The challenge of a 'Vette redesign: Don't screw it up

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

FRANKFURT -- What's the most difficult car to design at General Motors?

Here's a hint: It has two seats.

"Everyone wants to design a Corvette, but it is hard work," says Ed Welburn, who heads GM's global design.

The redesigned car could appear in the fall of 2013 as a 2014 model year, as reported in this blog last spring.

"Finding that right balance" is a challenge. "You want it to be a new design, but it needs to be recognizable as a Corvette," says Welburn, who was interviewed at the Frankfurt motor show.

He describes today's car as "nice" but quickly adds that "sales are very weak."

Last year Chevrolet sold 12,624 Corvettes, the lowest level since the early 1960s. In the past 10 years, the Corvette's best year was 2006, when 36,518 were sold. Through August, 9,123 Corvettes have been sold, a 5 percent increase over the same period last year.

Welburn says the redesigned car must have a wider appeal.

Generally speaking, most of Corvette's buyers age-wise fall into the 50s and above category -- numbers that place a big question make on Corvette's long-term viability.

Welburn is short on words when it comes to describing the redesigned Corvette, but yet his words grab your attention.

The redesigned Vette will make "a bit of a shift to appeal to younger customers." Shorter, narrower? He won't say.

As the design for the next generation nears finalization, there is another thought running through Welburn's head and he says:

"You don't want to be the guy who screwed it up."

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