It’s no surprise that the mid-engine C8 Corvette is a hot commodity right now as evidenced by a recent letter sent out by GM’s North America President, Steve Carlisle, warning dealers about price gouging. Obviously, the market is good for C8 Corvette sales. If you’re a Camaro salesman, not so much.
The Achille’s heel of Corvette has always been the fact it never had the high sales numbers cars such as the Malibu, Impala, and other mass-produced cars enjoyed. While many of these cars’ sales numbers rolled like a slot machine in Las Vegas, Corvette’s sales since its inception in 1953 peaked during 1979 production at only 53,807 units. The next highest year was when the C4 was introduced in 1984. Take that you Crossfire haters!
As is the case with each new generation, sales numbers spiked thanks to those early adopters and then would taper off as those cars filter out into the used market. New model Corvettes typically enjoyed sales in the mid-to-upper 30,000 units while Camaro spends most of its time in the six-figure production status worldwide. When GM pulled the plug on the fourth-gen Camaro in 2002, production numbers were swinging down into the low-40s. When Camaro came back for the 2010 model year, almost 130,000 enthusiasts opened their garages to the new design. Again, the ups and downs of introducing a new body style.
So, could that play as big of a part today with the mid-engine Corvette? Could the magic sales juice of a completely new design propel the C8 sales past a typically much higher production car like the Camaro? GM’s North America sales numbers seem to suggest so. We reported how Ford’s ponycar stomped all over the Camaro in 2020. More recently, and closer to home, the C8 Corvette (33,042 units) outsold Camaro (21,893 units) in North America for 2021. And, if the first-quarter stats for this year are any indicator, that trend could continue, especially when you toss the high-revving Z06 variant into the equation. The North American numbers for Corvette production in the first quarter of 2021 top out at 8,812 units while the Camaro languishes at 6,664 units.
In all fairness, Camaro’s low numbers are directly connected to GM’s “build shy” approach to building cars during the height of a chip shortage. Camaro’s Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant was halted numerous times so those all-to-precious microchips could be used in more profitable vehicles. This not only affected overall production numbers but also limited numerous options in GM’s little pony car, such as engines and trim packages.
Even if we hold to the idea that “numbers don’t lie,” we also have to admit that they don’t tell the whole story either. While it is true that GM warned its dealers to not fleece their Corvette customers in light of the car’s recent popularity, it is also true that Chevy was also trying to fish for Camaro buyers using a hook with no worm. As we exit this crazy era of chip shortages and closures, perhaps the ship will right itself and our mass-produced cars will once again make their way into the masses. Will this recent dearth in Camaro’s production numbers be the motivation needed to bring out that long-awaited seventh-generation Camaro? Time will tell.