The New Corvette’s Oldster Problem
By Rick Newman
To catch a glimpse of the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray whizzing by, you might have to reel around pretty quickly. And if you’re a typical Corvette fan, you might find yourself laid up at the chiropractor.
The Corvette is perhaps the most storied sports car in the history of American motoring, which is why the debut of the latest model — the seventh generation of the car, known as the C7 — is a Big Automotive Deal. GM (GM) might sell only 20,000 Corvettes in a good year, a tiny fraction of the pickups, SUVs or sedans it sells. Yet the Corvette, like other “halo” cars, reveals GM’s peak capabilities as a car builder and gives the company’s biggest division, Chevrolet, an object of desire it can show off next to boring Malibus and thrifty Sparks.
As an ambassador of excitement, however, the Corvette has grown gray and paunchy, like an aging rocker strumming the same old tunes. The median age of a Corvette owner has risen from 54 to 61 during the past 10 years, according to research firm Strategic Vision. For a company eager to rejuvenate itself following its 2009 bankruptcy filing and federal bailout, such geriatric overtones cast the wrong image.
“We want a younger car,” says Mark Reuss, president of GM North America. “The Stingray represents the inflection point of the new company. We’re no longer talking about what we did before bankruptcy. We’re talking about what we’re doing after bankruptcy.”
Trying to break the mold
GM developed the new Corvette, which just went on sale, determined to break the mold on what had become staid, conservative styling. Engineers in their 20s and early 30s worked on interior design, electronic dashboard controls and other key elements of the car, to help incorporate the sensibilities of the millennial generation into the vehicle. To market the car, GM is holding invitation-only events with trendsetters in “coastal cultural centers” such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles, hoping hipsters will help create buzz after driving the Stingray and sipping cocktails in its shadow.
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