Making Corvette C8
Sure, the UAW strike delayed the rollout of the all-new mid-engine C8 Corvette. But anticipation and speculation continue to redline.
For instance, automotive journalists flocked to the Corvette display during press days at the LA Auto Show. And now reports are leaking that the Corvette C8 will have an all-wheel-drive hybrid version.
But, hang on to your gear shifter, cause this hybrid C8 is being talked as delivering 900 pony-power! Yaozah!
So, since I’m not Jay Leno who’s already gotten to drive around in a C8. I did get to sit in one and record a podcast at the LA Auto Show.
Chevy’s Communications Director, Shad Balach joined me to share some details on the path to making Corvette C8. Find out what he said about C8’s electric plans below.
Making Corvette C8
Tom: We are at the LA Auto Show podcasting literally from a C8 Corvette Convertible. That is a, I’m going to call it sexy blue, but I bet you know the particular blue name that this is.
Shad: It is a sexy blue, but we’re sitting in a Rapid Blue Corvette Convertible.
Tom: Rapid Blue. Very nice. Shad, thank you for joining me, this is absolutely awesome and I really appreciate General Motors gifting a C8 Corvette to iDriveSoCal. That’s very generous of you guys.
Shad: You too, huh? I got one as well.
Tom: So topic du jour is the history of the Corvette. Making of the C8 Corvette really. Now obviously what we’re sitting in, we need to really talk about, but from the very beginning. Corvette started in 1953 I believe.
It All Started @ The Autorama Car Show In 1953
Shad: That’s correct.
Tom: And why don’t you just kind of give us the summary and the bullet points leading up to the mid-engine.
Shad: So Corvette was first shown in 1953 at the New York Autorama and it was shown as a concept car.
And Corvette was brought out to compete with some of the Italian and European race cars at the time. So it was always meant to be a performance vehicle.
And back in those early days, it was sort of the father of Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov knew that a mid-engine configuration was probably the better situation for power and performance.
I mean the weight balance that you get by putting all that weight in the back of the vehicle gives you the traction, lets you get planted to the ground.
So we knew this going as far back as, you know, more than 50 years. We knew that a mid-engine configuration was something that we would toy with.
And we’ve actually, we developed what we call CERV, Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle, that had mid-engine configurations. We’ve been talking about this forever.
The Father Of The Corvette
Shad: And finally for the 2020 model year, we actually did it.
Shad: Yes. Yes. He’s who we call the father of Corvette.
Shad: Yeah. So yeah, he is the one who wanted us to get a vehicle to compete in the racing circuit.
He is the one who knew that a mid-engine configuration would be the optimal way to build a Corvette. And this is his dream realized.
He is the one who kept this top of mind for us for more than 50 years while we were developing generation after generation of Corvette. So this is his work. This is his masterpiece.
Tom: Is he still alive?
Shad: No, no, he’s not.
Tom: Okay. But he’s smiling right now, right?
Shad: I’m sure he is.
Making Corvette C8 – Delivery Coming Soon
Tom: So 2020, the release, when the vehicles are going to be rolled out has been delayed a little bit due to the UAW strike from what I understand.
Shad: Yeah. So the strike is over, so we will start building and delivering the Corvettes in early February.
Tom: Okay. And mine’s coming in…
Shad: I mean this is yours. Oh, you can drive it off right now.
Tom: Thank you. So what can you tell us that you haven’t told anybody else?
Shad: Well, if I’m going to let you live, not much. Apologies.
Tom: I appreciate that. So the convertible, the Stingray, what is the rollout plan of the trims?
Shad: Yeah. So if you follow the history of Corvette, it’s easy to deduce what will probably come next in terms of various trim levels.
Performance Stats To Date
Shad: This past January we’ve shown the Corvette Stingray, we’re sitting in the Stingray.
There’s a Z51 performance package that you can add to the base Stingray to give it a little bit more so that gets you 495 hp, top speed of 194 miles per hour, zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds, which is unheard of.
Shad: So you get all of that power and performance and this is just the base car.
Tom: And what’s the sticker price going to be? Do you guys have that official yet?
- MSRP: about $64,000
- 0 to 60 mph: 2.9 seconds
- Top speed: 194 mph
Shad: We do. So you can get one of these for less than $60,000. It starts at $59,995.
Tom: That will do zero to 60 in 2.9?
Shad: Well you have to add the Z51 package.
Tom: Okay, so then what are we talking about?
Shad: $64,000. Yeah, it’s about a $5,000 add on.
Tom: That’s incredible. There’s nothing on the market that’s ever touched that performance at that price point, right?
Shad: Not at all. And the thing is is it’s not just that it’s the value proposition. It is a better car.
Making New Corvette Customers With C8
Because it is a car that will be faster, will hit top speeds at a much quicker rate. It is sold at a Chevrolet dealership.
Parts to service and replace are not going to break the bank. I mean the whole entire package about Corvette is a remarkable achievement when you consider what this car is capable of.
Tom: So we are, what is it, November 20th? Can you disclose any kind of pre-order sales figures?
Shad: No, I can’t at all.
Tom: All this information I’m asking for that I’d have to be dead in order to know.
Shad: I can tell you. I can tell you a couple of things though.
The dealers that are taking orders for Corvette are very excited and they’re very overloaded with Corvette orders. The take rate before they’ve even been made available is better than we expected. We’re getting new customers.
MotorTrend Car Of The Year
Customers that traditionally drove 911s or McLarens, Ferraris, et cetera, they’re now coming to us and saying, “When can I get this? Where can I get this?” So we’re pretty excited about it. And not to mention the fact that Motor Trend just this past Monday, awarded us the Motor Trend Car of the Year.
When you get a third-party endorsement from a performance publication like Motor Trend, that gets people’s attention. That gets the enthusiast’s attention.
Tom: They had a pretty, I don’t normally use such colorful language, but they had a pretty bitchin picture on the front cover of what was it, last issue where all four tires are off the ground?
Shad: That’s right. On a race track. On a road course.
Making Corvette C8 Electric?
Tom: Electric’s becoming more of a thing. What talk has there been, what can you tell us about anything potentially electric in the Corvette’s future or hybrid?
Shad: Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, I can’t make product announcements.
I don’t meet that pay grade. But, I can’t tell you this. Mary Barra, our CEO, she’s been very direct about the move to all-electric.
So she, in her mind long-term, is committed to making every product run on electricity so it will happen. I mean, I don’t know what the exact product mix will be when that does happen, but everything’s going to be electric.
What I love about the electric drive is that you can’t beat it in terms of power and performance. Electric motors, unlike gas-powered cars, are better performing. You get full horsepower and full torque, right at zero RPM, unlike a gas-powered car where you have to rev up until you get the peak power.
So from that standpoint, it would make perfect sense to apply electric technology into a sports car.
Tom: But as far as when?
Keeping Up With Demand
Shad: Yeah, I mean Corvette is built in Bowling Green Assembly Plant in Kentucky and it’s a dedicated plant.
We are in the process right now of retooling it to build this vehicle. We just stopped building the seventh-generation Corvette.
So we’re getting ready and production will start, like I said, in earnest in February. We have the ability to add shifts to meet demand.
Shad: We do know what we’re going to build right away and there’ll probably be a little bit of more demand than availability, but you know, that’s not always a bad thing.
Tom: When are you guys are going to release that valve is I guess the real key part of the question.
Shad: I mean, we’ll build enough to meet the demand at the end of the day. It might not happen right when the flood gate opens, but we will do that.
Corvette C8 Making Heads Turn
Tom: I am so thrilled to be sitting in this car. It’s hard for me to keep concentrating on the questions that I wanted to ask you, quite honestly.
Shad: Well, it’s interesting you know. I can give you a little perspective of what it was like for-
Tom: That’s right. Let’s talk about that a little bit. You drove this around for you said a week?
Shad: Yes. Yeah. I drove this vehicle around for a week in Los Angeles and I was working with another media outlet who was doing a story on people’s reactions to this vehicle. And so we were driving through Beverly Hills-
Tom: You can say the other media outlet. I’m pretty sure iDriveSoCal doesn’t compare with this one. I would love to think that it does and maybe someday.
Shad: I can’t break their story yet.
Tom: Oh, okay.
Blank Checks Being Offered
Shad: But it was amazing. I mean, we had people jumping out in front of the vehicle asking us what it was and when they can get it and where they can get it.
We were driving through Rodeo Drive and all those streets in Beverly Hills next to my McLaren’s and Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s.
The attention that this car gets. I mean you would’ve thought I was a Kardashian being spotted in Beverly Hill.
Tom: Okay. And then do you want to tell the bit about the very high net worth individual that offered you a blank check for one?
Shad: Oh yeah. Yeah. I had one guy pull me over and literally he pulled up in front of me, made me pull over.
He was in a McLaren so I naturally pulled over. And he wanted to buy the car right then and there and money was no object.
And he comes from a, he disclosed he comes from a very wealthy family in Korea and he wanted to take this car right then and there, no questions asked.
Tom: Extraordinary wealth.
Shad: Yeah. And it’s not something you hear every day or see every day with a Chevy.
Really The End Of Front Engine?
Tom: There’s one thing that I want to touch on and, and we talked about it before we live recorded on the podcast. End of the front engine for sure?
Never again will we see a front-engine Corvette? Can we change the factories around to retool them for a limited run, say every five to 10 years?
Shad: Well, I mean, it’s an interesting question…
But, I will tell you, when we were looking at the C8 design, what we were going to do for the next-generation Corvette, our engineers told us, “Look, the C7 is amazing. It is fantastic.”
The ZR1, which does 205 miles per hour and zero to 60 in two-point something seconds, they told us that’s all that we can get out of a front-engine car.
Tom: Laws of physics apply.
Shad: Laws of physics apply.
And unless you want to have a subpar next-generation car, we’ve got to put the engine behind.
So until there’s a way that you can make a front-engine perform better than a mid-engine, I don’t know, I think we might be waiting a long time.
Tom: Shad, is there anything that I missed? Anything that the iDriveSoCal listeners, readers should know?
February 2020 Deliveries
Shad: Car will be available in February. All Chevy dealers who have signed up to sell the car will get them right about that time.
Otherwise, I think we’ve covered just about everything.
Tom: That brings up one, did any Chevy dealer not sign up and say, “No, I don’t. I don’t want to sell this car.” I mean, come on, really?
Shad: We asked them to go through a lot of training.
Tom: Oh, sure. Okay.
Shad: It’s based on the market that they might be in. There could be some locations that don’t have anything that’s conducive to Corvette or Corvette customers.
Tom: Sure. But if I’m a Chevy dealer and I don’t want to own one of these personally, I think you guys ought to pull their dealership away.
Shad: Right. They’re missing the business option. You’re right.
Tom: Alright. Shad Balch, Communications Director for Chevrolet. Thank you so much.
Shad: Thank you for having me.