Chevrolet’s John Fitzpatrick Details the Production Process for the 2014 Corvette Stingray
Photo Credit: National Corvette Museum
Since the ordering process for the 2014 Corvette Stingray began in late May, we have noticed a huge increase in the amount of chatter on the forums about status codes and TPWs. TPW stands for “Target Production Week” and during normal production, they will usually give the buyer a fairly accurate forecast for when their Corvette will be built. But because the Corvette Stingray hasn’t officially started retail sales production, the TPWs that customers are getting through the Chevrolet customer service system may not be accurate and that appears to be causing concern – both for the customer and the Corvette production team.
We reached out to Corvette Marketing Manager John Fitzpatrick to get more information about the production schedule and the processes that will happen before the plant starts shipping the new C7 Corvette Stingrays to dealers.
When the 2014 Corvette Stingray was revealed in January, the plan for production has always been for customer cars to begin arriving at dealers sometime around late summer or early fall and Fitzpatrick tells us they are still very much on track to start delivering cars in that time frame. Fitzpatrick says that even though TPWs are available to buyers through the Customer Ordering System on Chevrolet.com, its “academic” at this point because they have yet to start building the retail cars.
Fitzpatrick went on to explain that everything they are doing right now is much like a sports franchise going through preseason. Early this year, they began building their non-saleable validation cars. In second quarter, they moved to “saleable” builds which is what we see Harlan, Tadge and other members of the Corvette team driving. They are still practice builds, but are much closer to the final version.
So when will the retail customer cars start production? Fitzpatrick explains there is no set date. It all depends on when they think they are ready:
“They will get to that day where they say, OK, everything is coming together, everything makes sense, everything looks great so we’re going to start regular retail production. And at that point, and only after that point, customers will start seeing VINs to their car. And so we’re still in the practice session. We don’t know the date that will happen or the time, but it’s going to happen sometime soon.”
He reiterated that the TPW is only a “target” and just because a customer may see a TPW change from 8/5 to 8/12, it doesn’t mean there are issues with the production process or delays in production.
Customers may also see event codes changed. “Some might see their code go from 3000 to 3300 and then back to 3000 and think that something has happened with their order, but in reality, nothing has changed” he said and then adds “it’s part of the natural progress of the system and we move event codes to give our suppliers signals on when we think materials need to flow to us. And so we keep adjusting those event codes. It doesn’t mean anything has happened at that point, it just means we’re getting things ready for the regular start of production.”
Another question among new Corvette buyers has to do with the queuing and sequencing of the cars. John tells us that “the manufacturing process is based on maximizing the supply flow from suppliers and the internal production within the plant like the paint shop. Much of it depends on the dealer and how they flow orders and what suppliers have supplies for us. For example, we’re seeing right now a constraint with the Carbon Fiber Dash Panel. The reason for the constraint is because there is way more demand right now than we are able to supply. That effects how dealers put cars into the production sequence.”
Fitzpatrick says once production starts, and a customer gets his VIN and then the car is built, that still doesn’t mean its going to ship out the next day. “That’s not a bad thing. We hold the cars to make sure they meet our quality standards. We release the car once we think it’s near as perfect as we can get it. We’re making sure everything is right about that car and that’s why it goes though the quality assessment process.”
John reiterated that because the quality assessments are so important to the automaker, it’s one of the reasons why Chevrolet won five J.D. Power Initial Quality Awards earlier this year. “We take this so seriously because we want to make sure the customer doesn’t have to come back to the dealership for something. Are we going to be perfect in that regard? Probably not, but we’re trying to be.”
John says they will officially announce when cars begin shipping to dealers, but there probably won’t be an announcement regarding the start of retail production. “The key question is when will we start shipping cars out of Bowling Green? Everything else up to that point doesn’t matter.”
Fitzpatrick summed up the conversation saying “Everybody is so excited about this car. And when I say everybody, I mean not just the customers. I mean everybody in GM, everybody at Bowling Green, every supplier. Everybody loves this car. They think it’s the shot in the arm that Corvette needed. The anticipation, not only for the people who have ordered the car, but from the dealers and the leadership here at GM, it’s just sky high. But we also know we got to do everything we can to give them the highest quality product out there.”
Photo Credit: National Corvette Museum
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