History/News/Commentary from K. Scott Teeters

Future of the Corvette C7 In Peril?

Is The Future of the Corvette In Peril?

“Could”  there be a C7 Corvette?

By K. Scott Teeters


Blogosphere C7 Corvette Speculation.

It’s interesting to see how the blogosphere has stoked the C7 conversation. Last week GM got some positive press with the announcement of the EPA mileage estimates for the new Chevy Volt – upwards of 230 mpg! That’s interesting, but as plug-in hybrids make their way into the market, the manufacturers and the EPA will have to come up with a different way of estimating their figures. I work out of my home and sometimes don’t drive my car for days.  Sometimes I fill up as little as once every 6 weeks! A plug-in could keep me going for a year without buying gasoline. The fuel would go bad before I’d use all of it! But the killer in the story was the price of the Volt – $40,000! It’s an interesting car, not “bad” looking and nothing “original,” but how many do they really think they’ll sell when the Honda Insight is about half the price and the Prius is two thirds the price of a Volt?

General Motors’ Problems and People.

GM has major problems in the head (this is NOT a new condition) and they seem as if they’re in shock or dehydrated, and not thinking clearly. On paper, GM’s new CEO, Fritz Henderson, looks like a dream come true, with heavy experience in GM’s GMAC, plus he’s been all over the place inside of GM. I’m sure that he’s a smart fellow, but to me, he just looks like another finance guy. Here’s some background on Mr. Henderson…

More about Frederick (Fritz) A. Henderson

I’m not a GM insider, have never worked for GM or any other car company, but I have worked in corporate America. I’ve been following corporate America closely for the last 15 years and am completely unimpressed with “financier” management types. So now GM is out of bankruptcy, streamlined, etc. They can do all of these kinds of upper management machinations but it won’t inspire a single customer to come to a showroom and commit to either a lease or a car loan. The Cash For Clunkers program is a one trick pony designed to help car makers move dead inventory. It makes as much sense in the long term as putting a $4 cup of Starbucks coffee on a credit card and then not paying it off. That $4,500 rebate will end up costing ALL of us $15,000 and we won’t even remember what we spent the money for.

It’s the Economy, Silly.

Our nation’s unemployment has gotten so out of hand that after the car companies rearrange the deck chairs, they still won’t have enough customers. Americans will not start buying cars until they are back to work making real-world wages (not these “green” jobs, such as making solar panels at 2/3s of the pay a worker once had working at a car assembly facility), for a sustained period of time, such that they feel comfortable committing to a very large financial obligation.

It’s also worth pointing out that this isn’t just a Detroit problem, as the media likes to present. Toyota posted ANOTHER billion-plus dollar loss in the 2nd quarter. The other Asian car makers aren’t doing much better. They ALL have the same problem – not enough customers. So, how does this connect to Corvettes? Last June I found a stunning article in The New York Time Business Section. It seems that President Obama has appointed 31-year old Brian Deese to be the car czar (since when does America have “czars”? I thought that was a Russian thing.) to either fix or dismantle GM. This guy knows NOT-A-THING about cars, except how to drive one. Here a link to the story…

Brian Deese,  the American Car “Czar”, dismantling capitalism?

If you Google his name you’ll come up with some interesting stories…

“The last person you would expect to head up the dismantling of automotive giant General Motors…”

Now what is this fellow going to do when he gets into GM and sees the expenditures for the design and development of a car line that only sold around 18,000 units in ‘09? Was he chosen as the classic “efficiency expert” sent in to do the dirty work? (“Let everyone get mad at the kid!”) Could be. Aside from ephemeral issues such as history, flagship status, and racing success, how are the GM insiders going to justify the existence of a $50,000 to $100,000 sport scar with low sales figures? Answer is that they won’t.

Corvette has done well for a Sports  Car

in America  and for a Long Time.

I have been following Corvettes since 1965 when I was 11 years old. I’ve been a contributing artist and writer for VETTE Magazine since 1976 and for the last 12-1/2 years I have been writing my monthly column for VETTE called, “The Illustrated Corvette Series.” The series is the chronological history of the Corvette. Right from the very beginning in 1953, there have been people inside GM that have been drooling to kill the Corvette. I call the Corvette a “modern American automotive miracle” because it’s lasted so long in a place where it shouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance. The last Fiero was a pretty good little sports car, but didn’t have the sales to justify its existence.

On the up side – Corvette as its own Brand?

“Could” there be a C7 Corvette? There certainly is more that could be done with the car, but realistically, I seriously doubt it. Will the Corvette get axed? I have zero inside info, but my sense is that things aren’t looking good for our favorite American sports car.  Ten years ago, who would have thought the Oldsmobile and Pontiac would go away? It looks and feels to me like 1971 all over again. The performance party is over and everything is contracting. Chrysler killed the Viper and Ford stopped making the GT40. Now that GM is essentially “Government Motors” with government bean counters (and we all thought the GM bean counters were tough!), all I can say is hope for the best, but as VP Joe Biden said last October, “Gird your loins!”

On the up side, consider this. Perhaps GM might be inclined to sell off the Corvette as its own brand, “The Corvette Motor Company.” (<– I like the sound of that!) With the right backing and people that know and understand the Corvette, that actually could be a very good thing. If so, let’s hope that Roger Penske didn’t blow all his investment capital on Saturn, or worse yet, the Chinese buy the Corvette brand. They DO have a lot of cash.

Links to Related Stories:

GM’s development of the C7 Corvette

8/11/09 GM Unveils 2 Year Product Plan – C7  2013 Model?

One Artist’s C7 Ideas

YouTube  Video  Chevrolet Corvette C7- 2 Concepts


Save the wave ,

K. Scott Teeters aka “The Dude”

www.illustratedcorvetteseries.com

You might also enjoy these Corvette Report posts about the C7.

C7 Due Date.

C7 Speculation Post.

GM President Henderson on C7 post.

The Dude

The Dude

6 Responses to Future of the Corvette C7 In Peril?

  • Yes, that was written by this author and yes it is pure speculation based on what is going on now with the economy. Here is to high hopes that things change. We need to keep the hope going that great products made in America like the Corvette will continue to be produced. We need more of them and money provided to back American made products and manufacturing.

  • Yes, as a member of the automotive industry I can say we are all still feeling the downturn…but no more Corvette?? I did not know this was at risk? Well, I guess you live to see things you never thought possible…Olds and Pontiac, as you said, but the Corvette has always been the vehicle that was nearly attainable for the working man…with the right hard work, luck, and discipline he could get one. Gone with the Corvette will be a serious chunk of Americana. We’re finally starting to see the slightest uptick in our business…hopefully this will be indicative of the industry at large.

  • Hi Taln,
    Thanks for your thoughtful reply, we appreciate it. First, let me say this, I hope and pray that I am TOTALLY wrong about this. I have never worked for a car company (I’ve freelanced with GM Performance through Rick Voegelin), but I did work for Tyco Toys and Mattel Toys, so I have a clear sense of corporate happy-speak. I’m old enough to know the smell of BS, and it’s getting pretty strong. The front men in corporations must do the happy-talk or the stock holders will run and the corporation will go down. But far too many times I have seen this “everything is fine” bla-bla-bla totally fall apart. Remember Ken Lay from Enron? But there’s always one thing that the top decision makers can not candy coat – numbers.

    Vette Magazine published the 2009 Corvette sales figures – 16,956 units

    The 2008 sales totaled 27,079 – that’s a 37.4% drop.

    I don’t recall the figure, but somewhere in one of my Corvette books it mentioned how much GM spent to develop the C6 – it was somewhere in the 100’s of millions range – a BIG number. So, given the astonishing cost of developing a new world-class sports car in this tanking economy, it just seems like a stretch that we’ll see a C7 anytime soon. This month’s issue of Motor trend has a splash piece about the C7 being based on the Transformers movie car with the split-window fastback. Given that just this morning the unemployment figures were released and are now 10.2% (the real number is probably double), do we really think Chevrolet will sell more Corvettes this year?

    Back in the olden days, if a working stiff wanted to make more money, he or she just had to rack up some overtime. Well that’s gone for most people, now that most of the unions have been defanged. With our nation’s economy so shaky and fragile, if you have some extra cash, best hang on to it, as you might need it when your job goes away.

    I hate to sound so glum, but my saying this isn’t what’s making it happen.

    But all that aside, is there something deficient with the C6? The new Grand Sport is awesome! Motor Trend tested one last month and it was running the 1/4-mile in the very low 12’s. That’s on par with Duntov’s ’69 ZL-1 mule car. The C6 is only 6 model years old and there’s more that could be done to keep it fresh. I’d like to see a cool new hood and more radical rear spoiler. I’d rather see the C6 go low-profile and weather this storm with easy to apply enhancements, rather than attract a lot of attention with a HUGE development charge that will be impossible to justify, especially if the economy continues to go down, with no real end in sight.

    Two other things are looming for the American public: 1. health care reform, and 2. the carbon tax. Mandatory health insurance will add big-bucks to most American overhead. If you don’t buy health insurance, you’ll be FINED. The carbon tax is an attack on manufacturing that will add to the cost of produced goods, which will be passed on to an already pressured population. The cost of all things manufactured, including energy cost will go up if the carbon tax is initiated. And if something goes wrong in the Middle East, we could see $150 a barrel oil again. We the People are in a very precarious situation and our leaders are totally out of touch. Remember, it was just a year ago that they all told us that if we fix the banks, everything will get back to business as usual. And here we are today – worst off than ever.

    Like I said in the beginning of this reply, I HOPE and PRAY that I’m completely wrong about this. I REALLY do. – Scott 11.6.09

  • GM – first: incorporate what you have already developed for the current Corvette. It’s a shame the Corvette doesn’t currently incorporate an updated and increased displacement E-85 capable version of the “XV8” (2001 era experimental design — as an extra-cost option) or at the very least utilize a current production all aluminum AFM equipped V8. The XV8 was designed to include DI, AFM, and could also idle on four cylinders as well. If combined with the improved BAS-plus hybrid system (Li-ion battery), fuel mileage would today be excellent for a 400 hp vehicle. Once warmed up, and stopped at a traffic light, the Corvette could accelerate at modest to moderate levels using just four cylinders and the BAS-plus electric motor. At highway speeds under light load conditions, it could again cruise and operate on just four cylinders. This is a no-brainer — and some of us would “gladly pay” for these options — irregardless of their “payback period,” (if ever). In the future models, a “two-mode hybrid system” could be included, or made optional, paired with either an advanced twin-turbo V6 gas, XV8, or modern 4.5 liter V8 diesel engine. Volt/Ampera technology might also be incorporated as well; getting an electric drive motor for each wheel?

  • Hey Gman! Thanks for the thoughts. Last year when I saw the E85 Corvette Pace Car it made me wonder if a flex-fuel Vette was in the works. Perhaps “way” back then it was a consideration, not that I’ve ever seen a spec of on indication. When the E85 Pace Car was getting so much ink, it seemed that most of the interest in the car was because of its unusual paint. “Oh yea, and it can run on E85, too” I’m reading David Bloom’s book, “Alcohol Can Be A Gas” and according to him, most new cars can use up to 50% alcohol – that is, if you can find the stuff. It’s an amazing fuel source that can be made with any biomass, not just corn. Bloom explained that the yield per acre of sugar beats or sorghum is many, many times that of corn. But I digress.

    I’m hoping that because of the low production numbers for the Corvette that they won’t have to make a more complex car with extra batteries, small engines, and all the rest of the hybrid gear. Perhaps when they average the Corvette’s EPA mileage into the entire GM line it won’t justify the expense of developing a hybrid Corvette that Corvette buyers might not want. (“New Coke”?)

    But since the cars are computer controlled, how hard could it be to have the engine running on 4 cylinders under around town and highway conditions. Now THAT sounds like a no-brainer. How about an ultra-low 7th gear that would allow that car to idle at 80-mph?

    We just have to remember that we’re dealing with “GM” here and they move like molasses in the winter. The Volt comes out in 2011 – 11 years after the Toyota Prius.

    I think they should save the electric drive motor for each wheel for the C8 Corvette.

    Thanks again, Gman. – Scott 11-11-09

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