By on September 9, 2020

Joe Biden. Pix_Arena/Shutterstock

Automakers are notoriously tight-lipped about future product, much to the endless frustration of scoop-hungry automotive journalists.

They respond “we don’t comment on future product” to our e-mailed queries so often that I suspect it’s an automated response. It’s a running joke when hacks and flacks are drinking together in the hospitality suite on a junket and one of us tries to get a buzzed P.R. professional to spill some tea. They go to great lengths to disguise prototypes from the prying eyes of both professional spy photogs and random jamokes with a cell-phone camera. Speaking of cell-phone cameras, journalists invited on to automaker property for certain events will have their phone’s camera lens covered with a sticker for the duration.

All that work meant to keep the news secret until the appropriate time, and along comes former vice president and current Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden, a man who is known for the occasional gaffe. He was speaking in Warren, Michigan, today. And for the second time in two months, he may have accidentally confirmed some of General Motors’ future product plans involving the Chevrolet Corvette C8, this time by cracking a joke about an all-electric Corvette.

D’oh.

Or maybe not. Before just firing away a blog based on what I saw on the Twitters/Facebooks and one line from the Detroit Free Press, I gave Chevy a call.

As expected, spokesman Shad Balch gave me a “no comment” because, well, future product. But video of the speech is online, and a closer look reveals that maybe Biden was talking about an aftermarket conversion? Certainly, that’s what a Chevy PR person pointed to on the Facebook page of another automotive journalist.

Of course, that could be a deflection by the automaker to prevent news about their product from leaking.

Here’s the quote, starting a little after 30 minutes in: “I can’t wait to get us (unintelligible) behind that all-electric Corvette that goes 210 miles an hour. Y’all think I’m kidding, I mean it. Heh. Last year, that converted Corvette set a speed record of 210.2 miles per hour. Electric vehicle. So don’t tell me we don’t still make the best cars right here in the United States of America. And trucks.” He then goes on to speak about his plans for EVs.

There are a few things to unpack here. First, Biden made a stir in August when he posted a video of himself driving his classic Corvette and made mention of an electric Corvette with 200 mph capability. Second, the Genovation GXE is a converted C7 Corvette that had 200 mph capability. Third, we don’t know exactly what speed record he’s talking about, but the GXE did hit that exact number in Florida about a year ago.

Finally, in what might be an amazing coincidence, GM-Trucks.com broke news this morning of GM documentation that it claims proves the future existence of an electrified Corvette, as a 2023 or 2024 model. The report suggests the car will be a hybrid, with all-wheel drive and an electric motor or motors driving the front wheels. Not too far off from the system in the Acura NSX.

A hybrid, of course, is not an “all-electric” vehicle. And the report indicates it is unclear if Chevy is developing both a hybrid and a pure EV, or if people are conflating the two. It is, of course, possible that Biden was told of the hybrid and is getting it mixed up with an all-electric car. Maybe he read the report from GM-Trucks.com.

So did Biden confuse an aftermarket conversion of the previous-gen car with the current vehicle, or with something he saw or was told about while on some tour of a GM plant or office or the design center? It’s possible – he’s been prone to gaffes for decades, and lots of people, even those who know cars, might get mixed up, especially while giving a speech.

Or does GM really have something in the works and are they using the fact that Biden said “converted” (which he clearly did in the video) to hide behind? I mean, Biden could’ve meant that the current mid-engine C8 was being “converted” from internal combustion to electric for a variant. Yet, the existence of the GXE and that speed number gives them a nice smokescreen.

It should also be noted that Chevrolet advertises a top speed for the 2020 C8 of 194 mph. That’s pretty darn close to 200, obviously. So was Biden thinking of the current car, which is very much NOT electric, and getting it mixed up with something he’d heard about GM’s/Chevy’s future plans for electrification? Maybe yesterday’s news about GM and Nikola?

Whatever the case may be, it’s just one more thing that will fuel speculation until GM solves the mystery. Either an electric C8 will launch sometime in the next few years, or it won’t.

Until that day comes, keep your ear to the grindstone

Internet points to those who caught the movie reference in my kicker.

[Image: Pix_Arena/Shutterstock.com]

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38 Comments on “Is Joe Biden Confirming an All-Electric Chevrolet Corvette?...”


  • avatar
    Cicero

    Don’t put a lot of stock in what Joe Biden says. It could have just been a typo on the teleprompter.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I expect an all-electric Corvette won’t be until the C9. Unless something strange occurs in relatively short order, that next gen will likely be BEV and electric-assist only. The C8 might finish its life as electric-assist only but I don’t think it was optimized as a BEV so a production version would probably have some compromises.

    I will say that I think it is very good that both presidential candidates seem to understand the greatness of personal transportation and neither looks to be trying to take that away from people.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      GM did register Corvette E-Ray quite a while back and have renewed it. The center tunnel seems to be well suited for Chevy Volt style battery placement. In looking at photos of a C-8 with the skins apart I don’t see any issues that would get in the way of a full BEV version. I doubt they’d wait for the C9. The C8 looks ready to go.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        We’ll see. All the leaks have said that any E-Ray will be electrified not a BEV. I don’t think a BEV is happening for the C8. Rigging up an EV on a vehicle designed for a gasoline engine isn’t GM’s style. The only one I can think of is the Spark. The rest came or are coming with dedicated designs.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          My speculation is that the Zora will be the AWD electrified and E-Ray will be the BEV. In looking at the understructure of the C8, it does look like it would easily support being a BEV and may have been designed for it from the start. The front motor for the Zora can stay in place. We probably both agree there will be an electric motor in front on a C8. The rear motors look like they’d fit well in the rear. A Volt style battery pack using the center tunnel.

          Another factor to consider is that C8 engineers will be helping out on BEV projects. Hmmm, where did they get that experience? They’re probably not putting Corvette suspension on future Bolts (although that would be cool) so what kind of experience could they be providing?

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “may” is doing some heavy lifting there. Like I said, we’ll see but I doubt it. If they do build a factory BEV production version of the C8 I’ll buy you a Pepsi.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @ajila: You’re on!

          • 0 avatar
            JMII

            Agree. The C8 will get some kind of hybrid / battery assist during its production run. AWD with a tunnel mounted batter makes sense. This rumor has gone hand-in-hand with mid-engine stuff since the get go. At this point I would more surprised if it didn’t happen. Beyond this a fully electric C9 may be an option but even then a gas version will remain.

            Now why some Corvette engineers were moved to GM’s electric division is an interesting story. Is this for them to gain EV knowledge or is for them to bring high speed handling experience to some new EV GM is planning? Maybe its a bit of both.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            There are even labeled fuse positions in the current C8 that are electrification related. One fuse is for the EV pedestrian alert and the other is labeled “Lithium Battery Module”. At least the front motor is coming. So, they did design it for a front motor and lithium pack. I think the center tunnel was designed to hold a large pack. Plenty of room in back for dual motors, so why not take it to being a full BEV?

            The C9 should be many years away. If they’re smart, they’ll wait and see where technology goes. I think there is going to be a lot of battery technology volitility over the next 5 years. I have shorter design cycles so I have the luxury of waiting to see what I have to work with in terms of battery gravimetric and volumetric density. If I mis-guess, I can correct the product direction very quickly.

            In addition to battery technology, additive manufacturing is evolving quickly as well. I’d expect the C9 to take advantage of the technology. The question is, what new things can you do with it?

            The C9 will be a huge leap in technology and will take a lot of time to develop. I wouldn’t be surprised if the C9 wasn’t until 2030. That gives them a lot of time with the C8 and maybe we’d see a full C8 BEV version midway through the cycle.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Not to get very political, but the optics of the speech today were about perfect for Biden.

    Here’s the setup he did:
    tinyurl.com/y59cvaa3

    -Podium say “Buy American”
    -Giant American flag backdrop
    -Surrounded by a TRX, F-150, Raptor, HD Chevy, and a Wrangler
    -No jackoff celebrity or comedian in sight

    I’m sure major Trump supporters won’t be impressed but it is going to be hard for Republicans to paint Biden as a globalist, America-hating “Green New Deal” zealot if he keeps up this imagery.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Well, if George W. Bush, who basically got a Get Out Of Jail Free card for ‘Nam, was able to paint a guy who actually DID go there – and fought – as some kind of coward, anything is possible. Google “swiftboated.”

      In the end, people believe what they want to believe.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I don’t know man…Bush was in the Guard and any hard evidence that suggested shenanigans was sketchy enough to get Dan Rather fired which is to say totally debunked.

        Military Service just isn’t the issue it once was.

        It wasn’t an issue when Bill Clinton was explaining away his own shenanigans on the way to defeating Sr, who was treading water in the Pacific when his plane was shot out from under him at Midway and later Bob Dole, who was in Italy getting mangled by German Machine Gun fire while saving his radioman’s life.

        So yeah, people believe what they want to believe.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Personally, I’d say Bush’s National Guard service was kind of theoretical – I mean, does ANYONE think he didn’t get preferential treatment given who his dad was? And Bush himself basically said he signed up with the Guard so he wouldn’t end up in Vietnam. Granted, if the s**t had hit the fan with the Russians, he’d have been called up to serve, and I can’t blame him for not wanting to put his life on the line for the glorious cause of South Vietnamese independence. But it was more than a little hypocritical for his campaign to go after Kerry’s actual Vietnam service. It’s politics, I suppose.

          As far the importance of military service is concerned, I think it’s making a comeback. A lot of people who are running for office now are veterans of the Gulf War, or Iraq/Afghanistan, and the military is held in far higher regard now than it was in the ’60s and ’70s. I think that’s a good thing – Vietnam vets came home to be called “baby killers” and what-not, which was disgraceful.

          I think it may be more of a selling point for voters and politicians who came of age after the first Gulf war, and particularly in the aftermath of 9/11.

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        “In the end, people believe what they want to believe.”

        That’s true to a point, but many/most people want to be led and be told what to believe. Steve Jobs understood this as does Elon Musk. Zuckerberg not so much.

        Luckily for the easily persuaded/manipulated, tech leaders, auto marketing and politics cater to them. Easy pickings. Since this group represents a large percentage of the public, it’s a good investment from their perspective.

        For better or worse. Mostly for worse.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Jobs’ key strength, I think, is that he was next-level, ruthlessly OBSESSED with making the product good from the inside out. Read his autobiography – the guy was borderline psychotic about it. Example – he insisted that the innards of the first Macintosh be arranged perfectly and attractively, even though the customer would never see the innards of the machine (in fact, you had to have a special tool to open one up to begin with). Over-the-top? Maybe. But it created a belief in Apple’s customers that what they were buying was special. Jobs understood that a good idea is nothing without execution, and that’s what Apple has always done well. Many of Apple’s computer companies were more focused on ideas than execution and failed (remember Gateway?). Apple earned its’ following.

          And this is where I think Musk might fall down – Tesla products are full of brilliant ideas, and Musk himself is a real visionary, but the product execution isn’t great. For the time being, that’s fine, as Tesla doesn’t really have much competition, but that’s going to change, and very soon. I suspect Tesla’s fortunes might be a lot sketchier once real competition comes along.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yes, Apple has earned its following. They made excellent products.

            My objection to getting an Apple account is that you have to marry the company and swap spit with them by giving them all sorts of personal data and a credit card number, which in turn gives them access to your credit data and history.

            We found a way around that by using a straw-man account using a business credit card, IOW nothing personal, all business.

            By and large, my wife and I both prefer the Samsung G6 smart phone. Just as good as her Apple 6 phone, and a lot less drama to download apps.

          • 0 avatar
            jkross22

            HDC,

            I’m no fan of either Google or Apple’s behavior, but one has an awful track record of dealing with privacy and that company’s name rhymes with oodle. Let’s not kid ourselves about who and what Google is. We are their product.

            Believing that you’re not handing over MUCH more of your personal info to Google is wrong.

            Want even worse news? Amazon just hired Keith Alexander to their board. If you don’t recall his name, it was his idea to use warrantless wiretaps at the NSA and to collect as much info as possible on all of us. He’s one of the people who flat out lied to congress about data collection.

            And now he works for Jeff Kisses. Instead of rotting in jail.

  • avatar

    It is was joke. I wonder how people after all these years continue to take what politicians say seriously.

    But on a more somber note: does Biden think Corvette is made by Ford or by Chrysler?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The best the C8 would receive is an electric-boosted hybrid, F1-style.

    The issue isn’t whether GM *could* produce a BEV C8, but whether they *should*. The Corvette’s brand equity is second only to the F-150, and going electric could turn off its fan base.

    From a practical perspective, the Corvette isn’t known so much as a 1/4-miler, but as a high-speed cruiser. Adding hundreds of pounds of batteries to a C8 might result in a quicker car, but its range could be painfully low.

    On the other hand, a Model 3 has similar curb weight and it’ll keep up with a ‘Vette at the low end, with decent range at the high end. But it’s a chassis that is optimized for an EV, and not necessarily for handling, etc.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Say what you will about the Obama/Biden years, but those guys had pretty impeccable taste in cars. Obama’s last ride before becoming president was a Chrysler 300C.

    Worth noting – not surprisingly, Trump has had some pretty cool cars too, obviously skewed towards the showy, “rich-guy toy” end of the market, which makes sense given that he’s a rich guy who enjoys showing off.

    https://drivetribe.com/p/the-cars-of-donald-trump-Y9npTy6cSDSW6GUx8QdBFw?iid=O_6y_UxPRoCgNhDJS0-l0A

    But, yeah…Biden’s ’67 ‘Vette (the side vents identify the model year) is damn legit.

  • avatar
    pveezy

    I am not entirely sure that Joe could confirm what he had for breakfast this morning…

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