Vauxhall believes the new Astra convertible, on sale later this month, will provide the excitement to draw more potential customers to its dealers' showrooms. Year-to-date, registrations have slipped 7% on 2000.
Andrew Cullis, Astra product manager, said: “The Astra convertible creates the right image, like the VX220, which is important for Vauxhall because it helps people to think of us in a different way.
“It will hopefully encourage more people to go down to their local dealership to look at the full model range. “Dealers need good news and we believe this car will enthuse the sales team.”
The convertible, the first in the compact sector to offer a remote control hood, is the seventh, and final, Astra derivative.
Built under contract by Bertone in Italy, it comes with a choice of two engines: 1.8-litre (priced £17,495) and 2.2-litre (£18,995). Later this year, Vauxhall will add a 1.6 16v (priced below £17,000) and 2.2 automatic.
The 1.8 and 2.2 engines will take 40% of sales apiece, with the 1.6 taking 20%. The automatic, which says Vauxhall is more popular in the convertible sector, will take 25% of the 2.2 sales.
Vauxhall anticipates 1,000 sales this year and 1,500 next (the company claims to have already taken 200 orders). The previous model sold 800 units in its best year, but was let down by a limited engine range and poor choice of colour/interior options.
“We believe the compact convertible sector is ripe for growth,” said Mr Cullis.
“The UK is Europe's second largest market for convertibles, accounting for almost 20% of the 240,000 registrations last year. Compacts take a 12% share.”
Convertible buyers are typically four years younger than the average car buyer, falling into the 25-45 age bracket. Women dominate, and are expected to take 60% of sales, with 70% going to retail buyers.
“The convertible is a personal lifestyle choice. People buy one simply because they want one. They are unlikely to be the only cars in the household,” said Mr Cullis.