GM's bid to boost Corvette sales is on target

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.
What a great idea!

Buy a Corvette and build your own high-performance V-8 under the guidance of a trained GM technician. What a terrific way to put the spotlight on Corvette and, more important, draw buyers into the showroom.

Chevrolet is desperately trying to create buzz for the brand. Sales have nose-dived. Sales last year dropped to 13,934 Corvettes. You have to go way back to 1961 to find a worse year for Corvette sales. And the prognosis for this year looks no better:

Sales for January through June were off 15 percent from last year's snail pace. As recently as 2007, 33,685 Vettes were sold, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Don't blame the car for the sales slide. This is the best Corvette ever produced! Instead, blame the recession: Much of its buyer base is either out of work or cautiously selecting their purchases.

Earlier this week GM announced that buyers of 2011 Z06 and ZR-1 models, Corvette's high-performance models, have a new option they can check off. For $5,800, buyers can travel to GM's performance engine facility in Wixom, Mich., and help assemble their car's engine. The engines are hand-built. The only downside of the “build your own engine” program is that it is limited to two models, the pricey Z06 and the ZR-1, which make up only a small share of Corvette sales.

This is not Chevrolet's first effort to generate additional excitement for Corvette buyers. Corvette buyers already can tour the Vette plant in Bowling Green, Ky., and watch their cars being assembled. They can take delivery of their cars at the National Corvette Museum, also in Bowling Green. The programs have been in place for years.

There is also complimentary admission to a high-performance driving school for ZR-1 buyers.

This week's engine announcement generated the buzz Chevy wanted on the Internet and on TV. The Web sites for CNN, CBS, MSNBC, Automotive News, Advertising Age and others delivered stories.

Chevy's hope is that with Corvette on their minds, reluctant buyers now will be tempted to visit a Chevy showroom and fulfill their dreams.

After all, it's summertime, the best time to be seen behind the wheel of a Vette.