British buy the most soft-top cars - despite the weather

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The Independent Online

Despite the weather, British motorists are far more likely to drive convertible cars than their Continental counterparts. Sales of soft-top vehicles in Britain, which are now at about 60,000 a year, are twice as high as in Italy and 10 times higher than in Spain.

Despite the weather, British motorists are far more likely to drive convertible cars than their Continental counterparts. Sales of soft-top vehicles in Britain, which are now at about 60,000 a year, are twice as high as in Italy and 10 times higher than in Spain.

Whereas Britons have to make do with an average of 51 days of sunshine each year, the Italians and Spanish enjoy nearly 140 days.

Only German motorists buy more convertible cars than Britons, with sales exceeding 120,000 a year. Sales of soft tops in Germany, however, make up just 2.3 per cent of the total sales, compared with 4 per cent in Britain.

Guy Fielding, an Oxford psychologist who analysed the motives of those who bought convertibles, said: "In the UK, sunshine is a rare commodity - something that we are obsessed about - and we will go to great lengths to take advantage of every little ray, such as buying a convertible car.

Dr Fielding added: "For many people, there is a strong association between being in the open air, being exposed to sunshine and being on holiday. Driving soft tops plugs directly into this, helping individuals to create a more relaxed and less stressed state just as if they were on holiday."

Catherine Alty, a senior manager at the car insurance firm Privilege, said that there had been a 15 per cent growth in the part of the company's business that deals with convertibles, from 2001 and 2002. She said: "It just goes to show that Britons' love of convertibles isn't dampened by the British weather."

However, the AA pointed out that it can be more expensive to insure a convertible because they cost more, they are easier to break into, they tend to be more "appealing" to thieves and they are not as safe as ordinary saloon cars when they are involved in accidents.

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