The Chevrolet Corvette, according to GM, is THE MOST iconic American sports car, and is an inseparable part of American history. Easily, the corvette is one of the most iconic American cars of the 1950s, and it is one of the longest running sports car nameplates. Despite this, I believe that GM should DISCONTINUE the Chevrolet Corvette, and make a truly 21st century halo car that isn’t beholden to the past.
The C8 Corvette is, by all accounts, one of the best sports car bargains available on the marketplace.
Engine? Check. The GM small block engines are THE BEST V8s in the business when it comes to reliable, affordable performance.
Mid-engined layout just like a Ferrari 488? Check.
Fast-shifting Dual Clutch transmission? Check.
In Z06 trim (traditionally the mid-level option), the car produces 670 horsepower using a dual overhead cam design, just like all the supercars of Europe. And GM even has started to make a high-quality interior, even winning awards for it! GM, with this car, made a vehicle that surpasses the Ferrari F8 in every way, but at less than one-third of the price.
It doesn’t matter how good of a halo car GM makes. So long as the Corvette name is put on the car, it has certain connotations. Doesn’t matter if its faster and more reliable than a Ferrari F8, Lamborghini Huracan, or a McLaren 570S, because it’s “just a Corvette, it’s not a real supercar.” As a result, Ferraris and Lamborghinis continue to get all the attention and hype, despite being more expensive, less reliable, and objectively worse in every way.
And despite this good car, Whether GM wants to admit it or not, there is a stereotype of a “Corvette Owner” and it isn’t a good image. When I think of a Corvette buyer, I think of one of two things.
A recently divorced, middle aged white guy going through a midlife crisis. Typically middle class, in his 40s-50s.
Or a pot-bellied boomer man that is recently retired. He keeps it seamlessly polished, it’s his “baby.” It lives in the garage, and he only drives it on Sundays to the golf course, and the occasional Friday night CRUISE NIGHT! He shows up to the CRUISE NIGHT at the 24 hour diner to talk with his other boomer friends about how their Corvettes are SO SPECIAL.
This typical working class white man, anywhere between the ages of 60-75, has a high likelihood of living in a retirement community in Florida. And he bought his Corvette after he SAVED ALL HIS HARD EARNED MONEY, and now, in retirement, BARBARA gives him the okay to splurge now that the penalties for withdrawing from the 401k no longer apply to them.
Older, white men that were always solidly middle class or below. Vietnam War veterans come to mind, as does any white man of a blue collar background that has a little, but not a lot, of money to work with.
While the Corvette was the embodiment of a stylish American performance cars in the 1950s and 1960s, by the mid-1970s, that was no longer the case.
Like most American cars of the time, the Corvette has become a lazy cruiser that was all agro, no performance, and a healthy dose of flamboyant 1970s graphics to compensate for the lack of performance. It wasn’t particularly well built, the interior wasn’t that great, and though the engine was the simple-enough, throw it in everything 350 small block, it was choked by the late 70s government mandated smog equipment that mean a stock 1970s Corvette wouldn’t even beat a 2022 base-model Honda Civic in a drag race. Don’t even get me started on what happened in California by the 1980s.
Corvettes ever since then, despite upgrades in performance and quality, never could break out of that rut. They were too high in price to be an affordable everyman’s sports car icon like the Mustang, yet too cheap feeling to be aspirational in the same way as European supercars. Corvettes, instead, became another cliché American cruiser. They aren’t truly aspirational, and in a perpetual limbo of desperately trying to be taken seriously.
What GM Should’ve done instead
Contrast that with the 2007 Audi R8. When it launched, it started at $61k, which was about the same price as mid-ranged Corvettes of the same year. With a new name, and Audi having no history making a supercar, it was a truly new concept. The fact it had a Lamborghini chassis? Didn’t matter. It was STYLISH.
When it launched, it looked futuristic, and looked a decade ahead of the competition. It was the perfect embodiment of Audi’s corporate motto, “Vorsprung durch Technik, “ or “Progress through Technology. This flawless execution is why, in my view, it became the most iconic car of the late 2000s; as iconic as the Lamborghini Countach was in the 1980s.
Does it matter that the Audi would cost more to maintain? No. Do the higher starting prices matter compared to a Corvette? No. The better quality interior compared to the C6 Corvette certainly helped matters, but it isn’t a dealbreaker.
At the end of the day, the Audi R8 was IRON MAN’S car. Tony Stark, the fictional billionaire inventor turned superhero through a technical-marvel of a suit of armor. Iron Man is COOL. Superheroes are COOL. And to put the association between a cool superhero and your halo car? Great. But to associate it with a Superhero whose story and image corresponds nearly PERFECTLY with your car’s design and the company’s motto and philosophy. That’s a once in a generation success!
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, a Corvette is seen as an old man ’s car. Overcompensating, recently divorced dads and pot bellied boomer grandpas going to the golf course AREN’T COOL! If you want a halo car, you have the capture the hearts of the youth. By those measurements, the Corvette is a FAILURE. Nobody wants the car that their grandpa says “Oh, you be good, and this will ALL BE YOURS SOMEDAY!” Uhh, no thanks grandpa.
The Chevrolet Corvette nameplate has run its course, it is time to jettison it. Though the C8 Chevrolet Corvette is an excellent PRODUCT, it would make even more sense if GM didn’t shackle it to an old man’s nameplate. How could they have done that? By using a new nameplate, pitching it as a competitor to the Ferrari F8, and selling it that way. This leaves room for GM to make a proper halo car in the same spirit as the Ford GT; one with more reliable engines and LaFerrari rivaling performance.