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.
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.
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.”
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