When the C8 Corvette was in gestation during the mid-2010s, there were doubts regarding a radical rethink of the car. Would Corvette fans accept a clean sheet design? Would it still be an authentic Corvette? Zora Arkus Duntovs’s mid-engine dream was about to come true, yet skepticism surrounded the outcome. Comparisons with Pontiac’s Fiero were weaponized by Corvette haters as well as hide-bound ‘Vette fans that bellyached for months about square taillights.
Relocating the engine aft of the seats creates as many problems as it solves. The C7 had an easy air about it with ample legroom and a nice big cargo area behind the seats. It was a great grand tourer and little did we know that when it appeared as a 2014 model that it would be the last of its kind.
The C8 traded all the above for exponentially improved traction and roadability but inherited a notoriously unforgiving architecture as well. All mid-engine cars must deal with the cabin shoved forward, a fixed rear bulkhead, limited interior storage, and packaging challenges. Critically, all these issues are non-negotiable. These hardpoints also dictate the exterior appearance of the car as well, and infusing instantly recognizable Corvette styling cues to this new blueprint would prove to be challenging.
With historical annual sales of roughly 25k units a year, it was unclear if Chevrolet could duplicate the success of the C7 with a car that might turn off a huge swath of Corvettes’ loyal audience. When the C8 debuted in Tustin, California in the summer of 2019, most of the aforementioned worries were calmed, but its acceptance in the marketplace remained untested.
Not only did Tadge and his band of engineers manage to domesticate the traditionally finicky mid-engine layout, but they brought to market a world-beating Corvette at under $60K. A feat that should include the C8 among milestones like the small-block Chevy, the Mustang, and the Beetle.
No good deed goes unpunished and just as Bowling Green was about to go full tilt building the C8, the hysteria of COVID 19 gripped the planet. Then the supply chain thing swooped in adding another hurdle. Nonetheless, the C8 was a hit and sold out quickly, remaining the hottest car in North America to this day.
If any doubts remain about the C8, here is some incredible data supporting the decision to go mid-engine. The car has obliterated the fussy European competition in sales and looks to have what it takes to be another killer chapter in Corvette’s storied history. The guys over at GMAuthority bring us some of the numbers.
According to GMAuthority, “In the United States, Chevrolet Corvette deliveries totaled 10,166 units in Q3 2021, an increase of about 60 percent compared to 6,355 units sold in Q3 2020. In the first nine months of the year, Corvette sales increased about 96 percent to 24,748 units.”
A 96 percent increase? Now granted, that was following 2020 and the C19 event and associated madness, but a 96% increase? A fantastic performance.
Wait there’s more, GMA continues, “The impressive jump in Chevy Corvette sales in the U.S. during Q3 2021 enabled the sports car to remain the best-selling model in its class. In fact, the Corvette outsold all other rivals combined, including the Porsche 911, Porsche 718 (née Cayman/Boxster), Mercedes-AMG GT, Mercedes-Benz SL, Mercedes-Benz SLC, Audi R8, Nissan GT-R, Ford GT, Acura NSX, and BMW i8.” Take that, all you deniers in monogrammed, velvet driving slippers.
If that weren’t enough, “During the third quarter of 2021, Corvette managed to grow its segment share to an astounding 76-percent from 55-percent a year ago. The second-place Porsche 911 – the most cross-shopped rival with the C8 – accounted for roughly a sixth as many sales with a 12-percent segment share, down from 14-percent in the year-ago quarter. The Porsche 718 line, comprised of the 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster, followed in third place with a 6-percent segment share, down from 9-percent compared to the year-ago quarter.
“The Porsches were followed by the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT with 4-percent, the Audi R8 with 1-percent, and the Nissan GT-R which also netted a 1-percent segment share. All other models, including the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, Acura NSX, Ford GT, Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class, and BMW i8, each saw a segment share of 1-percent or less,” reports GMA.
So what we have here folks, is a “shock and awe” invasion of the supercar segment. Granted, many of these competitors cost more, but the reality is the C8 is good enough to now be considered by rich guys who can afford anything they want. With the Z06 and E-Ray variants perched in the shadows, these numbers will probably increase.
Congrats to the Tadge Juechter and the true believers at Chevrolet. The C8 must have been a hell of a pitch to GM brass, but to their credit, Mary Barra and Mark Ruess probably deserve as much credit as anyone in the reality of the C8.
It’s sad that Zora isn’t here to witness this event, what would have been the culmination of his career, but we can all agree that his spirit lives on every time the sun hits the C8’s peaked fenders or the sound of a small-block LT2 wails off in the distance.