C7 Corvette production will officially come to an end in the middle of next week and the Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant will shut down for two weeks to convert the assembly line over to C8 production. Once the plant reopens, it will only be open for two weeks in order to train the new UAW workers to build the next generation Corvette.
I have to say, it’s interesting to read all of the speculation in forums and media about when these events will be taking place; all based upon poor assumption. I’ve read comments that the assembly plant will be shut down for a month…and the latest: 2020 Corvette production pushed back to February due to the UAW strike, etc.
Remember, the Bowling Green Corvette Assembly line shutdown for almost four months during the summer of 2017 in order to completely revamp and update the assembly line. As we reported in our article: Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant to Re-Open November 6:
“Over the summer, the Corvette assembly line was completely dismantled and rebuilt in order to improve efficiency, flexibility and re-route the Corvette’s body panels through the new paint shop that is at the opposite side of the building from the old paint shop.
The new assembly line will rely heavily on automated guided carriers that will follow strips of magnetic tape attached to the floor of the assembly line. The tape can easily be pulled up and re-routed in order to quickly modify the assembly line route.”
It used to take nearly a month to revamp the assembly line between generational changes, but that is no longer the case.
However, the 2020 Corvettes that will be built in December and into January will be assembly line validation vehicles. These Corvettes will not be saleable to the public and will be driven by GM employees only, in order to QC and validate the new assembly line process.
Some dealers were able to place orders back in September prior to the UAW strike, however orders will not start being accepted again until December. Once the ordering process begins, orders for all colors and trim combinations will be accepted.
Dealers will receive one consensus cycle with two dates where orders can be placed in GM’s system. When those dates occur in December is anyone’s guess. It could be the first and last week of December or the 1st and 3rd week of December, or any combination that GM chooses.
Initial orders placed for 2020 Corvettes back in September are showing a Targeted Production Week (TPW) date of Monday, February 3rd. As is usually the case with the start of a new generation of Corvette, the first batch of Corvettes off the line will most likely be held at the Assembly Plant for additional QC evaluation for at least two weeks. This means, that dealerships will most likely not start receiving shipments until mid-March to early April.
Once production ramps up, the Bowling Green Corvette Assembly Plant will be building 250 Corvettes per day.
Additional Challenges of Shipping the C8 Corvette
With the C7 Corvette – Jack Cooper was able to load 11 Corvette Stingrays on to one car carrier, and 10 Z06s or ZR1s on one car carrier. However due to the 50+ lbs of additional weight in each 2020 Corvette Stingray – they will only be able to transport 10 Stingrays per carrier. From what we’ve been told, “…and even that’s pushing it…”
In August of this year, Jack Cooper Transport filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At that time, the company stated that the bankruptcy would not have any effect on Corvette shipments, and that remains to be true. The bankruptcy is over, and Jack Cooper now has plenty of money again.
Because of the increased production of 250 Corvettes per day coming just around the corner, Jack Cooper will be hiring an additional 35 drivers as well as purchasing additional carriers to handle the increase in production.
What’s interesting is that, while GM still has a contract with Jack Cooper Transport to transport Corvettes from Bowling Green, GM is now under no obligation to grant Corvette transport solely to Jack Cooper. They can now look to non-union transport companies for Corvette transportation to dealers which is what they did at the Spring Hill Assembly Plant in Tennessee.
Spring Hill Assembly ended their contract with Jack Cooper and relies solely on non-union drivers.
The challenge for Jack Cooper will be in finding the 35 additional drivers. Because of the delicate nature of transporting Corvettes, and the high incident reports of damage due to transport and associated cost in the past, a lot of drivers don’t want to transport Corvettes.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out as production starts to ramp up in late January.