The 2020 Corvette is Nearly Sold Out. For Now.
BOARDMAN, Ohio — Some 230 packed the showroom at Sweeney Chevrolet Monday evening to catch a glimpse of the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette at a special unveiling event for area enthusiasts.
Alexa Sweeney Blackann expected a few orders to be placed before the night was through. But with the 13 cars allocated to the Market Street dealership already spoken for — before the roadster has even entered production — any new buyers will have to wait until the new year to claim theirs when the dealership gets a few more in stock.
“There’s a lot of interest in this car,” Sweeney Blackann said.
That could be an understatement. Of the some 40,000 General Motors has scheduled for production, little more than 100 are available for purchase, said Richard LaFleur, Corvette product specialist. LaFleur was on-hand to demonstrate the eighth generation Corvette, or C8, to those gathered and give them a chance to sit in the driver’s seat.
“We’re excited because December’s the biggest month of the year,” Sweeney Blackann says. “To have a fun event like this to get people in the store, get them introduced to the 2020 Corvette is just a really fun opportunity.”
Two of the drivers of the car’s popularity are performance and price tag. It’s the first mid-engine Corvette in the car’s history, which is significant as the brand’s chief competitors already have mid-engine models in the market.
The rear-wheel drive car has its motor located directly over the wheels, “so the weight actually sticks the rear wheels to the ground more reliably,” LaFleur said. The 495-horsepower C8 accelerates from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds — just as fast as the previous most powerful Corvette, which boasted a 750-horsepower engine, he said.
“You’ll never be late for anything,” he joked.
Feeling they had “reached the pinnacle of what they could accomplish” with existing architecture, Corvette designers decided to pursue the mid-engine design for the C8 model to remain competitive, LeFleur said.
“When they built the C6 ZR1, they were barely able to improve it,” he said. “It actually just came down the tires the car had on it.”
Physics and weight distribution help improve the C8’s performance beyond its predecessors. The car has a lower polar moment of inertia, and the lighter front of the vehicle allows for “more instantaneous, responsive steering,” he said.
The 2020 Corvette is two inches wider and 5.8 inches longer than the C7, he said. Depending on the equipment on board, it’s also heavier by about 150 pounds with 60% of the weight distribution in the rear and 40% in the front. That contributes to the increased performance of the vehicle and makes the driving dynamics “entirely different,” he said.
“You’re no longer being pulled behind a motor. You’re being pushed in front of one,” he said.
LaFleur owns a 2018 C7 Grand Sport, admiral blue with a manual transmission — something the 2020 lacks. Comparing the two, he said the 2020 is an entirely different experience. The C8 is quicker, more nimble and bigger.
“You’re at the front of the car now,” he said. “The car’s turning, literally, around you. The pivot point-of-axis of turning is the driver’s inside hip.”
When designing the Corvette, Chevrolet set benchmarks side-by-side to the Ferrari 458 Spider and the McClaren 570S. They researched the vehicles, chose the elements they liked and brought those ideas back to the drawing board, he said.
“But to be clear, we have been toying around with prototype mid-engine Corvettes since 1960,” he said. “So, it has been in the works for some time. But when they realized they were going to do it, they did look at what was out there.”
The key driver for the car’s popularity is cost, he noted. The base model 2020 Corvette starts at about $60,000.
“The main reason why this is so important is that a good engine is very expensive,” he said. “Our closest competitors’ cost is $230,000, and we’re staring at $60,000.”
The difference, he said, he “scale of economics at large.” Ferrari only builds 3,000 cars annually, he said, but General Motors “builds millions,” which helps drive cost down. That is important, he said, because the company wanted to make a car that was affordable for the average Corvette enthusiast.
However, buyers will need to act fast as more Corvettes come available, he said. The price on the C8 will increase annually, “so 2020 is going to be a bargain historically for what you’re getting, which is why they’re all sold out.”
Since 2015, sales of the Corvette have gradually decreased annually. According to Corvsport.com, sales dipped to 18,789 in 2018, a 25.1% decrease from 25,079 in 2017. However, Sweeney Blackann and LeFleur anticipate the 2020 model to bump sales back up both locally and nationally, they said.
“We think that will continue year over year,” Sweeney Blackann said.
Over the years, the dealership has seen good sales of the Corvette, particularly as the internet brings more buyers to its doorstep, she said. Buyers searching for specific colors and trims have contacted the Sweeney dealership for Corvettes it’s had in stock.
“We have delivered cars all over the country,” she said.
Along with the unveiling, visitors — most of whom belong to Corvette clubs in Mahoning and Shenango valleys — enjoyed refreshments, shared pictures of their cars and toured a display of a half dozen historic Corvettes arranged by Carl Carbon, sales manager of Trailex Inc.
The classic vehicles were on loan from area owners for the event, creating a living timeline of the Corvette, including a white 1954 Corvette Convertible, of which just 3,640 were made. Most of the vehicles Carbon himself had restored. Others on-hand were Corvettes from 1956, 1957, two from 1963 and “a retro one,” he said.
“We wanted to get old stuff to say ‘Here’s how we got to that,’ ” he said, pointing toward the 2020 C8 model. “I’ve restored over 200 of these cars. I’ve been in this since I was 13.”
Regarding the C8, Carbon said the evolution was fantastic and the mid-engine model “had to happen.” He commended Chevrolet for the look, the performance and the price of the C8.
“It’s too cheap almost for what you get,” he said. “For a car that’s $60,000, it compares to something that is $150,000 to literally $300,000. Ferraris, Lamborghinis — that’s what they’re going after.”
While Carbon likes the look of the C8, he acknowledges the more European style isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Joseph Martin, a member of the Mahoning Valley Corvette Club, said he prefers the traditional look.
“I don’t like the idea that it looks more European,” Martin said. “They’re kind of going after that market. I like the motor in the front better.”
Martin owns a 1985 Corvette he purchased five years ago for $5,000 and invested another $10,000 into it, he said. A Corvette is something he’s always wanted, though there is a downside to owning one in northeastern Ohio, he admitted.
“The only bad thing is you can’t drive them in the winter here,” he said with a laugh.
Martin worked at the General Motors Lordstown plant since 1995 until taking the buyout when production of the Chevrolet Cruze ended there in March.Though faced with retirement, Martin said he’s already looking toward his next Corvette, likely a model from 1975. But he won’t be trading in his ’85 model to get it, he said.
Likewise, Rick Haywood won’t be selling his 2000 Corvette when he goes to finally get his hands on a 2020 model, he said.
“You never get rid of them,” he said. Haywood bought his Corvette a few years ago and just last month talked his father-in-law into buying one, “and he’s 84,” he said.
“It’s every American man and boy’s dream is to own a Chevy sports car, and this is it,” he said.
Haywood was one of some 40 members of the Shenango Valley Corvette Club to attend the event. They just returned from the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. last month, and he said he’s excited to see the mid-engine model finally materialize. He also expects the European style to become popular among enthusiasts, including the naysayers.
“This is going to grow on everybody pretty fast,” he said. “It’s a head-turner.”
Hidden latches provide access to all of the car’s openings, including the front trunk or “frunk,” which was specifically designed to fit one rigid overhead airline suitcase, Corvette’s LaFleur said. The rear trunk has enough space to hold two sets of golf clubs. The car provides a total 12.6 cubic feet of storage space.
Also housed in the frunk are the car’s battery, electronics and brake system, which allows drivers to digitally tune and adjust their brakes on the fly.
The vehicle has been engineered down to the most minute detail, including the passenger side rear-view mirror extending two inches farther than the driver’s side, maximizing visibility with the angle of the windshield, he said.
A hydraulic-powered front lift option allows drivers to lift the nose of the car nearly two inches while driving under 25 mph to clear speed bumps and other obstacles without scraping the bottom of the car, he said. The lift includes a GPS memory that can memorize up to 1,000 obstacles, “so it kind of takes care of itself,” he said.
The 2020 Corvette on display for the evening included the 3LT Z51 Convertible package as well as other options. All told, it is priced at just north of $90,000.
As Chevrolet rolls out more of the C8, whether it will include an electric option or a Grand Sport trim level, LeFleur could “neither confirm nor deny” any plans, he said.
“I’m just as excited to see what’s coming up next you guys are,” he said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see when it comes out. There’s still a lot to come. This is just the beginning of the new Corvette.”
The collection of classic Corvettes will be on display at Sweeney Chevrolet for the next two days and visitors can take a look at the 2020 by contacting the dealership to arrange a time to meet during 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Pictured above: The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette (C8) was unveiled at a special event at Sweeney Chevrolet.
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.