Who will sell the first affordable hybrid convertible?

Who will sell the first affordable hybrid convertible?

The keyword here is ‘affordable.’ High-end luxury automakers like Fisker, Porsche, and BMW can certainly bring beautiful hybrids to the market, but I’m talking about a hybrid convertible for the everyday man or woman.

Earlier this year, I was having brunch with longtime friends and, me being their go-to auto gal, the conversation jumped to cars. A couple in the group asked me why there weren’t any hybrid convertibles on the market. They loved their Prius, but they also loved the idea of saving fuel while letting the wind blow through their hair.

I have to say that I was stumped by this question. I hadn’t really given the subject much thought. The only response I could logically provide was that, by nature, a convertible cancels out the effectiveness of a hybrid drive train (think aerodynamics). I supposed that driving with the top down on the highway in a hybrid convertible would yield similar fuel economy to regular convertibles.

Fisker's Karma S is one of the few hybrid convertibles on the market today. (Image sourced from treehugger.com)

Thanks to rising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, car manufacturers in the U.S. are in a race to list the highest MPG numbers on as many models as possible. What could they really tout if their hybrid convertible yielded the same results as older generation compact convertibles?

But that doesn’t change the fact that there are people out there hoping and waiting for a hybrid they can have as an affordable primary or secondary vehicle.

I mean, some of the popularly petite convertibles like the Saturn Sky or Pontiac Solstice could have been turned into hybrid success stories. (At least GM’s Aztek R&D dollars would have been better spent there.) What about the Toyota MR-2 Spyder and Honda S200? These were also vehicles that garnered anywhere between 25 and 32 miles to the gallon nearly a decade ago.

Would the weight of a hybrid drivetrain and the drag of having the top down cancel out the increased fuel efficiency?

I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Questions for thought…

  • What do you think about the future of hybrids?
  • Do you think a convertible would be a great option or should manufacturers go a different direction?
  • Would you buy a hybrid convertible?
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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 25 comments for this article
  1. KC Caebo at 12:21 PM

    I drive a convertible and have vowed never to buy another fixed top car again! I drive with the top down in the winter. I long for a hybrid. Getting better gas mileage would be the icing on an already wonderful cake!!!

  2. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 2:00 PM

    Thanks for sharing, KC. It’s interesting to hear stories of convertible lovers who also want to save more money on fuel.

  3. Court Demone at 7:03 PM

    I’d say it’s either going to be Toyota, because they’re already the makers of the most popular hybrid out there, or Honda, in an effort to get a better foot hold in the hybrid market.

  4. Ronni at 7:20 PM

    I drive a 10 year old Beetle convertible and I am waiting for a Hybrid convertible that’s affordable to replace it. I love my car and It won’t last forever! I hope somone sees the value of making one for those of us SoCal folks (and everyone else in the country) who just can’t return to a hard top! and soon!

  5. mike-s. at 11:24 AM

    Totally agree — was looking for a 4-seat, hard-top (Chicago winter!), hybrid convertible when I got my VW EoS back in ’08…didn’t exist then, and still doesn’t. My EoS gets about 22 MPG city, 30+ hwy. BMW, Volvo, even the old Pontiac G6 – were all like 17 city / 25 hwy. Uggh.

    Fiskar Karma S? ~(gameshow buzzing sound)~ 2 seats and $80K. Saab had a 9-3 hybrid concept out there 5 years ago…even that would be good, even if I had to go with a soft-top the trade-off might be worth it.

    Still waiting…sigh…

  6. Jeff at 3:23 PM

    I drive a 2010 BMW 328i hardtop convertible. I would LOVE a hybrid convertible, and have also wondered why there are non offered. I drive with the top down as often as possible, but I live in NJ, so the top is up probably 75% of the time. Even if the benefits of the hybrid were cancelled out when the top is down, it would only be for about 25% of the driving time per year. That’s still a major benefit. I know there are people with convertibles who drive with the top up more than I do because I notice them and wonder why, on a perfect day, they have the top up. I guess it’s a hair thing. I’m bald – no problem for me!

  7. Mary at 4:42 PM

    I love the idea of a hybrid convertible I have spent months looking for one but could never find it now I have to decide weather I want a hybrid or a convertible I would most definatley buy it if it was on the market.

  8. Padoum at 10:14 PM

    Why can’t the chevy volt make a convertible version, what is so difficult about it?

  9. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 11:45 AM

    The Volt is expensive enough as it is, costing roughly $40,000 before tax incentives. Manufacturers typically like to wait to see how a normal vehicle performs before introducing a convertible. It’s all about what the market commands. I don’t think we’ll see a convertible Volt, but I do think a hybrid ‘vert (that’s affordable) is just around the corner. I’m heading to the L.A. Auto Show this week – perhaps an automaker will reveal plans for a hybrid convertible that will actually make it into production. I’ll keep you posted!

  10. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 11:46 AM

    Thanks, Mary. I think it’s a great idea as well. Right now, hybrids are about 3% of the U.S. car market. I think that once hybrids reach a higher threshold, car manufacturers will be looking to expand hybrid offerings to include a convertible version.

  11. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 11:48 AM

    Jeff – Excellent point. I think there are so many drivers out there like you who enjoy a smaller vehicle, value fuel economy and would love to combine those two with a drop-top. Auto show season starts this week with L.A., so we will see if anyone offers something new for consumers like you! Cheers, Melanie.

  12. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 11:49 AM

    Thanks, Jay. Sadly, the CR-Z (a car I love the idea of) hasn’t made it to convertible status. But maybe soon! Would you buy a convertible CR-Z?

  13. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 12:19 PM

    Well, it’s still up in the air. We’ll see if the 2013 auto show season brings about anything interesting and affordable! Anything on the market currently catch your eye?

  14. Michael at 1:05 PM

    I would love to have a hybrid hardtop convertible! I have passed this info up the line to Volvo (their C70 hardtop is nice), Toyota, and Honda. Let’s get a bunch of us pushing for hardtop hybrid convertibles that are affordable

  15. desi at 3:10 AM

    I got myself a Toyota Solara Convertible. Gosh, I loved it so much! Living in San Diego, CA makes this car perfect to drive top-down every single day. It is a head turner. But I longed for a hybrid version of this car desperately– since the gas prices now and in the future seemed not going anywhere. Affordable Toyota, Honda, Nissan or Ford hybrid with hard top convertible will be an answer to my prayer!!!

  16. Geoff Burns at 5:34 PM

    I drive my second Saab 9-3 convertible in the UK. The first, a 2006 1.9 TiD with Hirsch upgrade to 175bhp, gave approx 42 UKmpg over 85000 miles. I changed to a 2010 1.9 TTiD, with Hirsch upgrade to 200bhp, and get approx 45 UK mpg over 74000 miles so far.
    I would like to buy a Mercedes E300 Hybrid Convertible- if you will allow that this would be ‘affordable’ purchased secondhand. The batteries & motors are low enough mounted to fit such a vehicle, they manufacture an estate already, unlike the BMW ActiveHybrid system, and I like the idea of 204bhp/ 65.7mpg, although this will probably be 50-55UKmpg in the real world.

  17. Rob at 7:39 PM

    I drive a 2007 Prius and love getting 40-45mpg. I also ride a Ducati ST3 motorcycle, but am getting a bit too long in the tooth for riding a motorcycle, and am considering trading both toward a hybrid convertible if anyone ever has the kahones to make one. But sadly year after year we just read stories and see renderings of concept cars. The real world offerings are the same old same old. I’m wondering why the Volt is selling for $40k base.

  18. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 12:49 PM

    That’s a great question, Rob. As we edge back into Auto Show season, I’m sure that we’ll get another glimpse at a hybrid convertible to-be. Right now, though, electrification is everyone’s focus. Between that and autonomous vehicles/V2V and V2I communication, our quest for the first hybrid convertible could get lost in the shuffle. -Melanie

  19. Dean Krause at 4:35 PM

    It is limited thinking that prevents convertible hybrids from making the market. I’ve been a fan of convertibles for decades. The thinking of manufacturers and consumers alike tends towards this: if you want a convertible, then you want all out luxury, you don’t care about practicality or economy. Wrong. I have always wanted a sporty, good quality convertible, that is also practical. Nearly all convertibles now come equipped with enormous engines and a long list of luxuries…and almost always an automatic transmission. Like a Miata or Mini with an auto is just odd. And what is the deal with black interiors? Really? Ever sit on black leather that has been out in the sun?

  20. SarasotaLarry at 3:28 PM

    I live in Sarasota and drive a beautiful 2002 Mustang GT convertible with the top down 85%+ of the time. Being retired and on a fixed income, I’d love to have an all electric or hybrid convertible. There is simply nothing like the feeling of freedom experienced in driving a convertible.

  21. fredly at 5:50 PM

    I have a 15 year old Miata convertible which gets easily 35 mpg. My other practical car is a Toyota Prius C which gets 55-65 mpg. They’re both wonderful cars. Living on the California coast, the Miata top is always down. If Toyota makes a Prius C convertible I’ll order one sight unseen.