We were in attendance at this weekend’s 65th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and on Saturday morning, members of the Corvette production team gave a presentation to Corvette owners at the Corvette corral.
As always, it was very informative to hear the latest news directly from the source, and there was information made public for the first time. Presenting for Corvette was Corvette Production Manager Harlan Charles, Corvette Exterior Design Manager Kirk Bennion, and Corvette Planning and Project Manager Barb Armbruster.
Kirk Bennion talked about the Corvette Grand Sport and how well it’s been received. Kirk says he and Harlan are big Grand Sport fans and want to do much with the car. Kirk runs through the new for 2017 colors (Admiral Blue, Watkins Glen Gray, Black Rose Metallic and Sterling Blue). He said that Admiral Blue was planned three years ago which is about the time it takes to ready an exterior color for the Corvette. Kirk confirms that Sterling Blue was planned as a one-year-only color and he says the biggest surprise for customers was the return of Black Rose Metallic.
Kirk also talks about the aero packages on the Grand Sport and the why the car comes standard with rocker panels. Finally, Kirk mentions the Genuine Corvette Accessories program and says the team is always looking for ideas as the accessories can be brought to market sooner.
When our friend Jake Drennon from the C5/C6/C7 Registry introduced Harlan Charles, we learned that Harlan, in addition to his job duties with Corvette, has also been named the Product Manager for Camaro. You’ll hear some boos from the crowd but I think most of that was from loyal Corvette owners who want to keep Harlan to ourselves. Harlan makes sure to clarify that the Camaro gig “is in addition to” his Corvette Product Manager duties and that Chevrolet “isn’t paying him double” to do both jobs.
Harlan talks about how well the Corvette is doing against the competition in the luxury sports car market. Corvette currently enjoys a 40% share of that market which Harlan says they aren’t just winning the category, they are dominating it. The success of the Grand Sport’s first year of production plays into that and Harlan tells us that the newest C7 in the lineup is currently making up about 40% of all Corvettes being built.
The Corvette was also a success in the media and Harlan runs down some of the latest awards and accolades including the Car & Driver’s 10Best list and Consumer Reports which rated the car a “Recommended Buy”.
Harlan tells the story of the 2017 Grand Sport reveal last year in Geneva. With them was Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin who teased the reveal of the Corvette Grand Sport the night before (and thereby setting the Corvette world on fire with the news). I always thought that the leak was planned but apparently Oliver went rogue by posting his script in advance.
Now for the news that many are wanting to know and that is what is going on with Corvette production in Bowling Green this year.
Harlan confirmed that 2018 Corvettes will be shown at the NCM Bash in April and that the order guides will be available in early April in advance of the Bash. He says that production on the 2018 corvettes will start in early June and run through all of July. Then the plant will shut down in August, September and October as it undergoes upgrades. Once the upgrades are complete, production will resume with 2018 Corvettes in November.
Regarding the new Paint Shop, Harlan says that 2018 production will start with both the old and new paint shops in operation with colors being cycled from the old to the new shop for several months before all colors are finally painted 100% in the new paint shop. Harlan comments on huge the new paint shop building is and says that its larger as it encompasses more ovens to “slow bake” the paint onto the Corvette’s composite panels. The process will be a big improvement over how the panels are currently being painted.
After about 15 minutes of talking, the Corvette team spends another 30 minutes answering questions from the crowd. From that discussion, Barb confirms that new colors are coming for 2018 and that we’ll know more at the Bash.
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