The Business Case for a Manual C8 Corvette

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The Business Case for a Manual C8 Corvette


When Chevrolet pulled the cover off of the C8 Corvette in July, it was a monumental achievement in the history of America’s Sports Car but the lack of an optional clutch pedal led to the biggest outcry from Corvette faithful since we lost the signature round taillights in 2014. This time our loss wasn’t just cosmetic when retail mid-engine ‘Vettes start to hit the street, we are going to be denied an integral part of the enthusiast driving experience that no impressive performance statistics can duplicate.

This isn’t some niche issue either, a lot of people who are passionate about driving are focusing that passion into letting the Corvette team know that they want their manual gearbox back. In the C8 section over at Corvette Forum, the thread discussing the lack of a manual is by far the hottest thread in the whole forum with nearly 5,100 comments and more than 388,000 views! When you browse the first five pages of the C8 forum, you will only find one other regular thread with more than 300 comments; making this a mutiny level epidemic!

Of the 189,507 C7s produced, 50,611 or 26.55% were equipped with row-your-own transmissions. The low-sounding percentage is one of the talking points that Tadge & Co. use to justify their switch to a one transmission strategy on the C8.

We think that number (which we all know would be a hard Fail in any class) is a bit misleading and that there is still plenty of demand for three-pedal Corvettes.

The Business Case for a Manual C8 Corvette


Consider that in the same timespan (2014-19) that saw 50k+ people purchase 7-speed Corvettes, Porsche sold a grand total of 55,675 examples of their flagship 911! Yes, this includes all 146 (or something around there) variants under the 911 umbrella from Carrara all the way up to GT2 RS.

Even if you throw in the Cayman/Boxter which sell around 3,000 or so examples a year, manual C7’s made up a near-equivalent of Porsche’s entire sports car market share! This is a huge piece of the shrinking sports car market that GM seems to be willing to walk away from.

Luckily, friends, there is hope! As first reported by Jalopnik near the end of September, GM has a patent for an electronic clutch pedal very similar to the brake-by-wire system that has already been implemented in the C8. The system uses an electronic signal that operates a motor-actuated clutch plate in the transmission, creating a familiar three-pedal setup and simultaneously getting rid of the bulky hydraulics required by traditional clutches.

GM Patent


There are also a couple precedents where manufacturers caved to similar enthusiast blowback. Most notably, our old friends at Porsche put the manual on the chopping block when they brought the 991 generation GT3 to market in 2014. This sent prices of older, stick-shift models skyrocketing (hold on to your manual C7s!) so much so that Porsche changed course just two years later with the introduction of the manual-only 911R. Pent-up demand caused prices for early examples of that car soar above $1 Million so Ze Germans went a full step further and caved with the 991.2 generation GT3; bringing back an optional 6-speed manual which saw an approximate global take rate of 40% (augmented by even higher demand on the Corvette’s home turf; N. America!).

It seems like a long shot right now but there are ways for a manual to find its way into the revolutionary new Corvette so no matter how mad it makes the people who are happy with the (apparently excellent) dual-clutch auto, customers who truly want a manual need to keep peppering comments sections with requests, nay, demands for the enthusiast-centric gearbox to make a return and, more importantly, if/when GM listens; the complainers will need to put their money where their mouths are. If the General cracks and offers a manual C8 then fails to see a financial benefit, they will just scoff the next time they hear even a peep from the “connoisseurs.”


Related:
New GM Patent Could Allow the C8 Mid-Engine Corvette to Have a Manual Transmission
Take a Deep Dive into the 2020 Corvette Stingray’s 8-Speed DCT from TREMEC
No Manual Transmission for the C8 Corvette According to Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter

 

38 COMMENTS

  1. Millennials and their younger brethren can’t drive/don’t want to drive a stick shift and the old guys are getting past old enough to have bad knees, bad hips, or just outright dying off leaving a bunch of used cars most won’t buy. Can’t imagine driving my old C2 in today’s gridlock nightmare which can happen nearly anywhere.

  2. I blame the dealers for manual transmission decline in any car really. They mainly order automatics for their stock because they know they’ll sell and fear if they order manual cars, they’ll be stuck with them. No telling how many Corvette customers walked into lots wanting a manual, but ended up buying an automatic because it was there and the dealer made the price right.

  3. Young Millennials and aging Boomers are not the only Corvette buyers, by a long shot. Gen Xers are a large chunk of the market, and we not only know how to drive manuals, but are still plenty young to do so without physical limitations.

    Also, the best example of manufacturer cave to manual outcry, that most mirrors the C8 scenario, is BMW and the E60 M5. It was introduced in 2005 with a purpose-built auto, and no provision for a manual throughout the design process. Due to massive pitchfork wielding by the M car faithful, BMW went back to the drawing board and retrofitted the E39 M5 manual trans into the E60 for the 2006 model year as a stopgap to quiet the masses.

  4. The C8 is a wonderful new creation and it is very exciting for me, a C7 Stingray – manual 7 speed owner. But, without the manual option in the C8, I will probably pass on owning this great car! If and when the C8 adds a manual, I’m there! Bring on the C8 with a manual oriented transmission – Please Tadge!

  5. Hello -the C8 is a wonderful new creation and it is very exciting for me, a C7 Stingray – manual 7 speed owner. But, without the manual option in the C8, I will probably pass on owning this great car! If and when the C8 adds a manual, I’m there! Bring on the C8 with a manual oriented transmission – Please Tadge!

  6. I agree with Michael Allen having owned many……manual gearbox Corvettes…..C2,C3,C4,C5, and now C7…..including a 66 M22 car…….visceral 427 quintessential Sting Ray……we need a gearbox in the midengine gentlemen.

  7. My 2018 C7 is a manual, if I ever decide to “Trade up” to a C8 it will be one with a manual.
    I am 71 years old and do the majority of my driving in town, even while battling stop & go traffic. I still prefer my 7speed manual.

  8. No manual C8 brought me to order a manual 2019, love it!
    My 09 was an auto, nice, but no involvement with the car.
    Even at 70+ years old, my preference is a manual.

  9. Myself and a friend had the chance to talk with a guy way high up in the Corvette factory hierarchy at Road America this summer. I asked him about a manual trans for the C8. He gave us four reasons why this is not in the works. Reason one, according to him, was meeting federal mileage/pollution standards (if memory serves), reason two was the daunting cost of designing/producing a manual trans, reason three was the extreme difficulty of designing a satisfactory linkage, and I forgot reason four. He added that it more than likely won’t happen. Anyhow, that’s what he said.

  10. With a dual clutch transmission on board and lack of interest for a manual, there won’t be one.

  11. Regardless what a GM is saying, work is being done to develop a manual transmission for the C8. My wife works at a Tier 1 supplier that is/was working on a manual transmission for the C8. Which C8 model it will appear in is TBD at this time..

  12. I sold my 2014 c7 3lt 7MT in 2016. I bought a used 911 C2S cabriolet 6MT and waited for the C8. But with no stick in the C8, I’ll just hang on to the Porsche until I decide to go for a C7 grand sport with the 7MT. If it doesn’t have 3 pedals, it doesn’t matter…. IMO…

  13. No. 1. I don’t buy the meeting federal mileage/pollution standards excuse. A 7 speed manual with CAGS will meet or beat an automatic in mileage. While EPA won’t count it, a manual driver can further improve mileage by actively managing engine speed, coast to a stop, etc. Try that with an automatic. No. 2. The daunting cost of designing/producing a manual. The GM accountants must be calling the engineering and marketing decisions, and we know how that turned out in 70’s and 80’s. GM share went from 50% to 20%. No. 3. the extreme difficulty of designing a satisfactory linkage. So US engineers are no match for their German and Japanese counterparts? I don’t think so if you assign the task. No. 4? Must be GM group think that we’ll all be motoring around in autonomous driven vehicles in the future. Try that with a manual. There’s your answer. At least the most market share GM can lose is down to 20 points.

  14. If the C8 didn’t come with a dual clutch I wouldn’t of ordered one. No more carburetors, round tail lights, chrome rims, manual trans, pop up head lights, mono leaf springs, manual windows, front engine, and soft top convertibles. They were fine in their times, but won’t miss any of them in today’s corvette.

  15. Only 26.55% of all C7s were sticks? That’s why they dropped it?

    In 1976 there were only 2,088 sticks out of 46,558 built. I guess Tadge would of dropped it in ’77….

  16. Even if Tadge (or we should say, his bean counter bosses) doesn’t come through, I would suspect an aftermarket alternative will come around from one or more of the bigger companies/shops. I hope so, because although I love to row my own as well, I want one of those DCTs for my 72.
    Hmm, get a C8 and put a stick in it and the DCT in my 72… Yeah, I’m a weirdo.

  17. C’mon, I drive our C7 Z51 7 speed manual transmission Vette into San Francisco every work day. Battling the no driving %#@!s in their crappy prius and other ugly as heck hybrids claiming they care about the environment, but who never consider the negative impact they cause the world while moving along in the #1 & #2 lanes below the posted limits causing everyone else to waste gas getting around them…on both sides.

    Of course driving the twisties along the California coast or in the wine country of Napa/Sonoma Valleys is far more exciting, I thoroughly enjoy every drive in that wonderful machine.

    It was tough to break in, so most old timers with the means to acquire a new Vette only endure a couple thousand miles before trading their C7 in for that prius, of course never realizing how smooth that manual will become.

    Hey Chevrolet, bring on the manual C8. I’m buying at least one.

  18. I’m not buying a C8 unless it has a manual transmission. When I traded in my ’03 6 speed for my ’15 Z06 7 speed, I was only looking at manual transmission models. I didn’t even care what color it was, as long as it had a shifter and clutch. Turns out I have one of the 347 Z06 coupes in the Sunset Daytona Orange so it’s pretty rare. My ’63 split window is also a 4-speed. 🙂

  19. @Bob
    Greater than 1/4 take rate is the furthest thing from a “lack of interest”. Did you read the article??

    @Mako
    Once again, no one is advocating doing away with the DCT for those who prefer an automated driving experience. We’re simply petitioning for an additional drivetrain option that allows more driver involvement. Please cease with your straw men.

  20. When I saw my first C8 at a local Dealer I was excited about making a trade up from my 15 C7 M/T Convertible but my $$$ ended up purchasing a 16 C7 Zo6 M/T Convertible wasn’t easy to find but NO M/T C8 sealed my decision !!! Just Saying Richie 😎

  21. ….1987 c 4 manuel z51 , 1989 c4 cabrio six speed, 1986 jaguar xj-sc 5 speed, 1997 mustang cobra 5 speed .
    i am 1960 born no automatic for me…..come on GM make that manuel c8…..so i can drive a C8 when i am retired…..to keep myself young and fit….and happy…

  22. I got my first Corvette when I was 21 it was a moss green 427 -425hp convertible 4 speed and I have had a total of 8 Vettes all convertibles with sticks. I currently have two C6’s one is a Callaway 606 and if it did not have a stick it would not be a true sports car. I went to my local dealer’s showing of the C8 and after sitting in a beautiful car with no stick it just did not feel right. If the General would go with a stick I would go with the General. “Come on man”!

  23. I’m on my 5th Corvette and I much prefer a manual, thank you. Auto’s are ok if you live in a hilly city/traffic are but the rest of the time —- I be rowing my own.

  24. My FIRST Corvette, and still own it (!!!) is a 427 `67 Fact. Air 3×2`s Coupe w/Fact. sidepipes. Rowing the togs, and tipping the 3 pots is ONLY reason to endure that Beast ! My latest Vette was a `06 ZO6 and I frankly just would NOT consider a new C8 w/out a Manual tranny!

  25. Owning a Corvette is something you want but don’t need. I have enjoyed owning 7 of them thoughout the years, all manuals. Pretty much of the excitement and experience of driving them involved manually shifting through the gears. Having one in the garage gives a guy an excuse to just go out and drive it to enjoy the feeling of going through the gears. Yeah, a manual is probably low tech in todays world but that’s not what it is all about. If I want to just get somewhere I’ll take my nice fully loaded Ford F-150 10 speed automatic. If I want to have fun getting there, ya can’t beat jumping into the manual corvette to make it more fun! Got my deposit at the local dealer here in Naples, FL for a C8, but would rather have a manual tranny.

  26. I have “rown my own” 2016 MT C7 to the tune of 72,000+ miles. Would never have bought it if a MT had not been available — in fact, the MT is what lured me away from buying a MT Cayman.
    As to the ailing health excuses, I have had both hips replaced. ‘Bad hips’ is not a reason to “have to drive” an AT. Get those hips fixed and improve your lifestyle! Same goes for my back operation. Medical science now allows everyone who wants to enjoy a a fuller lifestyle to go MT.
    Regarding the “only older drivers do it” fantasy: that is pure fiction; a false argument to justify creating a limited offering. While I am a 60+ guy — my son is not. He is 23, and he owns 2 MT cars. His current sports car is a Honda S2K. He won’t own an automatic. He will likely have a ‘Vette one day, but only if it is a manual. His friends who drive sports cars insist on manuals, and they’re all in their 20’s as well.
    Technologically? Give me a break — engineers who can design a self-removing hard convertible top like the C8’s and the many other available technically fancy gizmos like front-end lift, magnetic ride, etc., etc., can surely come up with a (drive-by-wire, for example?) MT that can handle the C8’s impressive torque and power.
    Count me among those who will only buy a C8 if is has three pedals. But I do want one, so, c’mon, GM! Please!

  27. doesn’t anyone see this butt-ugly C8 for wheat it is, a bean counter’s dream built by a GT40 team on Friday and then finished by a Camaro team on Monday in order to lure millennials to the General they will hopefully stay with through their Buick years?

    for my money ALL vehicles should be manuals to force people to drive their cars and not just the brake pedal—can’t text or put on makeup or nail polish when both hands are required in a coordinated effort for the duty, not mere privilege, of driving;

    there is simply no excuse for a car that is purported to be America’s only sports car to have a Rambler Nash transmission;

    NONE;

  28. @Matt Kase
    I will cease when you do.
    But it was okay when the C4 Grand Sport & ZR1, C5 Z06, C6 Z06 & ZR1 only came with a manual. Times change and so must our cars.

  29. @Mako Cease what?? You’re the one making the straw man argument that offering a manual in the C8 somehow means eliminating the DCT. I’m advocating for more choices, not less. And the option choices of previous generation Corvettes from 30 years ago have absolutely zero to do with the conversation.

  30. I’m 65 years old and just picked up my 3rd Corvette. A 2019 C7 Stingray featuring a manny tranny. MyC 5and C6 were also manny’s. I just don’t see driving these cars and being fully engaged in the experience with an automatic. I understand they are better on the track, but I don’t track mine. I use ‘em as highway cruisers. I love driving these, and I am also driving art. 3 dimensional, 7 speed art! The car drives as pretty as it is. Most all of cars have been manny’s, and that ain’t changing because someone decides that they are no longer in vogue.

  31. @Matt Kase “Cease what?” the whining about something you cannot do anything about. My point about the previous generation Corvettes performance models that were manual only is, now you know how I felt. It really doesn’t matter to me if the manual was an option for the C8, but for a financial stand point GM isn’t going that route. I don’t know where you’re going with the straw man argument comment when I was just giving my opinion about the subject like you, I guess you just like to type the phrase straw man.

  32. @Mako I’ll leave alone the admission of apparently not knowing how to drive a manual and instead point out that the overall C7 manual take rate of 27.2% is far higher than the convertible take rate of 20.2%, and yet we have a C8 convertible but not a manual. So “for [sic] a financial standpoint” it would make more sense to offer a manual option than a convertible option.

  33. @ Jedi-Jurist
    I do know how to drive a manual (learned many years ago), it’s not the hardest thing in the world to do. I prefer the auto and now dual clutch for the track, auto-crossing, & drag racing. Not sure why people try to put down the people that can’t drive a manual or have no desire to do so. It’s like if I made fun of someone that can’t work on their own car. GM is making a hardtop convertible to lure new buyers, that they hope are on the younger end. Like I said It really doesn’t matter to me if the manual was an option for the C8, but at this time GM seems it has no plans to make it an option.

  34. Agree there seems to be no plans for a manual in the future, but none of us know for sure. There is more to adding a manual than just making a decision, like how much will it cost to make an MT fit and work properly and can that expense be justified by the amount of sales anticipated (plus a little profit)? Or…maybe that deciding, fitting and testing has all been done and a big surprise awaits.

  35. My biggest problem with the decision was that at the time they apparently made it (around 2014 or so), the manual was selling at 35%. In 2015, the Z06 had a 51% manual take rate. Staring at those numbers, they decided to make the C8 DCT only? GM sold 50,422 manual C7’s. At an estimated average of $70k each, that’s $3.5 BILLION in sales in six years just on the manual cars. That’s a lot of money to walk away from.

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