Why Chevy Is Radically Changing The Corvette


The Corvette is widely regarded
as America’s sports car. The Chevrolet Corvette has been in production
since 1953, making it one of the longest running production
vehicles in history. Of course, it’s also one that
has occasionally risked the axe, especially in times of stress for
Chevrolet parent General Motors. In spite of that, the car has endured
and it is about to undergo its biggest change in history. The Corvette is becoming a mid-engine sports car
and it is one of a small number of mid-engine sports cars that can
be bought for less than six figures. GM President Mark Reuss told the crowd
at the Corvettes unveiling that the car would start at less than 60
thousand dollars and gasps could be heard from the audience to
understand what this means. It is important to take
a look at Corvette’s history. The first Corvette was designed
by legendary General Motors designer Harley Earl. Earl saw that American soldiers returning
from Europe after World War 2 had gone crazy for European sports cars,
and he wanted to create an American competitor. GM built 300 of the first Corvettes
in 1953, while the initial Corvette was a virtual masterpiece
of automotive design. The car’s performance was mediocre. GM engineers had put the car together
from materials the company had on hand. Its six-cylinder engine lacked the
horsepower needed to match the car’s sleek looks. The first Corvette sold poorly and was
being outsold several times over by competitors such as
the Ford Thunderbird. Just a few years after its creation,
the Corvette was already in danger of being discontinued. But the car had caught the attention
of a Russian born Belgian immigrant engineer and race car driver named Zora
Arkus-Duntov, who soon got a job with GM and became the
Corvettes first chief engineer. Arkus-Duntov is credited with pushing
for a sportier, higher performing Corvette. Over time, the car grew a
reputation as a working man’s answer to high end Italian and German supercars
and developed a proud and devoted following apart from its lower price. It also, over time, became known for
keeping its engine in the front of the car. Like many conventional cars. But the performance and handling of
a mirror engine layout is often favored among makers of super cars
and high end sports cars. Arkus-Duntov had pressed his bosses to make a
mid-engine Corvette, and for years the company experimented with designs. You know, creating a car with the
drive train centralized in the middle of the vehicle helps
centralize the mass. When you do that, you end up with
more equal weight between the front and rear axles and on the front tires. Essentially, that makes the car more
stable, even at higher speeds and even around sharper corners,
braking and acceleration. Everything you’re doing in the car especially
is a performance car is more stable, more balanced when you have
mass centralised engine design over time. Chevrolet developed several different iterations
of what was called the Chevrolet Experimental Research
Vehicle or CERV. These cars were outfitted with
mid-engine configurations too, some of which Arkus-Duntov himself held patents, but
none of the designs ever made it to production, even as high
end performance vehicles from other manufacturers routinely demonstrated the
advantages of the mid-engine layout. That Corvette was able to compete with
many far more expensive cars was impressive that it did so while keeping
its engine in the front of the car. For many of its fans added to
its charm, in some ways, the car appeared to succeed in
spite of itself. I think that when we talk about Corvette
and the idea that it stayed true for so long to its heritage front engine,
rear drive and over time, as we saw more mid-engine cars coming out,
performance levels getting higher and higher. Part of the mystique and the aura
around mid-engine was literally that was the engines like right
behind your head. Changes like ride and
drive dynamics, too. But it kind of gave this idea that,
to compete at this level, you have to have a mid-engine. At the same time, Corvette soldiered on
and it was great Nuremberg lap records. It was crazy amounts of power grid,
all despite the fact that didn’t have this latest and greatest
exotic car engine. Part of its success has come
from the credibility Corvette has established in racing. Corvettes have been a popular choice
for racing enthusiasts for decades, even when General Motors has not
been formally involved in racing. In 1960, a private race team entered a
Corvette in the 24 hours of Le Monde endurance race in
Le Mans, France. In 1999, GM began sponsoring a Corvette
racing team, which has since won 107 races around the world. That is more than any other car
in the history of the International Motor Sports Association, one of the major
sanctioning bodies for racing in North America. In addition, the current Corvette racing
team has had eight victories in the car’s class and the 24 hours
of Le Monde race since 2001. The Corvette also benefited from some
clever publicity, courtesy of early NASA astronauts in the early 1960s. GM President Ed Cole and a Florida
Chevrolet dealer named Jim Rathmann, a former Indy 500 winner, offered astronauts
from some of the Apollo missions a special deal that let
them drive any Chevrolet vehicle they wanted for a year for one dollar. Many, of course, chose the Corvette. That doesn’t mean things have always
been easy for the Corvette. General Motors has been
close to canceling the. Car a few times, but it’s always seemed
to save it at the last minute. One famous incident was in the 1990s
when GM wanted to shut down the Corvette program in favor
of more popular models. At that time, the company was
reportedly losing 1000 dollars on every Corvette it made. But Corvette program manager Russ McClain
and his team secretly went to work on a new Corvette. McClain told no one except his wife that
he had been ordered to cancel the car. The car they created was released in
1997 and became Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1998. Corvette sales have seen a decline
in recent years, falling from 33,329 units in 2015 to
18,791 units in 2018. GM, along with rivals Ford and
Fiat Chrysler, have rapidly been abandoning traditional passenger cars. However, industry watchers say the Corvette
name has now lived long enough to attain a kind of iconic status,
not unlike the Ford Mustang, which Ford has decided to hold on to even
as it slowly drains its portfolio of traditional sedans and coupes. But General Motors has decided it is
time for a big change to Corvette, and many industry observers say the
mid-engine gives GM a shot at attracting a new audience to the car. I think for General Motors and
virtually every automaker whose main stream or even the luxury brands
that have these halo cars. The rationale is literally that is that
we have to have something that brings you into the showroom or gets
our own employees excited because it does have that trickle down
effect from said vehicle. And it’s one of those things where
you’re never going to justify on paper, you work in product planning, your
corporate bean counting, whatever you want to call it. On paper, it doesn’t make
a lot of sense. Can you truly measure
its effect overall? Not really. I mean, if you really want extrapolated
down to word of mouth kind of thing, which again, is pie 1, the
highest, you know, most reputable things is , I heard it from X, Y, Z,
and you really can measure stuff like that. You can say, you know, on the
internet we saw this much activity. We saw as many clicks. But at the end of the day, it’s
one of those things that you really can’t measure people’s feelings. And we know the cars of this nature,
they stir the soul and they get people excited. The new Corvette boasts
some impressive specs. It will have 495 horsepower. And when paired with a performance package,
we’ll be able to go from zero to 60 in under three
seconds according to GM. That is approaching
supercar performance levels. For example, it is within just fractions
of a second of the times boasted by the 350 thousand dollar Ferrari
488 Pista and the 573 thousand dollar Lamborghini Aventador
SVJ Roadster. Chevrolet said redesigning the new Corvette
from the ground up provided a historic opportunity Chevrolet designers have
wanted for 60 years. The company said the Corvette can stand
tall with the best the world has to offer. GM President Mark Reuss also said Corvette
has pushed the potential of its front engine design as far
as it can go. But not everyone is happy about
the switch to a mid-engine layout. Some longtime Corvette fans have cried
foul over the change, some considered a betrayal
of Corvettes legacy. Some complain the car is just aping
European designs and some don’t like how the mid-engine layout
changes the car’s proportions. Others are more optimistic;
if a bit guarded. General Motors has been trying to
cut costs and improve profitability, and its push has resulted in some bold,
if controversial moves such as cutting production of several of its
passenger cars in late 2018. As of September 2019, shares of GM
had risen about 12 percent over the past five years. With sales being so small, many think
Corvettes status as a kind of ‘halo’ car becomes ever more
important to its survival. It gives GM a chance to make
an inspiring, attention grabbing vehicle and showcase the company’s
engineering talent. By switching over to
a mid-engine design. Corvette is showing it can make
a world class vehicle and undercut higher-end makers of super
cars in price. It’s always fascinating to
watch the supercar evolution. This is a this is
a segment that doesn’t stop. It’s never standing still. It’s never static. Every
not even a year. It’s really more like almost
every three to four months. There’s another super car
coming around the corner. I think General Motors has stepped
into this competitive segment with a very capable entry in this
new C 8 Corvette. And it will be fascinating to watch
how how effectively they compete at their price point with
much higher priced vehicle. When they’ve got a vehicle that already
looks like it’s going to be offering performance based models that
are just being produced, despite all the data that shows sport
utility is taking over the U.S. auto market. The next few years could be
some good ones for sports cars.