Chevrolet without Corvette?
Sounds like coffee without cream to some folks, but believe it or not, at the turn of the century, General Motors was apparently considering the possibility of making Corvette a brand of its own, according to the recent recollections of Rick Kranz, product editor for Automotive News.
In 2001, Kranz says he was told by then-president of GM North America Ron Zarrella that GM was seriously looking into the expansion of the Corvette line into two models: one with a six-figure price tag and unique body panels and another with considerably less horsepower. But they were also studying the pros and cons of taking Corvette away from Chevy and creating a separate performance brand (similar to what Chrysler is doing with the upcoming new Viper).
It’s not as far-fetched an idea as it might sound at first glance.
Kranz lists several reasons for considering the switch:
- Corvette did not fit the value image Chevrolet portrayed.
- Many Chevy dealers didn’t even sell Corvettes.
- If only selected dealers sold the car, it might be thought of as a more exclusive product.
- Dealers who were chosen could create an exclusive area of the showroom to display the car.
- GM could pick the best dealers who might do a better job of selling the car.
- GM presumably would want dealers who knew what they were doing to sell and service a car that tops $100K.
As everyone knows, the discussions never went any further. Zarrella left the company within days of his conversation with Kranz, shortly after Bob Lutz had been hired as GM vice chairman and product guru. End of discussion.
Of course, the super ?Vette did eventually surface in 2009 in the form of the $100k-plus ZR1, but Chevrolet remained at the helm. After 60 years of nurturing the Corvette, would it really have been fair to take Corvette away from them?