NEW YORK – Exports accounted for only a few hundred of the more than 14,000 Corvettes Chevrolet sold in 2012. But, says John B. Fitzpatrick, marketing manager-performance cars, “We have much higher expectations for the 2014 Stingray.”
He predicts a boost in Corvette exports to Europe, Asia (especially China) and the Middle East. Exports to Europe collapsed earlier when the distributor went bankrupt and left Chevrolet without a dealer network to handle its vehicles, including the Corvette.
“It won't be until 2014 until we see momentum (build) overseas,” Fitzpatrick says.
Fitzpatrick predicts the ’14 Stingray will capture one-third of its segment in the U.S. Its main competitors are the Porsche 911, Cayman and Boxster; Audi R8, Mercedes SLK;GTR; and Dodge Viper. “If the new Acura NSX is a small car, it won't be much of a competitor,” he says. “A bigger NSX is something we'll have to keep an eye on.”
The Chevrolet executive declines to forecast the ratio of 2013 Corvette sales compared with the ’14 Stingray model. “We expect to have a good year, but only time will tell,” Fitzpatrick says. That's despite the fact that Chevrolet will offer only one Stingray model. The ZO6 and ZR1 will be dropped when the ’14 model goes on sale.
In 2011 Chevrolet sold 14,132 Corvettes, a 7.4% increase over 2010, according to WardsAuto data. But that total is well below the 20,000-30,000 Corvettes thebrand used to sell annually.
In the 1980s, Chevrolet dealers sold more than 40,000 Corvettes a year, and before the recession hit in 2008, deliveries totaled about 30,000 annually. Fitzpatrick attributes the drop-off of the past two years to the economy and aging product lineup. The current-generation Corvette was in its eighth year in 2012.
Last year, sales were split about one-third each for the base model, the wider-body Grand Sport, including the Z06, and the flagship ZR1. Average transaction price for the base model was about $63,000 last year and the ZR1 topped out at $120,000.
Fitzpatrick says pricing for of the ’14 Stingray has not been announced, “but if you can afford the 2013 Corvette, you can afford the 2014. We have high expectations for the (new) car.”
Despite its relatively small volume, the Corvette drives showroom traffic. “The Corvette gets people excited,” Fitzpatrick says. “They stand there and dream about it.”
He admits, however, that the car may not fit the individual needs of some enthusiasts, particularly those with families.
“But the Corvette gives us a chance to build a relationship with the customer at that point,” he says.
Fitzpatrick says 25%-30% of Corvette buyers use the car as a daily driver. However, even customers who can afford only a single vehicle and find the Corvette impractical for their daily needs might buy a Chevrolet model with more passenger capacity, a truck or an SUV, after first coming into the showroom to view a Corvette.
Fitzpatrick promises a lot of pre-launch outreach to help people understand the ’14 model is an all-new car.
“We will use social media, including Twitter. We will give people an understanding that we're coming out with something special.”
He says Chevrolet will keep enthusiasts engaged in the new Corvette and that there will be a lot of experiential activities to get people behind the wheel of the Stingray.
More than 1.5 million Corvettes have been sold since it debuted in 1953, when 300 Stingrays were built. The first Corvette had a base price of $3,498 and offered only two options – a heater for $91 and an AM radio for $145.
Buyers of the ’14 will be offered a host of additional options, especially advanced-connectivity capability and state-of-the-art audio systems, including HD Radio.