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Is America ready for a soft-top crossover?

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

Americans have long had a love affair with convertibles, and many automakers sell them as niche products to provide a bit of glamour to their car lineups. Nissan is going to see if they can bring that convertible magic to the crossover SUV market. The company is planning to release a soft-top version of its Murano crossover, according to a report in the Automotive News.

Nissan plans to make a convertible version of the Murano

Nissan plans to make a convertible version of the Murano.

Unfortunately, it might be kinda ugly:

One Nissan retailer, who asked not to be identified, commented that the design is "kind of unusual." He added: "It actually looks better with the top down than up."

Brian Carolin, Nissan North America Inc.'s senior vice president for sales and marketing, said the convertible is intended as an image vehicle for the Nissan brand.

"It's not going to be a volume car," Carolin said. "But there's a degree of bravery for us to bring out a car like that right now. It will surprise a lot of people."

Still, convertible SUVs are far from unprecedented. The long-lived Jeep Wrangler as well as the now-defunct Geo Tracker, Suzuki Samurai and a whole host of other convertible SUVs have at one time or another graced American roads.

But I have a hard time imagining the Murano as a convertible. It's a big, bulky vehicle with rounded edges that may not translate well to the convertible form. And when a dealer calls a design "unusual," that's usually a sign of trouble.

However, if the Murano convertible does well, other automakers will likely follow. With so many new crossovers in automakers' lineups, finding a way to differentiate them is high on automakers' lists.

What do you think? Is a convertible crossover SUV a good idea? Or should car companies stick with coupes and sedans?

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