The next unaffordable Corvette

This blog has reported from time to time the progress of the next supposedly mid-engine Corvette:

The Corvette world has a mixed opinion about this, as Brett Foote notes:

Historically, the Corvette has always been about two things, namely performance and value. For significantly less than the cost of an exotic supercar, you can go out, buy a Corvette, and run right with them. However, a funny thing seems to be happening ever since we found out Chevy was working on building a mid-engine C8 model. Suddenly, people started comparing this exciting new ride to cars far beyond its price range. Which is fair, really. But Corvette Forum member ColoradoGS hit the nail on the head with his assessment in this thread.

“In so many of these C8 threads people are like ‘Ferarri this’ and ‘hypercar that.’ Suggestions of ‘well if the C8 isn’t XYZ, I’m gonna buy a McLaren!’ Story time.

I went to the supermarket today at lunch in my grocery getter–a 2017 Grand Sport. I parked in the back of the parking lot (as one does) and when I came out there was a guy crouched down behind my car taking pictures with his phone. As I walked towards my car he stood up and asked ‘Is this your Vette?’ I can say with confidence that being able to say ‘Yeah, that’s my Vette’ after years of dreaming never gets old no matter how many times someone has asked.”

C8 Corvette

This particular conversion, it turned out, sparked an interesting point. One that we seem to have lost sight of in recent months.

“His favorite thing about Vettes? The performance you get for the dollar. We talked about how I’ve wanted one my whole life and finally was able to pull the trigger. He was like “one day, dude, one day”. And that’s the thing. A Ferrari could never make him feel like that. Sure, it’d be cool to see one and he’d probably take a picture of it too. But he could never ever imagine actually owning one. He can realistically dream of owning a Corvette one day. That’s the difference.”

And that’s one heck of a reminder of why so many people love the Corvette in the first place. Not because it’s the fastest car on the planet, the best handling, or the one built with the most exotic materials. It’s because this is a cool car that your average Joe can save up and buy. And that’s perfectly fine with folks like smithers.

“It does seem like people have suddenly forgotten that Corvettes have always been priced in a way that made them realistically affordable to common people. There seems to be an expectation that GM has suddenly said ‘to hell with that’ and decided to abandon their current market and make it a car most people won’t be able to afford (that $100k+ range).

Chances are high that this car will basically be a Corvette with the engine in the middle. And that’s fine. But most people seem to have this idea in their heads that going mid engine means it is has to look like a LaFerrari and cost $150k+. Or, even worse, the hope that it’s a halo car like the Ford GT. But there have been plenty of cars over the years that were both ME and affordable. There is no reason the C8 can’t do the same.”

C8 Corvette

It’s an interesting point, for sure. And also a nice reminder that the Corvette has, and hopefully always will be the quintessential American dream car. After all, Chevy has done a heck of a job offering up exotic-level performance at an affordable price for decades. Why stop now?

The answer to that question, I suppose, is determined by asking why GM felt the need to build a mid-engine Corvette — in order to build something to compete with Porsche, Ferrari and others. The problem in GM’s eyes is that a Corvette is not seen to be as exotic as whatever Porsche and Ferrari are building (in much smaller numbers) despite the current Corvette’s being probably the best performance bargain on the planet. Building a mid-engine Corvette puts GM in the corner of either selling something so expensive that its current and potential future buyers can’t afford it, or building something not exclusive enough to those who would consider buying a Porsche or a Ferrari.

That’s assuming GM can even competently put this car together. GM’s past performance with non-front-engine cars is not promising. The Chevy Corvair was an unfairly maligned car due to its rear-engine handling, but notice that the Corvair didn’t survive the 1960s. The Pontiac Fiero, like too many GM cars, was technology (mid-engine rear-drive) sent into the marketplace before it was really ready, and by the time Pontiac put in an engine that could move the car, the Fiero was dead.

As far as the price goes, here is an interesting observation, though I don’t know if it’s accurate:

Average price of a new car in 1953 = $1,650.
Corvette price in 1953 = $3,498.
Average income in 1953 = $3,139

Average price of a new car in 1962 = $3,125
Corvette price in 1962 = $4,038
Average income in 1962 = $4,291

Average price of a new car in 1970 = $3,542
Corvette price in 1970 = $6,773
Average income in 1970 = $6,186

Average price of a new car in 1980 = $7,000
Corvette price in 1980 = $14,694
Average income in 1980 = $12,513

Average price of a new car in 1990 = $9,437
Corvette price in 1990 = $31,979
Corvette ZR-1 price in 1990 = $58,995
Average income in 1990 = $21,027

Average price of a new car in 2000 = $24,750
Corvette price in 2000 = $39,280
Average income in 2000 = $32,154

Average car price in 2010 = $27,950
Corvette price in 2010 = $54,770
Average income in 2010 = $49,445

Corvettes have always been well above the average car price. The 1980s saw some of the highest Corvette sales years, and yet the price to income ratio was the most disproportionate. Also, in 1990 despite the car’s price being triple the average income and six times the price of the average car, Chevrolet managed to sell more than 3,000 ZR-1s. Corvette has never been for the average man.

This is not “average income,” it’s median household income, meaning that 50 percent of U.S. households make more, and 50 percent of U.S. households make less. Based on this comparison, if it’s otherwise accurate, the Corvette has always been priced approximately around the median U.S. household income and about twice the average price of a car.

The median household income in 2017 was $61,372, according to the U.S. Census. (Which reports that it may not be directly comparable to previous years because different questions were asked to determine that amount, but for our purposes let’s use this number.) The base price for a 2019 Corvette is $55,495. The base price for this Corvette, which besides being mid-engine is likely to have a new V-8 engine and all-wheel drive, will certainly not be $56,000. Reports indicate a six-digit base price is more likely.

A comment on Foote’s post posited:

The Ferrari could certainly out do the Corvette in “wow” factor (especially if driven but even if just standing still). But it wouldn’t give the guy the same rush because he knows he will never, ever own one. It’s the attainable part of the Corvette that makes it special to so many people.
I am skeptical a GM-built mid-engine Corvette can be made “attainable.”
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