Detroit Auto Show Kicks Off: GM’s New Corvette Steals the Spotlight

(Jan 2013) Detroit, MI North American International Auto ShowThe Detroit Auto Show gets into swing this week. Nearly 800,000 people attended the event last year, bringing more than $350 million into the Detroit-area economy. This year promises more of the same, with highly-hyped reveals, 6,000 journalists, and nearly half of attendees looking to buy a new vehicle.

Ford (NYSE:F) will have dozens of vehicles on display and will amuse attendees with a Henry Ford impersonator, Infiniti has hired Cirque du Soleil to add some flare to the introduction of its newest model, and NissanĀ has a 150-foot halo that will float over a turntable stage and tell the brand’s story using Xbox Kinect technology.

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At least a dozen major brands have announcements planned for the first day, but many observers have already gotten what they came for. On Sunday night, General Motors (NYSE:GM) unveiled its new Chevy Corvette, kicking off what could be a new era for the brand.

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If that’s not a good looking car, we don’t know what is.

Here are some highlights:

  • An aluminum 6.2-liter V8, with direct fuel injection and cylinder cutoff technology. What does that mean? That means 450 horsepower, 450 lb-ft of torque. It means zero to 60 in under four seconds. Woosh.
  • Aluminum in the engine, aluminum in the frame, and carbon fiber in the hood and roof make the car 100 pounds lighter than the 2013 base Corvette. This helps bring down the center of gravity. Combined with a slightly longer length and a slightly wider base, experienced drivers will be able to pull over 1 g of cornering force. (Don’t worry, performance seats are available.)
  • The interior has also been totally resigned. To make a long story short: it’s nice. Premium leather, carbon fiber, climate controlled seats, and all the latest gadgets.

But the question remains, is this the Corvette to revitalize the brand, and bring back sales?

StingrayCar sales in the U.S. plummeted after the financial crisis. People weren’t buying low-cost eco-friendly Toyota’s (NYSE:TM), let alone throwing down for a dream vehicle with a starting price of about $49,600. For the past four years, Corvette sales have averaged between 12,500 and 14,000 annually, a far cry from the pre-crisis glory days of between 32,000 and 36,000 annual sales catalyzed by the launch of the C6.

But in the wake of the crisis and a rapidly changing automotive and aesthetic landscape, reports began surfacing calling the Corvette “an old man’s toy.” Taking into consideration who may be driving the previous generation of Stingrays (1959 to 1963), this image has some truth to it. But there’s no hiding that GM is on a mission to change that.

The base price for the new Corvette hasn’t been revealed yet, but it was slipped that the price should be more or less the same as the 2013 model (remember to leave a buffer for the necessary perks). That being said, it’s become apparent that GM may be having difficulty running the Bowling Green assembly plant profitably. The company spent $131 million to retool the plant, and the high-end materials used in the new car are not cheap.

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