Mazda Motors UK (MMUK) has conceded that this coming November is not the best time to launch its new, third generation two-seater MX-5 convertible.

Newly appointed sales director Jeremy Thomson admitted that November - when daytime temperatures even in the south of England might reach 10C (50F) tops - was not the best time to introduce the new soft top but noted that, with rivals like the MG TF gone and competitors in the sector selling only in low volume, there was no point in waiting for spring.

"We will have a soft launch to start with and the major push will come in spring 2006," he said.

To be fair, a number of other popular convertibles such as Renault's glass roof Megane  Coupe-Cabriolet have been launched in the UK in late autumn (the delay due mainly to right hand drive production start-up scheduling) yet gone on to sell well.

Thomson said that would-be buyers who can't wait that long are currenty queuing up on MMUK's pre-launch website to place their orders. How many exactly? Several hundred, so far.

The site went live on Monday (August 1) allowing potential MX-5 buyers to order any model in the new line-up online.

In addition, members of the UK MX-5 Owners' Club have had exclusive access to a special launch edition available online since July 4.

Thomson claimed that there was so much interest in the redesigned model in its first month of availability, that new members joined the owners' club just so that they could start place orders for the special launch version.

Also from July 4, dealers were able to place orders on behalf of customers, provided an owner's club membership number was provided - and that was independently checked by MMUK before the order was accepted.

The launch Special Edition is based on the Sport model "but with lots of extras and red leather trim," according to Thomson.

It costs £19,995 ordered in advance, accompanied by a "sensible" deposit, typically £1,000.

All this is part of a global pre-launch promotion involving MX-5 Owners' Clubs, Thomson said. A total of 3,500 so-called Launch Edition cars will be available worldwide. The UK is getting 300, individually numbered 1-300.

MMUK is offering five MX-5 model variants priced from £15,600 for the 1.8i to £18,900 for the 2.0i Sport.

"We want to maintain the MX-5's position as the affordable roadster," said Thomson.

"We have 55,000 MX-5 owners in the UK who we want to keep and get them to move onto the third generation of one of the world's most iconic sports cars."

The third generation MX-5 keeps the previous generations' simple, manually-operated roof design (it can be lowered with one hand from the driver's seat) but is bigger outside and roomier inside, with more cabin storage space. It is also more powerful, model for model.

"We think all these factors will broaden its appeal," Thomson said.

The outgoing second generation MX-5 sold 9,000 units in the UK during its best year and volume averaged around 7,000 annually in a circa-two million unit total passenger car market.

MMUK is expecting similar volumes for the new version, and hopes to top 10,000 in the line's first full year.

"There are no supply problems at all - we can get all derivatives in all colours and all specifications," Thomson added.