I really didn’t want to write a blog about a Corvette. As a designer, I respect the Corvette’s beginnings, back at the 1950s and 1960s when we were flying into Outer Space and flying down the roads in Space Age cars. But, I came of age in the 1990s, and by then, the Corvette didn’t inspire me at all.
My designer-mind cared about something more beautiful (more on that later). But mostly, I didn’t get the Corvette.
In my lifetime, the Corvette seemed to exist in an alternate universe. Guys I don’t know… bought Corvettes… to impress women that I’ve never met. Everyone over there seems pretty happy, but we never hung out.
So there’s a cultural gap and generational gap that is significant here. Today I am all grown up, and I don’t know anyone who knows anyone who would spend their hard-earned money on a new Corvette. Nobody wants to buy a corvette.
But that may change.
When I wasn’t looking, it seems that Chevy made an uncharacteristically bold decision: they ditched the Corvette. Then they built a mind-blowing mid-engine supercar and then—for no good reason—decided to call it a Corvette. Then things got even more crazy. They decided to sell it for under $60,000.
This is where my typing fingers stop typing. I am about to say flattering things about the Corvette and it feels unnatural. So real is my prejudice against the Corvette that it seems that I am walking into that alternate universe and it’s starting to make sense. Did this happen because I turned 40? Does this mean I’ll start to like Bud Lite?
Or maybe General Motors is proving that they have what it takes. This car goes from 0-60 MPH in 2.9 seconds. Before you finish this sentence, a Corvette will go from parked to screaming past you at 60 MPH.
Nobody has taken this car on the track or around town, so we don’t have any news about handling, G-force, or whatever number proves something about performance. But for me, I don’t know what is more enticing than bang for buck.
There are other cars that are almost as fast, but they are very very expensive. 💰💰💰💰
Who has $60k and wants to drive fast enough to get a concussion?
This is How the Story Ends?
So in the title of this blog, I teased HBR Case Studies. These are the provocative, well-written true stories that are studied, discussed, and debated in B-school classrooms. Better than a text book, a case study allows students to learn valuable lessons about complicated, difficult realities in the real economy.
In grad school, I must’ve read 100+ case studies. When I look around at the world around me, I imagine many real-time business stories in that framework. This Corvette story is ridiculously primed to be a case study.
Here’s whats interesting. In this present moment, the Corvette C8 story could go in three very different directions:
1. C8 Corvette Wins, and it was just what Chevy needed.
- Chevy wins awards. Chevy gets respect and wins back buyers. Celebrities and influencers agree. (Reference: Ford GT in the early 2000s.)
- Chevy thins out its herd to focus on high-powered cars and trucks with good profit margins. Although smaller than its ever been, GM is a right-sized and ready for whatever comes next.
- In 2025, Chevy goes on to build a stronger-faster-better electric C8 that embarrasses Tesla.
2. C8 Corvette Wins, but it was too little too late.
- In spite of a jolt of optimism, Chevy continues to decline in sales and becomes irrelevant.
- Chevy can’t afford to make the C8 and considers selling it off, similar to Dodge’s failed plans to send off the Viper to be its own company.
3. C8 Corvette Fails, and here are all the reasons why.
- Corvette lost its core group of enthusiasts because they prefer the front-engine Corvette of every generation past.
- People who want a supercar also want the mystique. They will pay twice as much for a Lambo, Ferrari, Porsche, because they can.
- Millennials and Gen-X auto enthusiasts who could afford the Corvette are no longer interested in gasoline engines. They’ve moved on to electric cars and Tesla is king.
- Corvette couldn’t compete with the fit-and-finish of more glamorous super cars. The cheap Corvette turned out to feel cheap.
This is why I love America. 🇺🇸 ANY of these stories could turn out to be true! Chevy is not predestined to fail just because car buyers ignored the Corvette for the last 20 years. Chevy has just as much of a chance to win as any other automaker. Don’t count them out!
So yeah, I’m cheering for Chevy here. Of course the car has to perform well on the streets, but the real opportunity is if Chevy makes a reliable, usable supercar that car lovers drive hundreds of thousands of miles. Gasp! A super car that works!!
This is what the Acura NSX did back in the 1990s, and it’s what Chevy might try to do here in the 2020s. This formula works. Make something awesome that stays awesome.
Finally, I am cheering for the Corvette to spite Toyota. I didn’t have time for Corvettes in high school because my designer-brain was fixated on the Toyota Supra. I’ll never forget a day when my friend’s mom slowly rolled up their long gravel driveway in a new Toyota Supra with a massive spoiler. I was 14 years old, and a car that I had never heard of absolutely took my breath away. Ever since, I’ve checked to see when the Supra seems affordable, but that day may never come. 25 years later, Toyota Supras sell all day for over $100,000. Great story, right?
Nope!! Toyota just re-released the Toyota Supra for 2020, and it’s a complete disappointment. Not everyone agrees with me yet. After many test drives and months of agony, some bloggers and fanboys still believe that there is something redeeming about the 2020 Supra (it’s a lot for under $50,000!). But most of us have given up. Admit it: the new Supra sucks.
Didn’t we see this coming? For the new Supra, Toyota “partnered”with BMW to share the car, with a pinky-swear to make different cars even though they are the same car. “You call it the Z4 and we’ll call ours the Supra.” Ridiculous.
(I’m not even going to put a photo in the blog because it looks bad too!)
So, yeah, Chevy deserves the spotlight here. Unlike Toyota, Chevy has made something out of nothing. Good job, Detroit. I’m on your side.