By on March 15, 2013

With discretionary funds increasingly decreasing, low-cost (or make that “approachable”) cars are all the rage. Before the 2014 Corvette Stingray, the first new Corvette in nine years, is going on sale in summer, there already is talk of a little less expensive model.

GM is planning to build an entry-level Corvette, unnamed sources told Reuters. It’s not a new car, but a de-contented Corvette: It would have al 5.3-liter V8 engine instead of the 6.2 L, and will have to shed a bunch of amenities, such as automatic climate control. It would be offered only as a coupe.

Sales of the Corvette have dwindled from a peak of 42,571 in 1977 to 14,132 last year.  The car has become a toy of balding empty nesters.

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37 Comments on “Little Red Corvette For Less Green...”


  • avatar

    I’ve been hearing this rumor for 15 years… used to be called the “Billy Bob” car, a Vette for blue collar folk… their first stab at it got shoved off course by internal pressures and turned into the C5 Z06. I doubt it’ll ever see the light of day, but we’ll see.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      Aren’t all Corvettes for blue collar folk? On the west coast, they say “successful plumber” more than physician or executive.

      • 0 avatar

        “Successful plumber” or “youngish cash-strapped sports-car enthusiast”, maybe, though that latter might just be the used ones. I think the upper-tier models draw a somewhat more refined crowd… the two ZR1s that I know of around here both belong to MDs.

        They could take it upscale if they wanted… look what Chrysler did with the new Viper.

        Perhaps the idea behind the car under discussion is to have a model for the somewhat-less-successful plumber.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I think it’s doubtful that it’ll happen as described, in the first couple years of the C7 anyway. A hi-po N/A 5.3L a la 327 Vettes of yore is intriguing idea.

    I like the idea, a sweet handling true sports car for around $40k would be awesome. Tack a GM PP blower on the 5.3L if you want incredible power and still save money.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    If it was sub $40k I think it might be a nice mid-life car for me… (I’m 37). Anything more is pretty much out of the budget with 1, 1-year-old to care for and another kid planned.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I fit the demographic, balding, empty nester,and all. I bought a new 2011 Camaro 2SS with all the options. The alternative was a gently used “base model” Vette. On paper the dealer with the Vette offered a lot more for my 2009 LTZ. In fact it was more than I thought the Impala wholesale value should be. I figured he was just playing with the figures to get me to bite.

    I would have liked the Vette,however the long term maintence can get scary.

    Poormans Vette it might be,but for me, the Camaro does the job quite well.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @korvetkeith…To be honest I dont know the difference. I’m just going with the experience of a lot of my friends. To be fair thier cars were out of the eighties and early nineties. I’m sure the new Corvette,is a whole lot different from the old one.

    With the Camaro I could buy every warranty available,and I did. With the used Vette there wasn’t as many warranties offered.

    My original plan was to dump the Camaro as soon as it was out of waranty. Plans can change.

    If we get that de-contented Vette up here I’m for sure taking a look.

    • 0 avatar
      korvetkeith

      There is effectively no difference in the wear items on a corvette vs a camaro. And I can’t think of two more reliable cars with relatively cheap and simple long term ownership prospects.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        The Corvette’s great advantage over the more fragile sports cars is lower entry price and robustness. I’m sure that Corvette maint is more expensive than Impala maint but it can’t really be any more expensive than Camaro maint and it is sure cheaper than Porsche maint.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        I can’t either. The Camaro just utilizes GM’s famed garbage fit and finish issues (mis-matched supplier painted parts in this case). Bad IP overmouldings – like a throw back to the third gen Camaro’s. IQ needs to improve at Oshawa.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          I agree that supplier management is key.

          A few years ago I rented a previous-model Chrysler 300 (an upgrade, they told me). I think I counted five different types of knobs on the dashboard, all with different materials, colours and detent feel.

          A premium interior, I think not. Look at an Audi or BMW interior in comparison, and you will see consistency regardless of which supplier provided which part.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            Most of the issues lie with who you hop into bed with, when you hooked up and how much you paid.
            You can beat a supplier into oblivion, but cost inevitably all correlates to sourcing locales, labor, materials & manufacturing feasibility to design. You wouldn’t believe how many issues are tied to GM/Ford still coping with outsourced parts ops that they ‘gave away’ to a big named supplier trying to be the “world’s largest Tier 1.” Late sourcing and all sorts of cluster-F’s that can be all traced back to purchasing decisions. When a tool isn’t capable, it doesn’t matter who saved what cost or who got the competitive bid out.

            BMW likely handles their issues with their check book. I’d like to think that Audi’s simplisitc approach to design is one of their key elements to success.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I went over my friend’s SS Convertible with a very critical eye. I have to say Mikey’s friends in Oshawa have done an excellent job assembling the Camaro. Flawless? No. But an excellent job. Try looking at a BMW with such a critical, non-roundel biased eye and you will see far more orange peel, and no discernible superiority in panel assembly. Even the interior materials in the 3 series BMW are not super special. However, that is the one area the Camaro fails and that is the choice of the interior materials. The cabin is a letdown. But that is not the fault of the assembly workers…

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            “Try looking at a BMW with such a critical, non-roundel biased eye and you will see far more orange peel”

            This is common on a lot of vehicles, even higher priced ones, and lots of BMW-owners complain about it. There are a number of theories as to why — I’ve heard things like:

            blame low VOC paints
            poor paint spraying technique
            it’s intentional to hide dings/scratches/swirls better
            laziness/decontenting

            You can take out the orange peel (somewhat labor intensive), but I wouldn’t recommend doing so on an OEM pain job because the clearcoat isn’t thick enough on an OEM paint job to do it. If you want the true showroom mirror finish, you can do it, but you will pay in either labor or dollars.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    What they are saying is to get the inexpensive sport back into the Corvette to go to the de-contented version, a ‘Vette that can be used to commute to work, etc.

    Makes me want the 305 c.i. motor California Smog edition again.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m all in favor of a discount Corvette but then I’m a guy who is more likely to buy a lightly used manual trans 1990s model. I wonder how many potential “decontented Corvette” customers are the type of guys are more likely to go looking for a clean used Camaro SS or a Mustang GT?

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I think this is a really, really good idea.

    The public perception of an ordinary Corvette is of a $40,000 car.

    GM can deliver an excellent $40,000 Corvette, and provide a car that’ll continue and enhance the Corvette’s reputation for durability and modest running costs. I have a ’99 Corvette, and run it without skimping on a graduate student’s budget.

    Torch Red with plain black trim only.
    17″ plain aluminum wheels, with smaller, parts-bin calipers and rotors if they’ll fit without redesign work.
    Air conditioning and a heater but no automatic control.
    AM/FM/CD/aux. jack.
    375 hp or so in a 3100-lb car.
    Most other parts should remain the same to save on development costs.

    Build 5,000 manuals and then 5,000 automatics at the start of every model year, one right after the other, in order to cut build costs and time while improving quality. I don’t think the “Joe Biden Special” will be a difficult car to sell, not for $7500 more than the MSRP of the plainest V8 Camaro.

  • avatar

    I was saying this when it came out. Decontent it to the point where it can sell for close to what a V8 Mustang goes for. Replace some of the exotic carbon fiber with plain plastic or fiber glass, raid the Camaro parts bin for lower cost cloth bucket seats, smaller brakes and the steel wheels and tires. Fit it with a small V8 (it could even be the new 5.3 from the truck line)so it has 10lb per hr but still sounds right and call it a day.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Fully loaded GT or base GT? Before discounts you can get a V8 Mustang for a little more than 30k after discounts the base car can be had for a good bit under which is more or less equal to the better equipped 05-09 cars

  • avatar

    I’m probably the only one who thinks this might be a bad idea.

    I was always under the impression that the reason the Corvette owner-image was of a blading, baseball cap-wearing, middle-aged man wasn’t because the car was too expensive. It was because the Corvette was the Big Lots version of a supercar. “It’s a performance bargain!” A plastic car with a V8 casually thrown in the front and an interior they couldn’t really be bothered to design. A car you could only sell to people who could remember when they were 10 and their neighbor bought a new Stingray, and this car that looks like a C4 that’s melted slightly says “Corvette” on it, so it MUST be the same thing, right?

    What I’m saying is, I thought the public perception was that only old farts wanted Corvettes. In the same way that only accountants wanted Boxsters and only IT people wanted G37s. If you put a cheaper Corvette out there, you’re only going to get cheaper versions of the owners you already have. And that DOES NOT mean younger.

    Note: I don’t hate the Corvette, I just get nervous whenever GM starts talking about how they need to make cars cheaper. It’s lead to bad things in the past, and they’re starting to seem all too willing to repeat some of those things in this bold, new Akersonian era. And I just hope they know what they’re doing.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Call it the Corvette “Joe Dirt” Edition, and start the clock on the GM Death Watch Series Part Deux.

    Maybe the 2nd death of GM will coincide with the demise of the recently” re-invigorated” Lincoln Horseless Carriage & Motor Coach Company.

  • avatar
    timlange

    There will not be a market for it. Everyone that wants one already bought a Solstice or Sky.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    Porsche does this every so often. I recall the discontented 911 from 93-94 they called the RS America. They were about $10,000 less than the standard model. Ironically, used RS Americas cost more than twice the standard model.

  • avatar
    amca

    I’d say it’s a great idea if they make the car’s raison d’etre something other than cheap Corvette. My candidate for a theme: lightweight. Do a 350 hp car, and whittle the weight down to 2,900 lbs.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Price the base Corvette at $39,995 and leave the (new) 6.2 alone. The Corvette is just priced too high for what is and NOT that it’s too contented. Then combine all mid to top models, into one supercharged and magneto ride Corvette for $79,995 and $4,995 more for the Convertible.

    It’s ridiculous to have 13 models and 12 convertibles while building about 500 of each. Never mind that it makes production a PITA, BUT how can dealers stock all of them in all colors? They’re lucky to stock 1 or 2 with 3 or 4 sales for the year, with about half the time it being a previous model year’s Corvette.

    Since GM isn’t about to offer a mass produced secretary/rental car V6 Corvette (or turbo4) with skinny 17″ steel wheels and soft suspension… it would be the best way to get the maximum butts into Corvettes and turn a profit in volume if not parts & service.

  • avatar
    Transform

    Put in a 5.3 optimised for milage and call it the Ecovette. Maybe 35mpg and not slow. Offer a touring GT version with softer ride and decontent a little (brakes, shocks, tires, wheels)and I’m a buyer. All done with off the shelf parts. If the volume dosen’t go up the Vette is a gonner.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’m not seeing the prices GM puts on their vehicles.

    The 6.2 could more then easily start at 35k for what it is, way to much has to be wasted on something that they keep raising the prices so high, it’s just a pushrod V8, lSX have you (or new LT soon?) but never the less a simple engine. The car is nice but, cheapish feeling definately not worth the cost.

    Maybe it’s just me being cheap But I can’t see how they couldn’t afford to offer a 5.3 Vette for around 30k, when you can buy a 5.3 pickup all day for almost half.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I’m taking a guess here, since I’m not an engineer, but I’d bet that a much higher % of the additional cost reflected in the price of a typical breed C7 Corvette versus the average passenger car/truck relates to a much higher priority/emphasis on the minimization of weight as well as much higher sophistication of chassis & suspension design (from both a R&D and manufacturing perspective).

      GM could probably do a raw Corvette that would be more in line with a Dodge Challenger in terms of overall less sophistication and be able to sell it much less expensively while increasing their margin on it.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if squeezing the final 10% of weight out of the vehicle and dialing in the final 10% of skidpad, horsepower, braking & cooling system performance was responsible for a massive outsized portion of the final cost of design and manufacturing of a Corvette on a relative basis.

      To put it more succinctly, GM could probably do 90% of a C7 in terms of performance and overall sophistication for closer to 70% of the current cost of production.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Strip off all of the frivolous and overly automated techy stuff, both interior and mechanical/electronic.
    Make the “low end” a back-to-basics no frills sports car, it might actually be more appealing in a purist sort of way.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “Sales of the Corvette have dwindled from a peak of 42,571 in 1977 to 14,132 last year. The car has become a toy of balding empty nesters.”

    Oh no, not that! More GM doom & gloom.

  • avatar
    packard

    If only 14K cars were sold last year- this is not just a good idea but mandatory if this division is going to be profitable. GM should offer a base version but offer many options- just like Porsche/BMW.

  • avatar
    packard

    You are incorrect. I don’t know what “optimized for low production” is supposed to mean. An automaker needs to sell a certain number of cars to be able to amortize the costs of design, engine, transmission and suspension development, etc. If they cannot meet the number, a subsidy will be required, or they will not be able to introduce new products or they will go out of business. Porsche found out that sales of 50,000 cars per was insufficient to justify engineering and design costs. They decided to expand their model line by introducing a SUV and a 4 door sedan. Their plan was successful. Contrast that with Checker. Checker was a low volume producer. Checker produced a 1959 model vehicle until the early 1980’s with only minimal changes to meet Federal law or based upon outside suppliers. Checker purchased engines, tranmissions and other major components. Checker never made much money and when its CEO was killed in a plane crash in 1982- the company was liquidated. I guess GM could “optimize” the production of Corvettes by using components used by other GM makes.


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