We’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t end well. Recent history tells us that in spite of automakers’ best intentions nobody wants a convertible crossover. Well, a few do, but not enough to staunch massive losses in developing these unicorns. So along comes troubled Fiat which decides it’s doing the unthinkable by producing a convertible 500X crossover.
We saw this move first with Nissan’s Murano CrossCabriolet convertible
We saw this move first with Nissan and its Murano CrossCabriolet in 2012. Then Land Rover came along with the Range Rover Evoque Convertible in 2017. And finally, the VW T-Roc Cabriolet in late 2019, which as far as we know is still with us.
As ridiculous and ridiculous-looking these are-especially the CrossCabriolet, we give them props for doing it with a two-door base. The Evoque and T-Roc ‘verts were based on existing drop-tops so development was less capital-intensive. But, Nissan’s CrossCabriolet required new quarter and door tooling to make it a two-door.
We can’t even imagine how much Nissan lost on this folly. It never sold what it hoped to sell in its first year over the entire three-year course of its run. And let’s be honest, these things are just silly looking.
Fiat will produce a convertible 500x keeping it in its original four-door configuration
Still, Fiat will produce a convertible version of its 500x while keeping it in its original four-door configuration. You can count the open four-doors ever produced on one hand. Once the initial run of them crapped out in the early 1940s, only two come to mind. There was the ill-fated Frazer Manhattan Convertibles built from 1949-1951, and the more familiar Lincoln Continental Convertible built from 1961 through 1967.
A little over 2,000 convertibles found homes in the last year of Lincoln Convertible production. The 1951 production figures for the Frazer amounted to 131. It was said that Frazer never recouped their development money to engineer a convertible with only 131 built that year. And it was based on the Kaiser-Frazer four-door sedan.
Back to the Fiat, it will begin production later this year of the convertible 500x. Retaining its four-door origins, it will incorporate a built-in roll-bar within the canvas top. It is still unknown whether we’ll see it here in the US.
We would expect dealers would take on any new model, even a ridiculous convertible 500x
Fiat dropped the 124 Spider and 500L hatchback last year. So Fiat dealers are down to one or two models to sell. We would expect they would take on any new model, even as ridiculous as a convertible 500x. Not only are they up the creek without a paddle but the Alfa Romeo arm of these franchises is down to one or two models as well.
With convertibles being the bane of the crossover world this just seems like a moonshot out of desperation. But maybe with the new Bronco able to convert to open-air nirvana, something Jeep has offered from day one, it will goose sales of other convertible products. For Fiat’s sake let’s hope so.