With the utmost respect to all Corvette enthusiasts young and old – and without an ounce of malice – I feel obligated to say that the current Chevy Corvette has an image problem…it is borderline irrelevant to younger buyers (designated as those under 40).
While the Corvette is generally understood to be a fast and capable sports car, there’s a variety of data to show that the Vette’ isn’t appealing to the younger generation. AutoWeek’s Andrew Stoy shared a variety of statistics on this fact earlier this year, and while I don’t agree with his conclusion, the data he’s cited is sound.
Can the new 2014 Stingray reverse the demographic trends? I believe it can. Here’s why.
Are Young Buyers Really Important?
When the Corvette’s demographics are discussed, enthusiasts are quick to point out that the supposedly “bad” demographics of Corvette buyers aren’t so different from those of Porsche buyers, at least anecdotally. If you drive down the street and spot a new 911 Turbo, odds are good the driver will be a man over 55. Many Vette’ loyalists cite this as proof that the Corvette’s youth problem is over-stated – and that this discussion is less about the Vette’ and more about unjust media bias.
While I wholeheartedly agree that the mainstream automotive media has a bit of a problem with the Vette’ (after all, most automotive journalists are rewarded handsomely for piling praise onto European supercars, vehicles that the Corvette regularly outperforms), the notion that Porsche has the same demographic make-up as the Corvette is incorrect.
If you compare the 911 to the Corvette, the age difference is seemingly small – the average 911 buyer is 53, the average Corvette buyer is 58. Yet the 911 isn’t the only product in Porsche’s portfolio. If you look at the similarly priced (base model to base model) Porsche Boxster and Cayman, the age discrepancy is much larger.
Comparing a base-model Corvette to a Cayman or Boxster in terms of performance, the vehicles aren’t in the same ballpark. The Vette’ offers more power, faster 0-60 and quarter mile times, and arguably better driving dynamics…and that’s the problem. Younger buyers are choosing to buy cars that offer inferior performance over the Corvette. That’s a flashing red indication of an image problem.
Image problems with younger buyers can be devastating, unfortunately, as demonstrated the incredible decline of Oldsmobile. While the Corvette is no Oldsmobile, the danger of an increasingly aging demographic is no small thing…which is precisely why GM has made appealing to younger buyers a priority.
Does the New Stingray Have What Younger Buyers Want?
Most people in the auto industry seem to agree that the “slacker generation” (of which I am a part) wants the following features in whatever car they buy:
- Decadent interiors that look like they belong in a ultra-premium luxury car (like a Bentley)
- Aggressive styling cues that demand attention
- Advanced technology
- Fuel efficiency
- Powerful and advanced infotainment systems that make it easy for owners to “stay connected”
The new Stingray does a fantastic job of hitting all these notes. The new Stingray will feature the MyLink 2 system, which CNet.com named “Best of Show” at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The new Stingray’s aggressive exterior styling and beautiful interior have been well-received by most critics. Toss in the awesome new 6.2L V8 (a technological marvel) and an incredible 29mpg highway fuel economy rating, and you’ve got a winner, right?
While I agree that the features listed above are all desired by those under 40, I don’t think building a car with great features is enough. When anyone buys a sports car, they’re looking for sex appeal and fun. Sports car owners want to turn some heads, enjoy the confidence of driving a beast of a car, impress their friends, etc. These are the reasons sports cars exist in the first place.
Thus, the real key to the success of the new Stingray isn’t features and content so much as it is marketing. GM needs to put the Stingray in front of the younger generation and make them fall in love. Considering GM’s success marketing the Camaro – a star of the Transformers movie series – there’s every reason to believe the Stingray will catch on with “the kids.”
To that end, GM has worked to get the Stingray a starring role in the latest Transformers flick. They’ve also done a great job schmoozing the automotive media (so far), worked to place a digital version of the car in popular video games, made overtures to potential female buyers, and – for better or worse – worked to portray the new Vette’ as a luxury vehicle. They’re pulling out all the stops to market the Corvette, and that will be the key to the car’s success.
By any measure, the 2014 Corvette is worthy of envy and respect. If GM markets the new Stingray correctly, the image problem will be fixed.
Author Jason Lancaster is a life-long Corvette enthusiast who has been fortunate enough to spend a few exhilarating minutes behind the wheel of a Z06. Jason works with GMPartsOnline.net, a website that sells OEM Chevrolet parts online.
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