C8 Corvettes: Who Are They Building These Cars For Anyways?

The internet is starting to cool from the white-hot, critical-mass moment that occurred in a blimp hangar in California a few weeks ago. The world is waking to the new normal that a mid-engine, sub-60,000-dollar supercar walks among them. Folks are still getting their first glimpses of the car in person.

Reactions have been undoubtedly positive, thanks to the often-touted sticker price and the fact 0-60 times will be enough to loosen your eye sockets. More colors, more technology, and more performance will definitely make the new C8 a hit among its target demographic. But who ARE they?

Social media and forums are full of back-stabbing memes featuring sneaker-wearing enthusiasts and “jorts” (whatever they are), or others who get grouped together due to their choices in aftermarket wheels, driving styles or even waxes. Other threads are bemoaning the lack of, or over-excessive use of one widget or another. As for the C8, you will find arguments stating it looks too much like, or not enough like one car or another.

I’m reminded of several other vehicles that were revealed to gasps of horror for perhaps, all the wrong reasons. They later went on to dominate their respective class, once the shock wore off and folks weren’t so afraid of the smoke rising from the meteor crater that just occurred.

Corvette has had its share of radical changes over the last seven generations, but has it ever changed its target demographic?

For those who patiently anticipated the arrival of the next-gen Corvette, I hope it turns out to be all you had anticipated. I believe the Corvette team did a great job in re-inventing the car and took a big risk by not only starting with a clean sheet, but devising a new type of paper to write upon.

The technology situated deep within the C8’s skin is just starting to reveal itself. As we get a better glimpse, we’ll see how many more tricks the engineers had up their sleeves. For now, our eyes are just starting to peer beyond the surface of styling and storage compartments. The Corvette faithful are concerned about how much stuff they can bring along for the ride, as you can imagine.

Not Your First, But Maybe Your Last

While C8 engineers are sure to click off each of the requisite items from a long-derived list of gotta-haves, they’re also trying to negotiate a minefield of stereotypical deal-breakers that have kept so many from diving into the composite pool.

The C8’s sub-sixty-grand entry price shocked many. But if we’re honest, all new Corvettes (next-gen included) have required quite a stable portfolio for buy-in. That puts it far beyond many high-schoolers, and skews ownership to a more fiscally-stable market. The younger generation need be content with wall posters and screen savers for now?

Buttons, touch-screens and charging ports now beckon to a younger, connected market. I can recall a story by well-known Corvette historian, Noland Adams, when he first sat in a C6 and tried to find a place to put the key! He would have thought he was headed to the moon in the new C8 Corvette.

Corvette’s bread and butter segment is an aging demographic, and despite the all-too-frequent, “get off my lawn!” type statements toward the younger enthusiasts and their modification preferences, Corvette NEEDs the younger market. GM knows this — trust me, they’ve done their homework — and the addition of “infotainment” anything is a direct connection to an already, overly-connected younger enthusiast base. Think about it, Corvette now has WiFi.

Built For Drivers?

Even with all the technology now available in the next-gen Corvette, I was surprised, and slightly relieved to hear that some tech was left out of the build sheet on purpose. In a recent “Thundering Thursday” newsletter from Corvette Mike, it listed some of the new tech available in the C8. It states, “These new tech items are included on the 2LT and 3LT (the 1LT gets fewer features): Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Side Blind Zone Alert Mirrors, Upgraded HD Rear Vision Camera, Updated Front Curb View Camera, HD Live Video Rear View Mirror (can also be used as a normal mirror), and Park Assist (displaying distance-to-object).

What didn’t make the cut, were items such as Pre-Collision Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control. According to the newsletter, this was intentional, as the C8 was built for drivers, not simply passengers in either seat.

The C8 Corvette's engine and trans are now mated together again. While there is no available shifter besides a set of buttons and paddles, the transmission in the C8 resembles a manual transmission more than an "automatic."

No conversation about a “driver’s car” would be complete unless we addressed the gorilla with the overly-muscular left leg. Who ever thought swapping a clutch pedal and gearshift for “flappy-paddles” would incite a civil war? I am forming my own thoughts on the new Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT), and will likely share them as we learn more about this new style shift mechanism that is neither fish nor fowl, so far as previous Corvette transmissions.

Broad Spectrum Or Near Misses?

GM is in the business of selling cars — period. To do that, they’ve got to do their homework and know what the buyer wants. Read that again and focus on the words, “the buyer”. In our world of avatar anonymity, sharing personal distaste for something has been raised to the level of sport. Dave Cruikshank put it well when he stated, “Social media forums are the latrine walls of our generation…”

Storage space is one non-negotiable area for Corvette buyers. Apparently, a duo of golf bags is still the gold-standard.

GM’s job is to sort through all the internet graffiti and find those likes and dislikes that are connected directly to open wallets, flush with cash. Then assemble a car that appeals to the broadest segment of folks wielding those wallets. By the recent reports of the first year C8 production being all but sold out, it seems like they have a pretty solid idea of the real buyer’s identity, and their tastes.

Brad Builds posted these renderings on his Instagram account. The flared sides and twin-turbo treatment speak to the younger crowd. Will they one-day become reality or will it be squashed by a more reserved constituency?

There’s no doubting that C8 will be re-creating the Corvette, and possibly even the super-car market. For the next year or so, I will be scouring the streets and show fields, seeking to find out exactly who that market really is, be it senior, tech-adopters, Euro-based converts, or younger performance junkies able to see past the standing stereotypes. Either way, it’s a bold, new world in Corvettedom, and we’ve all got a front-row seat, even if it isn’t in a new C8.

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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