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More and more drivers feel need to go topless; MOTORS.

AN increasing number of motorists are daring to go topless, fuelled by the innovative new generation of folding metal roofs.

Experts at Glass's Guide, the company that predicts used car values, report that sales have more than doubled in under five years.

In 2001 sales of all new convertibles represented 2.4 per cent of the total UK new car market but by last month this figure had climbed to 5.2 per cent.

One aspect of the increase in cars with folding hard-tops, known as coupe- cabriolets is that sales are slowly becoming less concentrated around the summer months.

Adrian Rushmore, managing editor at EurotaxGlass's, said: "For conventional soft-tops such as the BMW 3 Series Convertible, Audi A4 Cabriolet and Mazda MX-5, March remains the key selling month, with the last three months of the year the quietest.

"However, while March is still the high point in coupe-cabriolet retail activity, these cars are widely perceived as more of an 'all-weather' choice so registrations are more evenly spread throughout the year."

Despite the inevitable increase in availability of convertibles now entering the used car market, there is no evidence of any weakening in residual values relative to other sectors.

The average volume-brand convertible holds on to 52 per cent of its original list price after three years and 36,000 miles, compared to 59 per cent for a premium brand convertible. This compares with 45 per cent retained value for the average used car across the market as a whole.

While all three figures are down compared to this point last year, the relative differences between the three categories are unchanged, demonstrating the continued strength of convertibles in the used market. However, the residual values of coupe-cabriolets are beginning to outperform those of conventional soft-tops.

Mr Rushmore adds: "Over the next two years we expect to see values of three-year-old soft tops from the volume brands lose ground to the coupe- cabriolets.

"Mainstream coupe-convertibles such as the Peugeot 307, Renault Megane CC and Vauxhall Tigra are likely to appear in ever-increasing numbers and should achieve higher residual values than soft-top alternatives.

"The convertible car market still has a lot of potential in terms of expanding new sales and there will remain a ready market for used examples."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 29, 2005

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