On Friday morning, we sat down with Corvette/Camaro’s Marketing Manager John Fitzpatrick and Chevrolet Communications’ Monte Doran to talk about the 2014 Corvette Stingray. Specifically, we wanted to discuss how the shipping process was working as well as try to get some additional answers on the Quality Assessments that each of the Corvette Stingrays is undergoing before shipment to the dealers.
We also solicited members of the Corvette Forum to gather some of their questions as well and so we are going to present this in a Q & A Format:
CorvetteBlogger: Are cars going straight from the plant to the dealers or are there additional stops for quality control purposes?
John Fitzpatrick: “There are cars that are going directly out from the factory to dealerships, but there are a handful of cars that still have to complete their quality assessment. The quality assessment is being done in two places. One is Bowling Green, the other is being done in Nashville. Why two different places? Really, every car needs to get looked at before it gets sent out. As we announced in the press release, we have 1,000 cars that we’ve produced. Every one has to be checked out before we say okay, yes or no. And so just because of the magnitude of that, we really wanted to find the expedite it, to see if we could get more hands on the cars and get them through the process, we decided to move some of the cars down to Nashville and once they are done with the quality assessment, they are shipped directly to the dealer out of Nashville.”
Monte Doran: “Regarding the quality assessment process, it’s not that there was a problem with the car, it’s just that as we went through the launch process we found that there COULD be something that was overlooked so we made a change to the process to fix it and now we need to make sure all the cars are built correctly.”
John Fitzpatrick: “What we going through is standard operating procedure, this is not extraordinary for us to do this.”
Monte Doran: “I get that people are really antsy and they are desperately excited to get their car. But if you put it in terms of look, we really want to make sure that the car is perfect before we deliver it. I think people will be a little more understanding. It’s not that we’re parking all these cars in the back lot because we want to be mean to people, we want to make sure particularly with these customers who have been waiting so long that the car is as good and as perfect as we can make it with every car with every dealer and every customer.”
John Fitzpatrick: “They are going to go thoroughly through the car to make sure its perfect.”
CorvetteBlogger: The order status codes 3800 (produced) to 4200 (shipped), but there is also another code, 4300, that shows when the car is shipped to an intermediate location. Is that like when it goes to Nashville?
John Fitzpatrick: “Yes, but we been having some issues. The tracking system hasn’t been presenting proper codes at times, so the order tracking system we actually took off-line, we did that earlier in the week and we put a billboard up there asking customer to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a group of specialists up in Detroit that there job is to track vehicles for customers and give them the latest and greatest information. I know one of the most frustrating things is to think the car is coming to you and then to find out its not coming to you. So we’re trying to really be proactive in this area and our specialists are answering those emails, running it down and checking to see where the cars are at and then giving the update and sending those out to the customers. We ask the customers not to be sending an email every hour because the status doesn’t change that quickly. But we’re hoping we’ll be able to proactively follow up on these and give the update. If they do send an email, we ask they put in the subject line: Corvette Stingray Order Tracking and their Order #.”
CorvetteBlogger: What’s the size of the transport fleet and are you planning on shipping cars by rail?
John Fitzpatrick: “We not putting any cars on railcars at this point. All cars are being shipped by truck. So what happens is they get moved down to Nashville, unloaded in Nashville, they go through our quality assessment process in Nashville, and then put back on the truck and sent out the dealer.
“The auto transports hold 11 cars, but we down’t have a number to share in terms of the size of the fleet, there is only one transporter [company] and that’s Jack Cooper. But I don’t know how many trucks are actually moving at the moment.”
CorvetteBlogger: Is there an effort to get the cars spread out geographically so that cars start arriving at dealers at different parts of the country at roughly the same time?
John Fitzpatrick: “There is no focus, we do group cars, we can’t ship just one car to California, we got to make sure the cars are loaded with the proper load going into that general direction of the county. So but were not saying we’ve got to get cars to NY first. We’re taking the cars, getting them through the quality assessment, we’re evaluating almost hourly where we are with the cars, and then loaded them on transports and sending the transports out.”
“One of the neat things we’re doing now is that we are covering the cars. We’ve come up with this off-white heavy duty fabric car cover that now goes on the cars. We really think that’s going to help us in minimizing the wear and tear the cars go through during the transport. We think in the end that will also help in improve the quality of the car the customer receives when they take delivery.”
CorvetteBlogger: There is a current inventory of approximately 1000 cars, do you have any idea of how long it will take to ship those 1000 cars to dealers.
John Fitzpatrick: “Not that this point. We’ve literally just started the process. We are trying to get through it as quickly as possible, but I can’t give you a time frame. It’s just not practical at this point to give you that time frame. The quality on the cars is the most important thing. We want to deliver the highest quality Corvette Stingrays that we can. And we want to do it every time. We want to give it to every dealer and every customer every time. And so we’re not going to cut corners or do anything like that. We want to make sure these cars are right…we not going to rush it either. We’re going to get through it as quickly as possible, but we’re also going to do it in a quality manner.”
CorvetteBlogger: What is the current quality control time for cars that are getting built now. I think we’re in the 1200-1300 VIN numbers and you’ve already had 1,000 go through. We kind of time frame are we looking at for these current cars getting built?
John Fitzpatrick: “The same as the other cars, they all go through the same process. Like with anything else, you hope with better practice you’re delivering higher quality product but the same rigorous reviews go on all these cars at this point.”
CorvetteBlogger: Are all the cars that have been built through the current VINs for domestic customers or have any been built for export to Canada or Europe?
John Fitzpatrick: “I’ll have to check but I think there have been some Canadian units in there but I don’t think we’ve done anything for Europe yet, but I’ll check.”
CorvetteBlogger: Do you have any confirmation yet that cars have actually arrived at dealerships?
John Fitzpatrick: “We have confirmation that trucks have left but not anything that a truck has arrived, but I assume at the end of the day [Friday] there will be a car offloaded at a dealership somewhere across this country.”
CorvetteBlogger: When the cars arrive at the dealerships, have the dealers been prepped and trained to receive the cars and get them ready for the customers?
John Fitzpatrick: “It’s standard procedure to do those preps and such. You know, they’ll take the covers off, they are some checks we want them to do with the cars, make sure that the fluid levels are all correct and that everything is operating like it should be. There aren’t any extraordinary steps they have to take as it’s standard operating procedure, not only for this car but for every Chevrolet that’s out there. It will be extraordinary in the sense that when the cars show up they will get a lot of attention at the dealership.”
CorvetteBlogger: What’s the status of the online configurator?
John Fitzpatrick: “It’s almost there, we have the pricing up and we have the interior images done, we’ve run into a bit of problem getting the exterior colorizer done, but that’s where we are at the moment. But we’re working hard and hopefully we’ll have it done soon.”
CorvetteBlogger: With the first run of the 1000 cars, are you looking at customer demographics and is there anything interesting about the age of buyers?
John Fitzpatrick: “No, we won’t see that [demographic information] until actually after delivery. We know whose ordering the cars, but at that point we don’t collect demographic info. Just contact information. We don’t have much in the way of knowing any demographic or psychographic information about the customers. We usually find that out a couple of months after delivery.”
CorvetteBlogger: Regarding the first orders, it looks like the majority have the Z51 Performance Package and that the is a nice division between the autos and the 7-Speed manual. Can you provide any information about the current orders?
John Fitzpatrick: “We’re seeing a lot of ordering on the Z51 performance package. We are seeing a 50/50 mix between the manuals and automatics, seeing a lot of the Blacks out there interior-wise, but we’re seeing a nice mix of the different interiors. It’s heavy black. People aren’t shying away from the Brownstone of the Kalahari or the red. We’ve seen a nice variety of those orders as well. Almost 15-20% each in those three [interior] colors and then primarily black is the dominate color in the interior.”
“Exterior-wise, we are seeing almost every color out there. People see the colors and then they change. We’ve seen a lot of color changes. I think once people started seeing some of these cars live, we were heavy in black and were still a majority black exteriors, but we’re seeing a lot of people going with the yellow, Laguna Blue, going with Lime Rock Green, we take that as a good sign as well.”
Monte Doran: “The first people who go and place their orders are the die-hard enthusiasts, right. they typically want the high content performance options. They skew towards manual transmissions and then once we get through that initial batch of orders, things level out to the mix that we expected.”
John Fitzpatrick: “It changes, we get a really strong demand upfront with everyone checking the box, and then what happens to Monte’s point is you start getting into a normal flow and you get people out there that don’t necessary want the upper suede interior so you start to see that option drop off a little bit. I think the Z51 package will always be a strong option and the split between manuals and automatics will be interesting to see how that changes. We’ve always seen on the previous generation that whenever we offered an automatic in a performance model, that always outpaces the manual transmission. You always thought the manual outpaced the automatics on Corvettes because you have the Z06 and ZR1 where you can only get the manuals, but whenever you offer manuals and automatics as an option, you always saw automatics always have that 5-6 point percentage lead. It will be interesting to see as you go along whether the 7-speed manual and active rev matching if you see it stay more 50-50 or how much of a lead does the automatic get on it. That will be very interesting in that regard.”
CorvetteBlogger: Have the Corvette Stingray Premiere Editions started production yet?
John Fitzpatrick: “They have. I think we’ve built a hundred of them already. we’ve just done the coupes so far. We are going to do a convertible edition and the convertible Premiere Edition will obviously start when Convertible production starts later in the fourth quarter.”
“500 Coupes, 500 on the convertibles. And for the most part, any dealer who who is eligible for initial allocation for the Corvette has the opportunity to receive one of those Premiere Editions, either coupe or convertible. They have the choice of whether to say they want one or not, but they also have opportunity to tell us if they want a coupe or the convertible. Most of them are telling us they’ll take a Coupe and a Convertible and at the end we’ll divide them up and probably distribute them based on dealers overall Corvette Sales for the last 13 months or so.”
“The Premiere Editions should start arriving in dealerships. Those [dealers] that want the coupe those should start arriving in dealerships in the next couple of weeks.”
CorvetteBlogger: There was a $1,000 private offer that expires on 9/30 and it looks like in the fine print it says that the car needs to be at the dealer by that day. Is there any information you can give on the details.
John Fitzpatrick: “That’s a great question. The only thing I can tell them is really to work with their dealer on it. The offer was designed to stimulate people who indicated they were in-market right at that moment and trying to get them even further in-market. The goal was not necessarily to be a mainstream program. And to be honest, if we had our druthers, we probably would have excluded the Stingray on there. I think the people that did the offer didn’t realize we were this close with the Stingray coming to market. We made the mistake and those people that got the offer that buys a car by 9/30, we’ll honor that offer, but the important thing is to work with the dealer on it.”
CorvetteBlogger: Can you give us any information on the status of the Carbon Fiber roof constraints?
John Fitzpatrick: “It’s a demand/supply situation. The demand especially for the visible carbon fiber roofs is very high, our supplier is doing everything they can to meet the demand, but at this point, they’re falling short. Any order that’s in the system now is going to be built. It may lengthen the time of production just because you can’t build what you don’t have. It may lengthen the time it’s in the system so they are working hard to meet that demand.
“We have asked some dealers that may have had either the exposed carbon fiber or the painted carbon fiber standard roof, we have asked some dealers to consider changing those to transparent tops just so that we can get a little more relief for those that have actually ordered the painted or the exposed roof. If the dealer had a stock order in there, we have asked them to consider changing it to transparent. Now the problem is we think it’s stock but in the meantime the dealer has actually sold the vehicle. Some dealers are telling us sorry, we can’t change it. Some dealers are saying yes they can, and in those situations they may get the car earlier than those with painted and the visible roof.”
“The issue is that the supplier that were dealing with supplies both the painted and the exposed roofs. You got to deal with what you have and right now were trying to figure ways we can maximize that production. We don’t want to take any production out because of supplier issues. If a customer is looking for a car quickly, they may want to consider the transparent roof.”
“Anything that’s in the system right now at event 3000 or above, we will build it without having them make a change. It’s the dealer stock order which is an inventory or non-sold order that we are going back and giving them the choice of taking the transparent roof and hopefully get their car sooner or they can leave it as it is and when we get the roof to build the car as spec’d, then we’ll build it.”
CorvetteBlogger: We were just clued into an invitation only program called the Corvette Precision Drive Event. What’s the program and is it invitation only?
John Fitzpatrick: “It is a closed invitation. It is a pilot program for us, we’re trying to as we have talked about in earlier conversations, is we’re trying to figure out how can we attract people who are basically European sports car buyers. How do we attract them and change their perception around the Corvette. So we’ve been working on this pilot program where we would invite these European sport cars “intenders” to the Monticello Motor Club in New York and give them an experience with the car and see if that changes their perception around Corvette.”
“So we put together this program to give them an experience behind the wheel of the Corvette. The way we’ve done this is that we’ve partnered with Conde Nast, the publisher of GQ and Wired and such and tried to bring forth some customers that may know from their subscription base that are our “intenders” and try to give them some experience with the car and see if we can get them thinking differently about it.”
“It’s basically an experience with the car. It’s a half day program and we run it twice a day, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We bring people to Monticello, talk to them about the car, let them drive the car for a little bit and give them a great experience for that half-day.”
“We’d love to invite all of the Corvette people who are buying cars to the event, but its not practical at this point. Its not the goal of the program. This is to try and start changing those influencers out there and get them to experience the car. We hope to have programs in the near future where our core customers who really are our die-hard loyalist to give them an opportunity to experience the car on the track. We hope to have that announced later this year.”
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