by Robert Loszewski
© February 2013
No use without permission, All Rights Reserved
Since 2005, the economy really began to suffer in terms of the stock market, the housing market, and a drastically increasing national debt due in part to funding two major wars on terrorism. During this time period, GM was not immune to all of this. The company declared bankruptcy and began an extensive re-organization in order to position itself for future profitability once again. That re-organization included everything from re-negotiating UAW contracts to shuttering production lines and killing a brand (Pontiac). When a company like General Motors declares bankruptcy, it's really difficult to try and justify a business case for a niche vehicle like the Corvette that's only selling, on average, 12,500 units per year between 2010 to 2012. That's one of the reasons why the C7 project was on again, off again so many times. When the U.S. Treasury Department was going over GM's books during the bankruptcy, luckily there were a few Corvette enthusiasts there that green-lighted the C7 project.
Corvette's Chief Engineer, Tadge Juechter recently told Road and Track magazine that they have to convince younger people that the Corvette is a special car. He stated that if GM can double Corvette sales from where they are today, the car will become profitable once again and the Corvette will continue to live on.
The majority of new Corvette owners are in their mid-40s to 50s with an average annual income of $100,000+. This particular section of the population tends to hang out more on the conservative side of things. Once you reach this particular age group, you start to become a little more resistant to change while having a little more difficulty relating to younger generations. So how do you inject new life into a product like the Corvette in order to attract new, younger buyers without upsetting the majority of your current customers and watering down the marque? Very carefully, and GM has succeeded in doing just that with the C7!
In running through the interviews we conducted with various GM personnel at the NAIAS, it's easy to see that they all recognized what needed to be done to bring a new, exciting Corvette to the masses. They recongnized the deficiencies in the current platform, and did a fantastic job at addressing the criticisms of the automotive media.
The other thing that was enlightening and refreshing to me was to hear the amount of enthusiasm they have for the Corvette and how all the different groups came together, from engineering to manufacturing, to present one of the most exciting Corvettes we've seen in decades. The level of passion and dedication for the Corvette from within GM's own walls was really awesome to witness first-hand.
As for when we'll start to see the first production-built 2014s show up in dealer showrooms? Probably mid to late August, but that's an assumption on our part. GM hasn't released official production dates at the time of this writing, and dealer allocations will not be finalized until April or May of this year. The dealers that will be receiving allocations are based upon their volume of Corvette sales in 2012. Corvette dealerships that sold a large number of Corvettes last year, will receive priority during the first six to nine months of production. The Corvette Action Center has learned that as low as 25% of all Chevrolet dealers met the necessary sales requirements last year. After the initial six to nine month period, all Chevrolet dealerships will be able to have at least one 2014 Corvette.
Considering GM's desire to increase Corvette sales and attract younger buyers to the marque, I found it odd that initial allocations were being limited so drastically. I asked Monte Doran of Chevrolet Communications why this was the case. "Simply put, allocation for the 2014 Corvette was prioritized by how many Corvettes dealers sold in 2012. This is intended to put Corvettes where there's the most customer demand, and the best dealers to meet the needs of those customers" he said.
While I sort of understand the rationale behind this, I can't help but feel like the C7 needs to make a huge, immediate impact. Get the car physically out there in front of potential customers. The best way to do this is to get at least one saleable C7 into as many Chevrolet dealers as possible. The Corvette has been given a shot in the arm, taken off life-support and given the opportunity to breathe on its own once again. The marketing of the car needs to be given that same shot of adrenaline. For now, we'll have to be content with seeing the car on the web and in magazines.
I think it's safe to say that with the new, aggressive design, integrated race car technology, a sumptuous, high quality interior, and an incredible Gen V engine yielding Z06-like feel and performance, GM has an absolute winner on their hands. Personally, I'm excited about this new generation of Corvette and can't wait to be given the opportunity to sample it for myself.
So....to all of you Dodge/SRT Viper, Porsche, Audi, BMW and Ferrari owners out there that may be reading this article, I highly suggest you keep a very close eye on your rear-view mirrors. Something wicked this way comes!
General Motors: First and foremost, I want to thank General Motors for inviting me out to Detroit last month to attend the official unveiling of the C7. For me, this was an opportunity of a lifetime and something I always dreamed about.
I started the Corvette Action Center in 2000 and it began as just as simple, 5-page web site that was a project for a web development class I was taking at the time. The amount of response I received from the professor of the class and my peers was encouraging. As a result, I decided to build upon it and shape it into a valuable resource for Corvette owners and enthusiasts. Over the years, I've invested an enormous amount of blood, sweat and tears into the site. It's been a lot of work, but the love and passion I have for Corvette has always fueled my fire.
When GM called me in early December and invited me out to Detroit to see the official unveiling of the C7 and attend the NAIAS, I was completely humbled, and gladly accepted. It gave me the opportunity to acquire valuable information on this new Corvette and provide enlightening insight into the men and women responsible for building an incredible automobile that has excited millions of people for over 60 years.
Interviewees and Corvette Personnel — Alicia Boler-Davis, Helen Emsley, Tom Peters, Kirk Bennion, Ryan Vaughn, Jordan Lee, Harlan Charles, Josh Holder, Tadge Juechter, and Mark Reuss: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with us and share your insight and experiences on this exciting, new Corvette!
Lisa Gilpin, and the staff at Weber Shandwick: Lisa was my point of contact at the NAIAS and an invaluable resource while I was there. She was incredibly instrumental in coordinating meetings and interviews and getting all of us in the media group where we needed to be at the appropriate time. Lisa was also incredibly helpful in channeling some of my questions to the proper people within GM so that I could acquire some of the information I needed for this article. So, thank you Lisa and keep up the great work!!!
Dan Adovasio and Jake Drennon from the C5/C6 Registry: Thank you for letting me join you on interviews and it was an honor to finally meet you guys!
Hib Halverson, Technical Writer for Internet & Print Media: Hib was an invaluable resource in helping to answer my questions about the necessary hardware required to conduct interviews and acquire the content I needed to build this article. Thanks dude!!
Last but definitely not least, thank you to all of the members of the Corvette Action Center and my forum staff that helps me run the forums on a daily basis. You guys help to keep me going during those times of exhaustion and self-doubt.