BOWLING GREEN, Ky. -- The Chevrolet Corvette is the Harley-Davidson motorcycle of the sports car world. It appeals to a diminishing set of graying buyers -- the average age of a Corvette owner is somewhere in the mid-'50s.
Chevrolet knows this must change if America's sports car is going to have a long-term future. Buyers of similar-priced Porsches, by contrast, are about 10 years younger.
The new Corvette Stingray, the seventh generation, just started landing at dealerships this month. It might have a better chance of attracting slightly younger buyers than the last version because of its mean looks, stellar performance, advanced technology -- and an all-out effort by Chevrolet to make the delivery and ownership experience really special.
General Motors knows no one needs a Corvette. As with any two-seat sport car, a Corvette is a discretionary purchase, and a big one at that. Prices start at around $52,000 and change.
To make the buying experience special and hopefully create an emotional bond between car and driver, GM is opening up the entire Corvette build process to customers at the plant here.
Starting next month, GM is resuming factory tours that let customers and the general public see how the cars are made. Starting next year some time, a Corvette customer can visit the plant, and working alongside a GM Powertrain employee, build the engine that will go in his or her car.
The cost to do that will be about $5,000, but the experience is unique. Although Ford and Chrysler have boutique engine operations for their high-performance engines, neither company allows customers to build their own engines.
Chevrolet says there is no other sports car factory in the world where customers have such access and can get a hands-on experience.
Corvette buyers also have the option of returning to the plant to watch their cars being assembled with the engines they built and then taking delivery of the cars at the nearby National Corvette Museum.
When customers chose that option for $990, they get a more in-depth plant tour and a customized plaque that goes in the car.
Chevy officials are under the gun to ensure the latest Corvette draws younger buyers.
"Everything we are doing with the car reflects that," Chevrolet spokesman Monte Doran says. "We are taking a radically different approach with the new car to attract more people to the brand."