The Chevrolet Corvette is in danger of not making it to Australia after General Motors in Detroit stopped engineering development of all vehicles during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
A report out of the US – based on a leaked copy of a secret internal General Motors document – claims GM’s executive director in charge of program management, Michelle Braun, “recently issued a blanket order pausing all future car and truck development, including for the Corvette”.
While the stoppages are only temporary, well placed industry insiders believe there is “little to no chance” the Chevrolet Corvette will make it to Australia in the first half of 2021 as originally planned – and may not happen at all because it will be pushed down the priority queue as the company ramps up production after the coronavirus crisis.
At best, the right-hand-drive Corvette could make it to Australia in 2022 at the earliest – the US media report speculates – but that timeline is by no means guaranteed, say well placed industry insiders.
The latest generation Chevrolet Corvette was due to be the first ever factory-built right-hand-drive model.
The right-hand-drive version was more viable this time around because the C8 Corvette is mid-engined and there were fewer obstacles to moving the steering wheel and driving controls from the left- to the right-hand side of the car.
The coronavirus crisis could not have come at a worse time for the right-hand-drive Chevrolet Corvette program, which was in the middle of its engineering work ahead of the start of production late this year or early next.
Well placed industry sources in Australia believe the chances of Detroit going ahead with a factory-built right-hand-drive Corvette are now “slim to none”.
“When General Motors comes out of this crisis, they will want to allocate their engineering resources to the vehicles that can deliver the biggest profits in the shortest possible time … they need cashflow urgently,” said the source with intimate knowledge of the right-hand-drive Corvette program.
The industry insider added: “Before the world hit the brakes (due to COVID-19), General Motors was still committed to going ahead with the right-hand-drive Corvette, even with Holden being axed at the end of 2020”.
GM’s plan, the source said, was to sell the factory-made right-hand-drive Corvette alongside other Chevrolet models such as the Silverado pick-up – converted from left- to right-hand drive locally – under the General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV) banner in Australia.
While it is yet to be finalised, General Motors in Detroit was negotiating to rebrand Holden Special Vehicles as GMSV once Holden closed its doors at the end of 2020.
However, the coronavirus crisis has also delayed negotiations surrounding GMSV.
Meanwhile, CarAdvice has also learned General Motors and Holden only planned to sell very modest numbers of Corvettes – between 200 and 400 per year.
“Dealers were told initially they would be lucky to get one car each, and at the time that was said, Holden had 200 or so dealers,” the well place source said. “At best, the plan was to sell 400 cars a year, that’s only two per dealer.”
Those close to the right-hand-drive Corvette program in Australia now fear General Motors may walk away from the project.
“Do you really think General Motors is going to allocate engineers to finish off the right-hand-drive Corvette, when those same engineers could be working on another vehicle for the US market that will deliver much bigger profits and sell in much greater volumes?”
CarAdvice believes there is a possibility General Motors could resume the right-hand-drive Corvette program at a later date or perhaps coincide it with the introduction of the high-powered variants that are due to follow in the coming years.
There is also a possibility HSV (or GMSV) could convert the vehicles from left-hand-drive to right-hand-drive locally, however CarAdvice understands the cost and complexity may weigh against such a program given the likely high price and limited sales opportunity for a niche vehicle.
CarAdvice understands the target price for the factory-built right-hand-drive Chevrolet Corvette was somewhere between $120,000 and $140,000, but a locally-converted model would be closer to $200,000 by the time it was in the traffic.
Representatives for General Motors and HSV declined to comment on the future of the factory-built right-hand-drive Corvette for Australia.
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