There's been a series of articles lately from sources such as Left Lane News and AutoGuide talking about the aging demographics of the Corvette - especially when it comes to the new car sales that GM depends upon.
The facts are easy enough - according to thie demographic analysis by SEMA, 65% of Corvette buyers are over 50, and the biggest demographic slice is 61-63 at 12% of buyers. But what does it mean?
Corvette sales have fallen 65% over the last few years. According to the demographics, about 40% of new Corvette buyers have household incomes over $100,000 - and the great recession has probably accounted for a big drop in sales. The Corvette is a halo car - it's expensive, high performance, and impractical for most people to use as a daily grocery-getter, so Corvette buying is likely to be affected by the economy more than say, the Chevy Cruze. But the combination of a graying demographic and high prices can be a killer to the Corvette brand. Chevy is responding with an advertising effort aimed at younger buyers, but I'm not convinced it's simply a matter of advertising.
The main thing that needs to happen to attract a younger buyer is that the price of a new Corvette has to come down. That may be hard for GM to do given the Corvette's advanced engine and drivetrain and the unique bodywork, but the Corvette (starting at $48,950) is simply priced out of the budget of younger buyers. Younger buyers can get similar performance at a much lower price from an asian import, and there's more peer support for that import purchase. To bring the younger buyers into the Corvette community, the entry price point has to be competitive with asian imports.
One of the great sadnesses of the last decade was the failure of the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky. This car, in its turbocharged form, was truly a "baby Corvette" and could have brought young sports car buyers into the family. But the convertible top was not well-designed, trunk space was nonexistent, and the interior was an afterthought. I enjoyed driving the turbocharged Solstice GXP, but a basic automatic transmission Saturn Sky could hardly get out of its own way. If the attention to technology and ease of use that goes into a modern Corvette had gone into the Solstice/Sky, it could have been a great car, competing with the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
It breaks my heart to think of a Corvette without a V8 engine, but right now I've got a new Ford Mustang V6 in the driveway - 300 horsepower and 31 MPG on the highway. It drives like the Mustang GT of a few years ago, and its MSRP is right around $22,000. The technology available today can give us 430, 505, or 639 horsepower in our Corvettes, but can we even use all of that on the street? My suggestion: Reach into Corvette's deep history and create a new "Blue Flame 6" at about 300 horsepower and put it in a convertible Corvette body. Strip down the car to the basics and price it under $30,000. I'd be first in line with my checkbook out, and I bet many people for whom the Corvette is an "aspirational" car today would buy one in the first year.
Corvette has a tremendous history, and it needs a brighter future than just being another supercar you can read about and occasionally see on the road. We shouldn't be ashamed of ourselves as Corvette enthusiasts - even if we have some gray in our hair - but rather, we need to get the young people into the driver's seat so they can discover what we already know about the 'Vette.