You don’t have to look too far in Corvette’s past to note how a passionate group of enthusiasts might react if you mess with the foundational formula of a brand. Giving Corvette enthusiasts an always-welcome, more powerful engine, but placing it aft of the occupants, was seen as a daring deviation from the car’s original design. The fact that Zora Arkus-Duntov pushed for such a change decades ago shows how drastic this move appeared to those who were ultimately concerned with the brand’s bottom line.
The Chinese are credited with the phrase, “May you live in interesting times.” It doesn’t take very much ink from the front page to see that indeed, we are doing just that. Even in the automotive realm, with all the talk of self-driving, electrification, and cyber-security for our cars, sacred cattle are falling faster than a cow-tipping contest during Spring Break. Think about it, the dipstick of our beloved Corvette is now behind the headrests and competitor Ford has just released prototypes of the newest iteration of their Mustang – an electric SUV!!!!! My, how times have changed!
The term “disruption” has seemingly taken on a cult following and has become quite marketable. Like any disturbance, even those not within the turmoil wind up being affected. Our Corvette is starting to feel the influence of those high-, and low-pressure points that surround it. Just yesterday, an analyst from Morgan Stanley was quoted by CNBC, suggesting that Corvette should become a “brand” onto itself.
Corvette lifers will recall that this isn’t the first time around this discussion. Talks about making Corvette a halo brand, or up-scaling it with Cadillac, have been talked about on various show fields (and possibly board rooms) for years. But, this time, things are different, and it speaks volumes about the current position of Corvette amid the board rooms of the world, especially GM’s.
Instead of creating exclusivity by separating Corvette from your daily-driver spot on dealer’s lots, today’s talks include broadening the Corvette brand to include a – gasp – SUV!!! The stimulus for this possibly not-so-new concept is, of course, the new Mustang Mach-E. Ford’s all-electric SUV that bears the pony amid its barren, and not-so-necessary grille.
Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley’s numbers-cruncher, feels that the “Corvette brand” could be well worth $7 billion to $12 billion dollars to GM’s bottom line. He states that the C8 could be a “halo sub-brand that hatches” an all-electric SUV. He proposes that such a vehicle could increase “Corvette” volume five-fold. Keep in mind, we’re not increasing the number of mid-engine cars, only the number of cars that we’d be putting a similar logo upon. There IS a difference! Our question is, would those who might be interested in such a vehicle even care if it has the crossed-flags somewhere on it?
Unlike before, where a Corvette-specific brand was thought to increase its perceived value, today’s new deal seeks to feed off the perceived-strong value enjoyed by the brand’s position in the market. A position that has been hard-fought ever since a certain engineer felt Chevrolet’s new, overhead-valve V8 was a better fit under the hood of a Corvette.
Times They Are A-Changin’
Whether you like it or not, the next Corvette will be a mid-engine. For the record, we like it. We are eager to see how the new layout will lend itself to modification and at the least, routine maintenance, but we understand the benefits this new design brings to the car’s performance.
As the snowball of progress continues to roll, items such as electrification are already on the rumor horizon. The question arises, if adding electric motors to increase Corvette’s performance is a good thing, then how “electric” can it go and still be a Corvette? I mean, I like a little black pepper to season my food, but I’m not about to dip a straw or a spoon into the pepper shaker! Nutritional value aside, I doubt my taste buds would ever get used to that!
With all of the not-so-subtle changes that have occurred by at least two of the Big Three, it appears the brand tape has lost some of its stick, due to being drastically re-positioned. Disruption is the antithesis of, “that’s the way we’ve always done it!” and, it does make for some interesting times. It also allows for improvements beyond what the standard rank-and-file could ever conceive. Automotive pioneer, Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “If I would have given them what they wanted, I would have created a faster horse!” We’ve come a long way since the horse, and save for a few low-points, it has been positive overall. Whether this latest flurry of change rings true with the Chinese proverb or not, we’ll have to wait to see if it is in fact, a curse.