Blame Brexit: The Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet Is Sunk, Likely Never to Rise Again

If it’s not Obama’s fault, then it’s probably Brexit’s.

Volkswagen’s sixth-generation Golf is destined to mark the end of the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet run. The Mk7 Golf didn’t spawn a droptop variant and the United Kingdom’s shrinking car market has reportedly caused Volkswagen to cease development of the eighth-generation Golf’s cabriolet.

Of course, Volkswagen hasn’t sold a topless Golf in the United States since the 2002 model year, when an Mk3 Golf essentially wore the Mk4 Golf’s face. That’s a 15-year gap for topdown Golf motoring, a timespan which saw Golf Cabriolets disappear in other markets, as well. But five years after launching the Volkswagen Eos — a Golf-related convertible with a power retractable hardtop — Volkswagen brought the Golf Cabriolet back from the grave for the Mk6 generation. There was even a GTI.

With the Eos’s death, it appeared likely that the Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet would be redeveloped yet again. But with a soft UK car market — a bizarrely convertible-hungry market, by the by — since Britons voted to sever ties with the European Union, Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess told Autocar, “We wanted to do a convertible now, but with the relatively weak UK market and the uncertainty about what will happen, we had to think against it.”

So, Beetle Convertible it is.

British auto sales have now declined in five consecutive months, according to the SMMT. Through the first two-thirds of 2017, UK volume is down 2 percent following record volume in 2016. But analysts don’t predict a particularly healthy UK market for the foreseeable future, as diesel-powered vehicles are suffering from rapidly shrinking demand and uncertainty surrounding Brexit is only growing. Suppliers are concerned. Automakers are troubled. Buyers don’t know what’s next.

For niche segment cas such as the potential Mk8 Golf Cabriolet, there are just too many unknowns to proceed with development. The United Kingdom is an inordinately large convertible market, lapping up more topless vehicles than all of Europe’s sunny climes. In Europe, only the significantly larger German market buys more convertibles than the UK, which, let’s face it, isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you say, “Fun in the sun.” Combined, Germany and the UK account for roughly three-quarters of Europe’s convertible volume.

According to IHS Automotive, global convertible volume peaked in 2004, but as the market for convertibles shrinks, it does so especially for volume brand convertibles. In 2004, more than half the convertibles sold around the world were sold by mass market brands. But by 2015, that figure fell to just a third.

“We expect to see the premium brands continue to grow within the convertible market,” IHS’s Tim Urquhart forecasted a couple of years ago, “while mass-market OEMs that were not as successful with convertibles in previous years instead concentrate their resources toward popular and, in some cases, more practical, SUVs and crossovers.”

Sound familiar? Volkswagen is pulling resources out of the shrinking convertible market on its quest to generating 40 percent of its volume with, that’s right, SUVs and crossovers. That means no Mk8 Golf Cabriolet, even if there is no Eos with which it must compete for showroom space, and a burgeoning utility vehicle lineup instead. Atlas, new Tiguan, America’s long-wheelbase Tiguan, the old Tiguan lingering as the Tiguan Limited, the T-Roc, something America can have instead of the T-Roc. And more.

To be fair, Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess wouldn’t outright confirm that the cancelled cabrio was the next-gen Golf’s droptop variant. But given Volkswagen’s unwillingness to forge ahead with the Golf Cabriolet in the past, it’s all but certain the company will avoid doing so in the future.

In the United States, Volkwagen of America has reported one sale of a discontinued Eos and a 29-percent year-over-year increase to 5,132 Beetle Convertible sales.

[Image: Volkswagen]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.


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