1,332 of the crossover curiosities. When the new Murano came out for 2015, the Crosscabriolet was not on the production list.
Just when daring moves might be over, the Evoque convertible appears
But just when you thought you saw the end of any SUV cabriolets ever, along comes the Range Rover Evoque convertible. Yes, unbelievably, Range Rover jumped in just a bit after Nissan bailed out. There was plenty of time for RR to evaluate the market by looking at the CrossCabriolet.
In spite of these dismal numbers, the Evoque convertible bowed in 2017. And, if you thought the CrossCab was pricey, sit down. The Evoque ‘vert base price was $53,000. With things like heated seats, nav, and blind-spot monitoring, the price was almost $65,000. It could easily top $70,000 with the cold climate package and satellite radio. Don’t forget, this is with a 240 hp four-banger. This is the only way it came.
With the redesigned Evoque for 2019, the convertible is nowhere on the price list. So, this latest experiment in open-top sport utility bliss lasted for two model years. And just like with the Crosscab and Evoque, as one exits the automotive landscape another takes its place. So now we have the VW T-Roc Cabriolet.
“From rational side, you would never go into the cabriolet market”
“The sales momentum for convertibles is over,” says Jurgen Stackmann, VW brand marketing head. He told Autocar, “The opportunity to combine what people really want now, a C-UV (C-segment utility vehicle) with a cabriolet that has a longstanding tradition in the Volkswagen brand was a great opportunity. From a rational side, you would never go into the cabriolet market.” Even he can see this is sketch.
Engine options will be a 1.0-liter turbo three-cylinder with six-speed manual trans, and 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder which can be ordered with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. With 17- and 19-inch wheels, next-gen VW infotainment system, and top only in black will this one be a sales hit? We’ll have to wait and see.
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