Was the C6 Corvette a Mistake?

Was the C6 Corvette a Mistake?
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It sure looks that way.

Dubbed the C 5½ by some when it was introduced, the C6 Corvette came across as highly derivative of the previous model – and not all that good-looking, either. Those who had groaned when learning that the C6 design had been assigned to the stylist responsible for the Pontiac Aztek seemed to have been vindicated when the ungainly proportions of the C6 were revealed. And, though the Z06 version somehow looks better, the base C6 is still a plug ugly car.

And it ain’t selling, either.

(more after the jump)

Since the late 1990’s, production of the Corvette has always floated somewhere above 30,000 vehicles per year. Even in the last years of the C4 design, when the platform was more than a decade old and everyone knew a new one was in the pipeline, Chevy sold about 32,000 annually.

But Corvette sales in February tanked. Chevy barely broke the 2,000 vehicle level, down over 25% from the previous February. While February is traditionally a poor month for car sales, the downward trend in Corvette sales isn’t isolated to this past month. February sales were down almost 20% below those of January and there has been a consistent downward trend in Corvette sales, based on comparison to the same period a year previously, since June of 2007.

The C6 exists solely because General Motors wanted to build the Cadillac XLR and needed to use the Corvette platform to amortize the costs over a larger number of vehicles than Cadillac could sell. That the XLR turned out to be a sales disaster didn’t help, but the motivation behind that car is the explanation behind the decision to produce a new Corvette when sales of the old version were still pretty strong – something GM has been loath to do in the past.

So, now GM finds itself with a car that’s not selling, in a down market. Even incentives aren’t working. Dealers are still holding 2007 models which they can’t sell, even with $3,000 incentives during the past two months.

But that, truly, is not the worst of it. GM insiders told TopSpeed.com during the recent North American International Auto Show that all of the product plans at GM were up for re-evaluation, which includes the next generation Corvette, the C7. Though Corvette engineers remained optimistic about the Corvette’s place in the line-up – because it uses an engine shared with the light truck line – they were also blunt in acknowledging that the Corvette was a low priority for engineering resources in an environment in which the company would be scrambling to meet upcoming Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards.

That means the C6 is likely to be the Corvette in the showroom for some time to come.

GM has already resorted to trying to glamorize the car, with the upcoming “427” Will Cooksey special edition and the very limited production ZR1. GM has a long history, particularly at Chevrolet and Pontiac, of using “special editions” to try to juice up the sales of a model that is past its prime.

The real risk to the Corvette, however, comes from the economics of the assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where the car is produced. Until the XLR was added, that plant was exclusively devoted to the Corvette. Even the addition of the XLR kept the plant concentrated on the single, limited production platform upon which both cars are built.

But, with XLR sales almost non-existent and C6 Corvette sales plummeting, the question is whether the Bowling Green plant can earn its keep. Last year, shortly after the new contract with the UAW was signed, rumors surfaced that Pontiac Solstice production would shift to Bowling Green in the next few years, sparking speculation about whether the Corvette and Solstice would be built on the same platform. Given the size disparity between the two, that led to speculation about whether the Corvette might end up with a V-6 powerplant.

That puts GM in a box: this is not the time, politically or economically, to be devoting scarce resources to developing a new, world-beater Corvette. But, a plant that isn’t making money can’t be tolerated, either, even if it does produce a halo vehicle. And, to make matters even worse, GM’s committed to building its own competitor to the Corvette – the Camaro – in about another year.

The Corvette has always found someone to be its champion and savior, even when the stars at GM seemed aligned against it. It may be time for another one.

Source: Corvette Blog

What do you think?
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8 comments:

  (6023) posted on 03.8.2008

Ralph:

I think it’s a stretch to say the C6 Corvette was a mistake based on two months of down sales during the fourth year of production. The first year of the C6 (2005) saw 37,372 Corvettes produced, higher than any of the C5 years. Want to know the real reason why there are still 2007 Corvettes on dealer’s lots? GM made 40,561 of them! This was the most Corvettes produced in a model year since the introduction of the C4 model in 1984 and only the sixth time in 54 years that Corvette production crossed the 40,000 unit threshold.

For many, the primary reason for purchasing a Corvette is for fun and not as an everyday, grocery-gettin, drive-in-the-rain (snow) kind of car. The housing market is drying up the ability for many to purchase a secondary-use sportscar. A slowing economy will cause people to put off major purchases. And let’s not forget the fact that January and February’s weather has been brutal in many parts of the Country and shows no sign of letting up in March. Seriously, who is buying Convertibles in the Midwest right now anyway?

GM should slow production to allow demand to catch up to supply. Offer up some incentives perhaps and wait for summer and the arrival of the 2009 Corvette ZR1!

Keith

  (6023) posted on 03.8.2008

stupid article.. WITH ALL RESPECT. you are no judge and u know nothin about this sport car.. i made a Corvette gatherin here in Dubai. LET ME KNOW HOW TO PUT THE PICTURES AND U WILL C URSELF THE DIFF BETWEEN C5 AND C6. chevy did great job in the C6.. its the best vette ever..

  (6023) posted on 03.7.2008

Man why r u trying to bring downa n american icon? Its people like u that try to break young people’s dreams.

  (6023) posted on 03.6.2008

You’re obviously stoned out of your mind. Either that or you’ve mistaken the C6 with a Dodge Viper with its bubble roof. You need to pull your head out of your and think for once. You’re really just trying to get yourself fired aren’t you? You’re calling out possibly the most successful and religiously followed American sports car still on the market. Try thinking about you’re future first buckwheat.

  (6023) posted on 03.6.2008

I just want to say while yes the newer C6 is obviously based off of the C5 in terms of looks and performance it blows the C5 out of the water there is simply no comparison. The C6 has been touted by many magazines to beone of the best performances cars for the money. Also the z51’s handling has been called porsche like, last time I checked that was a good thing. Ugly? far from it the old flip up headlights were blaze, and everyone I know and magazine that I’ve read agrees. As far as existence due to the xlr that maybe true but in their respective classes the corvette has been a much more potent competitor. Perhaps the corvette maybe costing GM money but there’s no reason to take jabs at the Corvette. It simply maybe the best high end sports car to come out of the Big 3 since the gt40 and gt, but for half the cost....

  (6023) posted on 03.6.2008

What??? Are environmentalists now writing in this site??? Who is this clown, writing rubbish about the only proper car made by Americans???(After Ford GT which was made by British)

  (6023) posted on 03.6.2008

Actuallly Ralph worships GM and hates Toyota the most.

Ralph, they are practically giving Corvettes and XLRs away like toys in a McDonald’s Happy Meal aren’t they?

  (6023) posted on 03.6.2008

"...the base C6 is still a plug ugly car."
Dude what the hell you smokin? The C6 is a good looking car. Way better than the C5.

"But Corvette sales in February tanked."
You say this like GM is the only company that is having trouble selling their vehicles, well wake up and look at lasts months sales figures. Only Honda had a decent month and almost everyone else was down. Why didn’t you state that in your article. Your a horrible reporter just trying to beat down someone you obviously don’t like.

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