Are Baby Boomers finally getting too old for Corvettes?
That’s one takeaway from a story on Bloomberg.com that details falling sales for traditional sports cars like the Corvette, Camaro, and Mustang.
Our takeaway is that after years of such talk, maybe it’s finally time for Chevrolet to consider spinning off Corvette into its own sports/luxury brand, which would feature two-door sports cars like the ‘Vette and Camaro alongside seven-passenger SUVs and smaller crossovers, along the lines of Porsche.
With the overwhelming praise that’s greeted the seventh generation Corvette and the sixth generation Camaro, maybe there would be enough Baby Boomers (and others) who would like to have Stingray-like performance from a more comfortable SUV to make such a “new” brand a success.
That expanded-model strategy has certainly worked for Porsche, with sales of its Macan SUV growing by 30 percent this year to become the company’s top seller.
Unfortunately, right now, though, sports car sales are down pretty much across the board. For example, Ford shut down its Mustang plant for a week this month to try and clear out inventory amid sales declines of 9 percent for the year. The new Camaro hasn’t set the sales floor on fire, with sales down 11 percent in 2016 (due mostly to lower fleet sales), and Corvette sales have decreased 14 percent this year, with GM having to offer discounts of as much as 20 percent off MSRP to move some late-2016 models.
One reason could be physical – some men born between 1946 and 1964 – the so-called Baby Booomers – may just be getting too old to climb in and out of a sports car that sits low to the ground.
“Boomers are starting to age out of sports cars,” argues Eric Noble, president of the CarLab, a consulting firm in Orange, California. “When you get into your 60s, comfort becomes more important. Sports cars are not going away, but the market will get smaller.”
That’s one reason why we think there might be a market for an upscale and powerful Corvette SUV, sacrilegious as it may seem. (Of course, look at Porsche sales of the Macan for proof it’s an idea that might just work for Corvette.) One might argue that GM already has such a brand with Cadillac and its great performance lineup, but as fine as those Caddys are, I don’t think they hold the performance charisma that the Corvette name embodies.
“Boomers are coming out of pure sports cars, but they’re not willing to sacrifice pure driving,” said Branden Cote, AMG manager for Mercedes-Benz U.S, which has seen its performance lineup grow by nearly 60 percent to almost 16,000 vehicles this year. “The idea of a sports SUV was incomprehensible 10 years ago. They’re not giving up spirited driving; they’re going to a different type of sporty driving.”
What do you think? Would you consider a 650-horsepower “Corvette Z06 SUV” if the vehicle still looked (and performed) like a Stingray? I think I would.