Why the Stingray's $52K sticker should come with an asterisk

Savvier dealers might conclude that it's better to stick to the sticker on the 2014 Corvette Stingray than rake customers just because they can.

DETROIT -- General Motors resisted the urge to jack up the price on the 2014 Corvette Stingray, despite major enhancements on the seventh-generation sports car.

The $51,995* sticker for the coupe, which is expected to hit showrooms by September, is just 1,400 bucks more than the current model, even with its more powerful engine, better fuel economy and vastly improved interior.

Why the asterisk? Because buyers will be hard-pressed to find one at that price.

The gouging is expected to be rampant.

"I'd say $5,000 to $10,000 will be a typical markup, at least during the first several months," says Steve Hurley, dealer principal at the fortuitously named Stingray Chevrolet in Plant City, Fla., near Orlando.

Hurley, one of the nation's top Corvette dealers and chairman of Chevy's national dealer council, says he will sell his Vettes at sticker. But he suspects many dealers won't show the same restraint.

Price gouging on buzzed-about launches is nothing new. From the 2000 Chrysler PT Cruiser to the 2011 Chevy Volt, dealers have commanded -- and eager buyers have paid -- thousands above sticker.

But the gouging on the Corvette could be worse than on past Vette launches because a much narrower network of dealerships -- just 900 of the nation's 3,000 Chevy stores -- will be selling them.

Less competition usually equals stiffer pricing.

Savvier dealers might conclude that it's better to stick to the sticker than rake customers just because they can.

Gouging Corvette customers is an especially bad idea. They're more likely than most to return for service. And they probably drive another car for everyday use.

That's how Chevy dealer Harry Criswell sees it. The dealer principal at Criswell Chevrolet in Gaithersburg, Md., already has taken $5,000 deposits on about 150 Stingray orders. He's selling all of them at sticker.

Criswell admits to pricing above sticker on hot launches in the past. But it's not worth it, he concludes.

"It creates too much controversy," Criswell says. "And consumers are so smart today, they'll be blogging and tweeting about what a jerk you are before they even drive off the lot."

You can reach Mike Colias at autonews@crain.com

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