A few months ago, we wrote a story saying that it might not be a bad idea to spin off Corvette from Chevrolet and create a whole lineup of high-performance vehicles of all shapes and sizes under the Corvette brand.
Detroit News automotive writer Henry Payne has just written a similar story after talking to a few key players in the automotive business.
“There’s certainly precedent for non-traditional SUV makers to jump into the market,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book. “Every time one of them has jumped in, it has worked.”
Case in point, of course, is the Porsche Cayenne, which has helped Porsche generate one-third of Volkswagen Group’s profits with only 2.3 percent of its sales.
“The idea of a Porsche SUV still rubs sports-car purists the wrong way, but it has been a spectacularly profitable product for the brand,” says John Roseveaer, senior auto specialist for Motleyfool.com.
Count at least one retired GM official among the fans of creating a Corvette SUV.
Tom Wallace, who ran Corvette’s program from 2006-08, even liked the name suggestions.
“XC7 and X06 (mimicking the Z06’s name) are great starters for naming,” Wallace said. “Stingray is off limits.”
Wallace’s suggestions for the mechanics include front engine, rear drive, with AWD option, along with lots of aluminum in the structure.
“Aluminum is mandatory to support the theme that Corvette embraces to be the lightest vehicle in its class,” Wallace said. “The two V8s from the Corvette stable are also a must.”
Another former GM leader, Bob Lutz, is also a fan of the idea.
“Like the Cayenne, the appeal of the ‘Vette SUV would be RWD proportions,” Lutz said. “It should, in fact, have a silhouette not too different from a Cayenne.”
Wallace says to engineer the new vehicle, he would use common GM parts to keep costs down.
There are a couple of problems that might kill the idea of a Corvette SUV, though.
The first is that it would require an all-new RWD/AWD architecture that does not exist, Lutz says, noting that would be a high investment for relatively low volume.
“The Corvette ute probably would be a stand-alone architecture (or a major modification of an existing architecture), so volume would be critical to call it a business success,” Wallace told Hollar.
The second is that it might not make business sense to GM bean counters.
“The reason a Corvette SUV won’t happen is the business case would be tough,” Lutz believes. “Besides cannabilizing ‘normal’ Corvettes, it can also be expected to damage GMC and certainly the Cadillac XT5.”
Still, the idea of a Corvette-based family of vehicles is definitely appealing to some.
“Corvette is a powerful brand that should be developed,” Lutz said. “Go upmarket with a mid-engine sedan using big Cadillac CT6 architecture, and maybe eventually something like Cayenne. They would split it off from Chevrolet – nobody makes that connection anyway.”
Brauer says history suggests there is no downside to building such a vehicle.
“Non-Corvette owners who couldn’t justify a two-seat sports car could finally put a Corvette badge in their garage,” he says.
Finally, Wallace believes such a Corvette product would be a “smash hit,” saying that an excellent product usually leads to business success.
“Let’s convince GM to do it!” Wallace says.
How about you? Would you buy a Corvette SUV? I would.