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Retractable Hardtops are Practically Enjoyable

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Retractable Hardtops are Practically Enjoyable Powered By Docstoc
					Convertibles give annoyances like road noise, and leaky roof. To counter these and
other annoyances, the auto industry thinks it has found the solution: the retractable
hardtop.

There were two mass-production retractable cars on the market and both were built by
Mercedes-Benz. And now, 10 models are being sold under nine nameplates, and for
sure, more could be on the way.

After decades as a bit more than a footnote in auto history, the retractable hardtop
became hot.

It is intended for people who want to blend the sun and fun of a convertible with the
amenity and security of a coupe. And the roof-retracting system — just one punch of a
button and the top slides into the trunk — attracts something that each automaker
craves: attention.

Lonnie Miller, the Director of Industry Analysis for Industry Researcher R.L. Polk &
Co., said that the retractable hardtops are showroom vehicles that really catch the
public's attention as the go ‘ohh and ahh'.

Before, convertibles were coifed in cloth or vinyl. They were cool to drive but not
practical. This was for the reason that they were basically part-time vehicles,
sometimes even in sunny conditions. Owners routinely left their cars unlocked rather
than face the cost of repairing sliced roofs.

Security still remained an issue despite the fact that engineering and insulation
reduced some problems. Only the extremely well-muscled hardtops had to be
removed manually.

If you enter a retractable, push a button. Observe that what appears to be a solid sheet
of auto-grade steel rears up and back, folds neatly into three or more sections and
disappears into the trunk.

Historically, according to Rick Deneau of Chrysler Group, convertibles have been
thought of almost as luxury cars because they are not supposed to be practical. But he
adheres to the thinking that it is not the case anymore today.

He continued that Focus group participants who shied away from traditional
convertibles found the new Sebring alluring. He said that the participants perceive it
as "more of a 365-day-a-year car that was both practical and fun to drive."

With the introduction of the costly Mercedes SLK, the recent run of hardtops started
in the late 1990s. As years pass by, they have become more affordable. The Pontiac
G6, Volkswagen Eos and Mazda Miata MX-5 including some Mazda accessories all
start below $30,000, and the Sebring has a base sticker price under $32,000.

Marna Wood bought a copper-red MX-5 in January. The 52-year old Highland, Calif.
resident and her husband have owned several Miatas, which are sold only in drop-top
versions. Even though it cost about $2,000 more than a comparably equipped soft top,
the MX-5's retractable roof was something new and appealing.

Wood said she liked the hardtop from the perspective that it is nice and easy to put up
and down, and one just need to push a button. She continued that the top up is more
quite than the soft top.

Moreover, she also appreciates that like other hardtop manufacturers, Mazda has
designed the car so that the retracting top does not eat up the entire available trunk
space, which is a common problem with older models. Mazda boasts that even with
the top down, the trunk can hold a big textile bag, two sets of golf clubs or a couple
cases of wine.

The ability to provide a reasonably sized trunk is another reason why retractable
hardtops are suddenly popular.

Despite the rebirth of convertibles, the style is not expected to win back the broad
popularity it enjoyed during the '50s and '60s, when automakers offered drop-top
versions of most of their lineup.

The more than 30 convertible models that are now being sold only account for about 2
percent of total U.S. new vehicle sales.

				
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posted:1/18/2011
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