LE MANS, France -- General Motors will make its American-bred sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, shorter and narrower to boost European sales.
In recent clinics, German Corvette owners said that they prefer a smaller car, said Dave Hill, the sports car's vehicle line executive. They also disliked the plastic in the passenger cabin.
"They want a car that is more compact on the outside," Hill said. "Of course, Americans don't want to give up anything on the inside."
The new Corvette, due in summer 2004 "is going to be a little bit narrower and quite a bit shorter" than the current car, he said. But it will be "just as accommodating on the inside." He declined to specify the new dimensions.
The 2002 Corvette is 179.7 inches long and 73.6 inches wide - 8.7 inches longer and 3.5 inches wider than the 2002 Porsche Boxster, for instance.
Corvette's sales in Europe are relatively small: about 1,200 annually, about 75 percent of them in Germany. Hill sees more sales opportunities in Switzerland, France, Italy and Spain. He did not say how much GM hopes to boost Corvette sales in Europe.
Chevrolet sold 31,208 Corvettes last year in the United States.
Hill said Corvette owners in Germany criticized the current Corvette's interior, which uses plastic finishes commonly found in family sedans. Full-sized images of the new car were shown to Corvette owners in Germany.
"While the current Corvette is a huge jump from the car that preceded it, it has frankly not kept up," Hill said. "Others have overtaken it, particularly Audi and Porsche. They have more apparent richness in the interior.
"We are going to leapfrog what we have done, and we're going to have an interior that has more attention to detail, more money devoted to it."
He added: "If we make the car better for the European market than it is today, then we will be rewarded by plus business. And if we do it skillfully, we won't lose any of the fascination that the Corvette has in the States."