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Old 01-22-2013, 08:48 PM   #1
prinzSD455
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Default Marketing the Corvette: What GM doesn’t get

Peter De Lorenzo at Autoextremist.com has posted his insights on Corvette marketing or lack of. For those who don't want to click on a link, here is what he said, but you will not see some of the concepts for more versions of the Vette which in some cases look stupid.

For others, here is the link:
http://www.autoextremist.com/


"Marketing the Corvette: What GM doesn’t get.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

(Posted 1/22, 5:30 p.m.) Detroit. Now that the smoke has cleared (somewhat) from the frenzy of the Detroit Auto Show – and the big bang debut of the new Corvette – it’s time to take a hard look at Corvette from a brand image and marketing point of view.

As I’ve said repeatedly in this column, there are only two cars (and car names) in modern American automotive history that qualify as true icons in this business, the Chevrolet Corvette and the Ford Mustang. Around for 60 and 50 years, respectively, the Corvette and the Mustang transcend all others because of their evocative imagery and indisputable status as America’s two brightest automotive lights. The true test? Even non-car people know what a Mustang and a Corvette are. Even more, they can conjure these two cars in their own historical image banks and can instantly remember an experience when they saw one for the first time or rode in one in their formative years.

But dealing with that kind of iconic status isn’t easy for Ford and GM. Half the battle revolves around knowing what you have and understanding its place in the automotive universe. That might sound simple but believe me it isn’t. Executives with – ahem – varying degrees of competence who have been given the marketing reins for these cars have come and gone over the years, and battles have ensued and mistakes have been made, but the ball more or less has kept moving forward for these two icons despite the occasional egregious missteps. It can't be overstated that it has taken tremendous effort by the True Believers involved in order to maintain the focused consistency that these nameplates deserve.

In Ford’s case, the F-150 may be The Franchise, but the Mustang is the heart and soul of the company. And I can assure you that as much time is spent on not screwing it up or sending it down the wrong path as there is time spent on marketing the car. Or thinking about the next Mustang that’s in the works.

When you consider what the Mustang means to the Ford Motor Company, you can understand why Ford executives, members of the Ford family and employees throughout the company take the nameplate so seriously. And it's why you'll never see them phoning it in or treating the Mustang lightly or as an afterthought.

But of course at General Motors, we're talking a completely different situation with the Corvette. To be sure, to the True Believers within GM's product development and design functions, the Corvette is every bit as important as the Mustang is to Ford. To them the Corvette is the heart and soul of the company as well.

The difference between the two companies gets wildly pronounced when considering how upper management views the Corvette at GM. In the early years the Corvette was on the chop list more than once. Students of this industry are already familiar with the monumental battles between the True Believers like Harley Earl, Zora Duntov and Bill Mitchell, and the "suits" at GM who not only didn't get the car but couldn't be bothered one way or the other. That the Corvette has survived in the hostile environment created by the vacuous bean counter-driven "culture" - or at least what passes for one - at General Motors is a small miracle unto itself.

Were there bad years for the Corvette? Absolutely. The mid- to late-70s was an embarrassing period. (Same for the Mustang, as a matter of fact.) But the car survived that and even intermittently thrived. And in recent years, thanks to the committed engineers and designers - and the exceptional Corvette Racing program - Corvette is viewed with a notable measure of respect by competing manufacturers and enthusiast consumers alike.

And here we are today with a brand-spanking-new-generation Corvette, so things should be all right with the world, right? You would think so but despite all of the hoopla surrounding the new Corvette's launch, and all of the glowing words coming from within GM (Captain Queeg's comments not withstanding) and from the assembled media, the same black cloud hovers over the Corvette that has always been there.

And that ominous looking black cloud is one of indifference.

How can that be, you say? Everyone at the Detroit Show representing GM seemed to be switched on about the new Corvette, right? Yes, this is true. At least the people who matter within GM, that is. But the cloud of indifference I'm talking about is big and nasty and hangs in the air like a bad dream. And it's best exemplified by the prevailing attitude of GM upper management that ultimately the Corvette sells itself, and now that they've committed the funding for the development and launch of the C7, they can move on to other, more important things.

Let me amplify this cloud of indifference for you. When the Corvette Racing program started to deliver wins in the GT class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans over the last fourteen years, the wins were almost invisible except to the racing media and the enthusiast consumers who deemed it important. Why? Because it was like pulling teeth to get GM marketers to tout the accomplishments. Oh, you'd see an occasional race-win ad here or there, but nothing on the order of how a Chevrolet win in NASCAR is promoted.

Yes, it should be pointed out that recently GM has gotten better at image wrangling when it comes to the Corvette, but can you imagine what another manufacturer would do if they had an icon like the Corvette in their product portfolio? Can you imagine if it were a German auto company that owned the Corvette? Can you imagine how those racing wins at Le Mans would be used? I daresay you wouldn't be able to move without seeing or hearing mention of them.

And therein lies the point. Any other manufacturer would use the Corvette as the tip of its technological spear. A race win at Le Mans would mean an instant social media blast and double-truck newspaper spread ads in every major newspaper in the country. (And on the day after the race, too, not ten days later when the print media buy was more advantageous.) But to upper management at GM? Remember, the Corvette sells itself. The attitude can be distilled to this: why invest money in something that's a niche, something we don't sell that many of to begin with? I can't think of a more egregious example of people doing less with more in this business than what GM has done - or hasn't done - with Corvette. It's a complete travesty when it comes right down to it.

And, as if it needs to be pointed out, that is why, despite their protestations to the contrary, GM marketers not only don't get the Corvette, they don't even know where to begin to understand how to fix it. I would say that is a major problem. To have an iconic vehicle with the status of the Corvette and not know what to do with it is tantamount to being Porsche and not knowing how to market the 911.

So I'm going to lay out a marketing and product plan for the Corvette that would propel it at top speed into the pantheon of the elite sports cars in the world. No more "it's fantastic for the money" excuses. No more mismanagement or non-management decisions to hold the Corvette back. In short, a plan to properly - and finally - nurture one of the iconic cars in the world.

You can't get there from here.

I've heard the argument almost since the day I was born: "We put a little bit of Corvette in all of our Chevys." It's simple, lure them into the showroom with the Corvette, and sell them a (insert Chevy model name here). The idea that a halo car will sell your other products is as old of an axiom that there is in this business. But that axiom has clearly run its course when it comes to Corvette and Chevrolet. Especially now that Chevrolet is going global with a mixture of funky-fun small cars that have a completely different mission. What does Corvette have to do with Chevrolet when it really comes right down to it? Nostalgia? That doesn't count for much in this, the most competitive market in automotive history. Chevrolet should go ahead and chase its newly energized global mission with glee. But the Corvette deserves a higher plateau to aim for.

The first order of business?

Make Corvette a brand unto itself. Enough already with the familial resemblance to other Chevrolets that seems to be all of a sudden important on the C7 with its Camaro-esque taillights. It's silly and flat-out stupid when it comes right down to it. If GM can position Cadillac and Chevrolet as global bands, then the Corvette deserves to be a global brand too. The Europeans who flock to Le Mans aren't interested in Chevrolet anything, but they are interested in Corvette, and anything and everything to do with Corvette. You don't think that the Corvette as a stand-alone brand would have resonance globally? Think again. Just because the power of the Corvette name has been underutilized up until now, that doesn't mean it can't be polished into something much more.

The second order of business?

Besides relocating the Corvette brand headquarters as far away from GM's RenCen headquarters as I could get it, I would completely and thoroughly upend the Corvette product portfolio, from top to bottom. Instead of multiple variations of one Corvette, I would have three Corvettes. (I'd like to thank Josiah LaColla for his scintillating and imaginative illustrations, by the way) The new Corvette lineup would look like this:



1. The 2016 Corvette Stingray. Not to be confused with the current car, this will be the entry level Corvette that the non-boomers are clamoring for. And no, you won't find any reptilian nightmare design influences here either. Imagine a car with a footprint longer, wider and lower than the discontinued Solstice/Sky twins but with a fresh design that would harken back to the original Sting Ray (the name was two words back then), with Corvair Monza SS concept overtones. Available in a roadster only (that means no hardtop, removable or otherwise), this car would have a Twin-Turbo V6 with 375HP, 7-speed manual (only) gearbox, 50-50 weight distribution, a driving dynamic profile tuned to aggressive-fun and a target curb weight of 2,800 pounds. And round taillights, of course. Price? $39,995 base. And with minimal option packages available it would come in at $49,995, fully loaded.






2. The 2016 Corvette SS. This would be the newly-introduced C7 with about 25 percent of the overwrought and overdone surface detailing removed. A complete rethink of the side vents and associated detailing would be undertaken, moving the car away from its vaguely Nissan GT-R overtones and more in keeping with great Corvettes of the past. And the back end would be completely redesigned to include round taillights and a more subtle seductiveness, without compromising its GT racing mission. This would still be the mainstream Corvette, one that the Corvette faithful would be very happy with on a day-in, day-out basis.



3. The 2018 Corvette Chaparral. Yes, you read that correctly. The Corvette Chaparral. This is the car that the Corvette faithful have been clamoring to have for decades. This would be a clean-sheet, mid-engined Corvette for the ages, with Jim Hall's blessing, of course. This machine would boast every ounce of GM technological know-how plus every current and future trick in the book available. Carbon fiber chassis and body structure with the use of advanced technical materials throughout. Twin-Turbo, Direct-Injected 800HP LT1 V8 with hybrid assist and rear-biased all-wheel-drive. Ten-speed dual range sequential automatic. Extremely limited production cadence of 1000 vehicles over a 42-month build sequence. No excuses and no "what ifs." The Corvette Chaparral would have it all and then some. Price point? $175,000. Its stated mission beyond, of course, giving Corvette enthusiasts their ultimate fantasy? To kick Audi, BMW, McLaren and Porsche's *** at Le Mans and deliver the first overall win for an American manufacturer there since 1969.

This product portfolio would accomplish several things. First of all it would put to rest the undeliverable notion that one Corvette can be adjusted to skew younger. That's notgonnahappen. But you can do an entry-level Corvette that would address that idea elegantly and emotionally, while adhering to the legacy of one of the all-time great cars: the original '59 Sting Ray. Secondly, it would give the Corvette - now Corvette SS - some breathing room to be better. Abandoning some of the surface hand-wringing and cleaning up its overwrought details, its design presence would blossom and it would fulfill its role as the car that the Corvette aficionados would savor and relish for years to come. And finally, the Corvette Chaparral would put the new global brand Corvette on the map. A car that would be mentioned with the other super cars of the world as a matter of fact, not as a matter of surprise.

As I've stated previously, this image-wrangling business as it applies to automobiles is serious stuff. And when it is applied to iconic vehicles like the Corvette and the Mustang, the ramifications go up exponentially.

GM has mishandled and all but squandered the Corvette image for going on decades, and it would be comical if it weren't so pathetic and sad. The company overlords need to finally treat the Corvette properly. And that doesn't mean paying attention to it when it's time to do a new one, it means nurturing the brand Corvette on a daily if not hourly basis. It means using the brand as the tip of the technological spear for the entire company, not as a marketing afterthought that you only address when convenient or absolutely necessary.

Turning the Corvette into a global brand while removing it from its more mundane Chevrolet shackles is exactly what is needed, but it won't happen under Dan Akerson's watch. It's completely over his head and besides, he wouldn't understand the script even if it was pounded into him. He would of course understand the profitability potential, but remember, this is the guy who said the new Corvette is the most beautiful car GM has ever produced. It's fair to say he wouldn't know the second-best one.

But I personally know two high-level GM executives who know exactly what I'm talking about and who would sign up for this Corvette program in a second. It would require the kind of focused consistency – and serious cash – that GM has only dreamed of up until now, but I have tremendous confidence in the True Believers hard at work on the Corvette program that they could deliver this enhanced mission in spades.

The Corvette deserves better. Much better. Here's to the idea of a future for Corvette that exceeds even my most colorful imagination.

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week."
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Old 01-22-2013, 09:16 PM   #2
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For me,

No. 1 is out. I don't want a buzzy, irritating V6.

No. 2 is our. I don't want something GT-R bland.

No. 3 is out. I couldn't afford it.

So basically, we have just eliminated the customer base for the Corvette. This product mix is unappealing.

Finally, who is going to buy all these two seat sports cars? Look at the sales numbers. There aren't enough to support all these models. Even Porsche had to come out with SUVs and sedans to make money.

Michael
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Old 01-22-2013, 09:59 PM   #3
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I wish Delorenzo would quit typing.

I can't call it writing because it isn't. Writing requires intelligence and forethought. He seems to think that a company that sells 5 million vehicles a year should be throwing tons of cash at one that is selling 20,000 units.

He has the cart before the horse. GM doesn't want to advertise the Corvette and it's accomplishment because those accomplishments ARE the advertising. The Corvette shows that GM can build a car than competes with BMW, Jag, Aston, and F-cars.

And why spend the cash on Nascar and not the Lemans class win? Aside from the fact that more people see a single Nascar race than an entire season of American LeMans, there's the fact that people in the stands of a Nascar race have a prayer of buying a Malibu or an Impala. A Vette? Not so much. And for them there's that Pace Car out front.

As for his "marketing" ideas - if you think the Vette faithful howled about round tail lights, give 'em a glorified Solstice with a V6 and slap crossed flags on it. Bring on the torches and pitchforks.

A Mid Engined Corvette Chaparral for $175K? BWAHAHAH! Only if it's the Cadillac Cien.

Like I said - the man should just stop.
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:06 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BuckyThreadkiller View Post
I wish Delorenzo would quit typing.

I can't call it writing because it isn't. Writing requires intelligence and forethought. He seems to think that a company that sells 5 million vehicles a year should be throwing tons of cash at one that is selling 20,000 units.

He has the cart before the horse. GM doesn't want to advertise the Corvette and it's accomplishment because those accomplishments ARE the advertising. The Corvette shows that GM can build a car than competes with BMW, Jag, Aston, and F-cars.

And why spend the cash on Nascar and not the Lemans class win? Aside from the fact that more people see a single Nascar race than an entire season of American LeMans, there's the fact that people in the stands of a Nascar race have a prayer of buying a Malibu or an Impala. A Vette? Not so much. And for them there's that Pace Car out front.

As for his "marketing" ideas - if you think the Vette faithful howled about round tail lights, give 'em a glorified Solstice with a V6 and slap crossed flags on it. Bring on the torches and pitchforks.

A Mid Engined Corvette Chaparral for $175K? BWAHAHAH! Only if it's the Cadillac Cien.

Like I said - the man should just stop.
He types to make money. Period. As long as what he says is taken in that context.
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:24 PM   #5
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IMHO that was a waste of a long read. It's idiotic IMO to get corvette away from gm. the main reason the corvette would cost a lot more then it does now. Having a cheap 375hp tt vette is ridiculous. Broadening the corvette brand so there might be more sales on the low end killing camaro sales and having a lot less power then the base c6. The low end corvette would diminish the corvette name.
Chevy is supposedly (hopefully) going to come out with a light weight camaro on the Alfa platform that sounds like the low weight low power base corvette this guy mentions.
Chevys name is not on the corvette besides on the vette flag.There is no good reason the completely separate the vette from Chevy. When the vette needs serviced we can go to a Chevy dealership. If the vette would be its own company it would be scares to find a vette dealership. Parts would be more, I mean come on.
If the would build a 175k vette it would need to be close to vetron numbers in performance imo to distinguish itself from very good cars in that price point. How would they do this without re tooling their place? Having a 39-175k vette on the same platform?
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:24 PM   #6
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Posted 1/22 at 5:30...my guess is he had his first martini at 3:00 and was still at it.
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:47 PM   #7
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The thing that gets me is GM had too many divisions and too many cars to juggle and could not do it before. As part of the GM bailout, GM had to jettison Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, and then SAAB and Oldmobile way before the bail out. Since then they have been adding more cars to the Chevy, Buick and Cadillac brands and starting to get too many car names to promote. They could not do it before and I don't see them doing it now. Throw in the fact that GM has no clue how to promote the Corvette and Peter thinks that it is a good idea to expand Corvette as a brand and expand the line up to three Corvettes. That is plain stupid, GM can not manage one Vette let alone three.

What GM needs to do is concentrate on the C7 and consistently drive the point home with constant marketing and acknowledging the Corvette wins on the track. Somehow GM must think racing accomplishments are dirty words. The other thing GM must do is be consistent with Corvette quality because someone coming from the European brands won't put up with some of the GM dealer bs. The buying and dealership experience is also an area that GM must improve for potential import conquest sales.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:02 PM   #8
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It should be titled "My Corvette Dream." Because that's all it is, a dream, the same thing car-crazy teenagers do at lunch in the cafeteria. The $40K roadster market isn't going to just roll over for a new entry. The C7 doesn't need the edges filed off, it needs options to dial the edge up or down. And the super-Corvette is a massive risk with little reward. Sure, it's a dreamy portfolio, but GM does and should have other priorities.

Let them get one Corvette right before spreading the engineering thinner.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:17 PM   #9
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Long read
O'brother
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:17 PM   #10
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Default Just some fantasizing...

There are some things I agree with but others I think are pretty silly. I agree with him about Corvette being a strong enough brand to potentially stand on it's own with a small family of vehicles. But I sure DON'T agree with him on what those vehicles are.

I think attacking the Porsche model of a hi-po family of different vehicles like the Cayanne and the Panamera could expand the brand without screwing up the Corvette itself. I think these vehicles could help take the Corvette brand in a more UPSCALE hi-po luxo direction globally and directly compete with Porsche, BMW (X3) and Ferrari (FF). They wouldn't be competing with Cadillac...no more than Caddy would with a two-seater of their own.

I admit I've had given thought to a smaller Solstice-style, hot little Corvette but I've come to the conclusion that making such a car with a hot V6 would directly compete with the Corvette itself. Plus, I don't like the idea of making a Corvette that costs in the mid-thirties. The idea of a Chaparral is pretty silly.

I also think GM could do more in their Corvette marketing but certainly can't argue with what they do have in place with ALMS. The addition of these other vehicles could really expand what folks think about the Corvette brand.

What does bother me a bit is that GM has taken the halo off of Corvette and put it on Cadillac. It bugs me no end that Caddy is looking to release a two-seater.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lt4obsesses View Post
Posted 1/22 at 5:30...my guess is he had his first martini at 3:00 and was still at it.
oh yeahh
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:26 PM   #12
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Peter doesn't really know what he is ranting about......he just wants a larger audience...

Normally Peter makes me laugh with his rants yet this is way over the top....
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:31 PM   #13
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Someone needs to check his meds.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:32 PM   #14
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Mr. De Lorenzo's history lesson on the Corvette was spot on....GM has NOT always been a good parent/steward of the Corvette. Sadly for Mr. De Lorenzo, EVERY Corvette lover on the planet knows this history so that part of the article was a waste of time.

Then, his idea of making Corvette a stand alone brand comes into the article. Again, sadly (for him), this is hardly an original idea and has been discussed one million times by countless Corvette enthusiasts so no news there. In the high water days of the 1990's, this notion of making new brands and making dealers spend countless dollars for new showrooms, service, etc was insane. It didn't work then (Maybach) and it won't work now.

And, the piece de resistance....his crazy, hair brained idea for the Corvette "lineup". Right, let's do the 21st century version of the 1999 FRC, a de-contented Corvette, this time, with a TT V6.

In closing, I assume (you know!) that Peter thinks all of this (what he wrote) is a good idea. And, his disdain (it seems) for the marketing guys who made the C7 reveal such an amazing success is palpable.

Jimmy

PS. Hey Peter, the freakin' tail lights DO NOT LOOK LIKE CAMARO TAIL LIGHTS....jeez, there's a million pictures of the cars side by side. We all get it, you don't like the styling of the car, but you're a writer, come up with SOMETHING original....oh, you did, a TT V6 budget Corvette roadster....brilliant.

Last edited by jimmyb; 01-22-2013 at 11:36 PM.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:36 PM   #15
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Just say no
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:38 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prinzSD455 View Post

What GM needs to do is concentrate on the C7 and consistently drive the point home with constant marketing and acknowledging the Corvette wins on the track. Somehow GM must think racing accomplishments are dirty words. The other thing GM must do is be consistent with Corvette quality because someone coming from the European brands won't put up with some of the GM dealer bs. The buying and dealership experience is also an area that GM must improve for potential import conquest sales.
With how gm kept the c7 under wraps until the Detroit show, I'm expecting them to do a much more aggressive marketing campaign for the c7 when it comes out late this year. Gm has done several commercials for Cadillac showing how it wins on the track with the cts and the new smaller caddy. Hopefully they will do the same with the vette.

Besides in my hometown, Chevy dealerships I've been to have had little bs and I thought they were just as good or better in some cases then the audi, bmw and merc dealerships when I was in the market a few months ago.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:40 PM   #17
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I don't agree with all this guy is saying but GM does need to improve the marketing for the Corvette and distance it from Chevrolet.

They need some sponsorships with other high end brand products.

They need to not promote the Corvette with other Chevrolets in print, internet or TV.

They need to give the Corvette more of a VIP treatment at Auto shows. I'm not talking about the release and first year appearances, I'm talking about after the sizzles fades a little. Have a nicer presentation and maybe have a dedicated area just for Corvettes. And have reps that actually have knowledge of the car instead some part time Chevy salesman with a cheap suit giving you BS info.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
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What does bother me a bit is that GM has taken the halo off of Corvette and put it on Cadillac. It bugs me no end that Caddy is looking to release a two-seater.
Looking to release? They've had 2 seaters for years. What is the XLR?

http://autos.msn.com/research/vip/re...umentid=435671

They also made the Alante some time back. That was also a 2 seater.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:48 PM   #19
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Looking to release? They've had 2 seaters for years. What is the XLR?

http://autos.msn.com/research/vip/re...umentid=435671

They also made the Alante some time back. That was also a 2 seater.
The Alante/XLR are both long gone and Caddly is approved to come back with another, last I heard.
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Old 01-22-2013, 11:57 PM   #20
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The Alante/XLR are both long gone and Caddly is approved to come back with another, last I heard.
I believe that the El Dorado made some money in its day. As an overall division, Cadillac has always been the top dog. Pecking order was Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and, lastly, Chevrolet. Corvette is, and always has been, a one of a kind animal. It IS a Chevrolet Corvette and I, for one, like it that way. This "halo" and "flagship" talk is nothing more than talk and is meaningless BS in my humble opinion.
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