Market Snapshot


As summer approaches, consumers are buying vehicles that reflect their outdoor-loving lifestyles, and the purchase of convertible SUVs is growing in popularity among many of these drivers. SEMA-member Newport Convertible Engineering, a Placentia, California-based custom shop, has been taking the tops off of new FJ Cruisers and Hummer H3s for its customers for some time now, which the company says is a growing trend.

They make convertibles out of luxury and non-luxury and SUVs for one reason: “There is a tremendous growing demand for SUV convertibles much like when we introduced our sedan convertible at the time,” comments Matthew Kahnamelli of Newport Convertible Engineering.

Some of the sedans for which the company transforms into convertible include the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300 and Cadillac CTS. But Kahnamelli notes that although his company has been making convertibles out of Ford Expedition and Range Rovers SUVs over the past few years, since the introduction of the FJ and H3, “the convertible market for these vehicles has gone through the roof,” he says. The company proudly displayed one of its FJ Cruiser convertibles at the 2006 SEMA Show, as shown in the picture below.

The H3 shown above also shows how Newport Convertible Engineering is making its customers the unique custom SUVs they want in order to differentiate themselves from others on the road. Kahnamelli indicates that typical customers for convertible SUVs are affluent individuals, from doctors to businesswomen, who want the functionality of an SUV with the fun of a convertible.

The convertible tops on these SUVs are hydraulically actuated with the latch closed by hand at the windshield header. Structural rigidity is maintained with some enhancements that increase the stiffness of the SUVs. Because Newport Convertible Engineering incorporates welded-in reinforcement around the window frames and behind the back seats, as well as roll hoops welded into all the right places, every vehicle sold comes with its original warranty intact, as well as an additional three-year warranty on the convertible top.

The dealer cost for a conversion is about $10,000 for the FJ Cruiser and $19,000 for the Hummer H3, and the company says that consumers are continuing to pay this in order to get a topless SUV that is unlike most others on the road.

Source: SEMA Research & Information Center