TO THE EDITOR:
There are a number of misconceptions about soft-top convertibles, and their safety compared with fixed-roof (or hardtop) counterparts is top among them. I've commented on our enthusiasm for convertibles in Automotive News in the past, and when the Highway Loss Data Institute published its "Convertibles versus Coupes" study in April, we were very pleased to see the data showing both crash rates and driver death rates were lower for convertibles than for nonconvertible versions of the same cars.
Modern convertibles include reinforcements to the body and A-, B- and C-pillars for increased rigidity. According to the institute, these structural differences help compensate for the lack of a fixed roof. Roll bars also help protect occupants in a rollover accident, although my experience is that the fixed-in-place ones are inconvenient.
Considering the structural differences between convertibles and their fixed-roof progenitors, the similarity between data in the study is remarkable and a testimony to the careful work of the design engineers. Kudos to every one of you!
While we cannot draw the same inference with respect to open-air SUVs, here is hoping that the same correlation proves true.
ERIC HAARTZ, CEO, Haartz Corp., Acton, Mass., Haartz Corp. manufactures soft-top convertible material to automakers and Tier 1 suppliers.