Five reasons the new Corvette will stay an old man's car
By Andrew Stoy for AutoWeek
The new Corvette Stingray has made its debut at the Detroit auto show, and there's little doubt it's going to thrill leagues of current Corvette aficionados. But Chevrolet has hinted it wants to broaden the Vette's appeal beyond its core Baby Boomer buyers, now in their 60s. GM design head Ed Welburn stated the Stingray aims for “a bit of a shift to appeal to younger customers,” according to Automotive News.
According to market research firm Strategic Vision, the average Corvette buyer is 59 years old. That means the “younger customers” Chevrolet is targeting are members of Generation X, born from about 1960-80. Big differences exist between the Vette's current core audience of Baby Boomers and the slacker generation (of which your author is a member), including these five significant hurdles that stand in the way of the Corvette's demographic downward drive.
Ghosts of Corvettes past
As good as the new Corvette is, Chevy's got skeletons in the closet that many of us Gen Xers remember all too well. Consider that drivers in their 40s and early 50s came of automotive age from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s -- exactly the time the Corvette was huffing 200 or so horsepower through a long-in-the-tooth Mako Shark body. It wasn't an object of lust for many of us -- exotics like the Lamborghini Countach, Porsche 911 Turbo and Ferrari 308 were what stirred the soul, not the paunchy next-door neighbor's two-tone '78 C3.
We still have kids at home
Getting married and having kids happened a lot later for those in Generation X. Many put off child-raising until their mid-30s, meaning those parents won't be empty-nesters until their mid-50s (at the earliest). What good is a two-seat sports car to someone who has to haul three or four people around regularly…and pay tuition, all while hiding the keys from irresponsible hands? For the same money, an Audi S4 or even a Cadillac CTS-V makes more sense.
It'll still be too expensive
Remember that nasty little recession we had a few years ago? Most of us Gen Xers were just hitting our peak earning years when that whole mess hit and wiped out jobs, savings accounts and IRAs. Yes, things have improved, but a lot of us are either gun-shy or still broke, so a $60,000+ plaything isn't on the shopping list at the moment, nor is it likely to be anytime in the next few years.
We don't like flash
Not every member of Generation X slouched about in flannel several years longer than they should have. But car sales trends continue to show that the majority of buyers continue to value an understated automotive presence. We're snapping up silver Passats with abandon, luxuriating in lookalike Audis and even revering the gawdawful Prius as an aspirational vehicle. A low, sleek, hyperventilated land missile doesn't fit the image many of us have of success.
We've been tipped off
Chevy showed its hand when it announced the Corvette would attempt to appeal to younger customers. Now we know that Chevy is coming for us, and we'll be watching for telltale target marketing around every corner. As marketing trade publication CRM Magazine notes, “Gen Xers are averse to ad hype and overstatement and keep a constant lookout for hypocrisy and self-importance. They're also far less daring when it comes to spending their money.” None of these characteristics bode well for a splashy Corvette campaign.
CRM also notes that experts “warn against ads that appeal to a broader sense of heritage, history, and tradition, because Gen X doesn't go for that.” In other words, two years of “Chevy runs deep” probably hasn't helped matters, and the resurrection of Stingray is likely to fall on indifferent ears.
What the new 2014 Corvette does have going for it are the same things Corvette has long offered: Tremendous performance for the dollar, striking looks and everyday usability. Once the new car goes on sale this fall, we'll find out if it offers something the Corvette hasn't had in decades: Youth appeal.