The long-anticipated next-generation Corvette has arrived. Most of us saw the unexpected TV media blitz on New Year's Eve. Others traveled to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last January to see the car live as it was unveiled at the Detroit Opera House. The Internet was deluged with C6 talk and pictures, including our own www.corvettefever.com Web site.
This amazing exposure has created a flood of interest and orders at Chevrolet dealerships across the country, even though the newest Corvette is still months away from production and ultimate delivery.
Ken Fichtner, a third-generation Chevrolet dealer (Fichtner Chevrolet in Laurel, Montana), has a long legacy of Corvette sales going back to the launch of the '63 split-window models. When comparing the '05 to the '63 Corvette in terms of public excitement, Fichtner believes the current car beats the classic split-window hands down.
"There's more hype and more excitement than I've ever seen for a Corvette," Fichtner told us. "Guys are just going nuts. I have never seen people this crazy over a car. I've had guys call me, e-mail me at home and at the office, and say 'I know your waiting list is full, but if anybody drops off, what do I have to pay to get to the top of your list?' People are really excited."
But, contrary to general public perception, Fichtner refuses to sell a position on his list or sell a new Corvette at a price over Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). In fact, he's $500 under sticker, waiving short-term profit to build long-term customer relations. There's no question many dealers will sell Corvettes for more than MSRP. Early buyers will also have the same chance to resell at a profit, a practice disliked by all dealers. The car, apparently, is that hot.
Rick Daniel, a salesman for the second-largest-volume Corvette dealer in the United States, Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Michigan, says, "The new C6 certainly equals the interest level of the '97. The '97 was a completely revolutionary new model. The C6 is termed more an evolution of the C5. But, all the technology and the big bump in horsepower have certainly brought forth a lot of interest. A bump in horsepower brings them out of the closets."
So, How Do I Get One?Excitement is one thing. Filling out order forms for Chevrolet cars for which GM has issued no ordering software to its dealers is another. Yet, the public must be answered. They have seen the product and they want it. The waiting list noted by Fichtner is an unofficial listing, however, there are waiting lists at dealers across the country.
Rick Daniel explained, "In our particular case, we have a preorder list compiled for those people who wish to have an early delivery for a C6. There is a form the customer fills out with contact and credit-card information for facilitating the $1,000 deposit to place their name on the list. And, as GM comes out with further information in placing their orders, we'll contact these people, spec it out to their wishes, and place the order as their name appears on the list."
Does this mean every single Corvette arriving at Les Stanford Chevrolet is pre-sold? According to Rick, the answer is no, as they are leaving every fifth car ordered for inventory. The remaining 80 percent will be pre-sold.
Kerbeck Chevrolet in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is the world's largest Corvette dealer. George Kerbeck stated he was cautious about taking orders for the new Corvette due to past "new-generation struggles," and that new-generation volume does not typically meet demand. As of mid-January, he had taken five deposits of $1,000 for 2005 Corvettes.
Fichtner says with many of his customers, price has not been a real issue. A conversation with an eager C6 buyer usually goes like this, according to Fichtner:
Fichtner: Well, do you want to know what it costs? What if it's 75 grand?
Customer: I don't care. I want one.
Fichtner also requires a deposit of $1,000, which is refundable if the buyer changes his mind later. He says, "Some folks have said, 'What if I don't like the car? What if I can't afford the car? What are you going to do with my deposit?' The answer is simple-we're going to give the deposit back. We'll just pull them off the list and the guy below them moves up a spot."
Fichtner, at this writing, has the names and addresses of 500 people who want to be on his list. That's huge for a smaller dealership with an allocation of only 50 cars.
Once C6 seekers get on a list, they have similar questions. Fichtner says the first question customers ask is, "How soon can I get one?" The second is, naturally, "What's it going to cost?"
Rick Daniel told us his customers are asking, "Do you know pricing on the car yet? When will you start placing the orders? What options are available? How long will it take to get the car? When will they start arriving on dealers' lots?"
So far, the price is not official from GM, but dealers have their educated guesses. Daniel estimated, "As far as pricing goes, I'm anticipating the car to come in close to where the 50th Anniversary cars were priced, which will put a coupe, fully loaded, somewhere in the $50,000-$52,000 range, and a convertible around $57,000 to $59,000."
Ordering information will be made available in late May or early June. Cars will start arriving on lots in late July or early August. However, these times are educated guesses at this point.
Option List ExpandsDaniel is well versed on the options. "There's going to be more options available for the C6 [than the C5]. I don't anticipate a great deal of increase of the base price of the car."
The new options are almost as exciting as the new car itself. Daniel sounded like a futuristic forecaster as he gave us tidbits of 21st-century Corvette options sure to be prevalent on the C6.
"Some popular options include a GPS-oriented navigation unit. There will be a satellite radio and an MP3 with playback," says Daniel.
MP3 is sure to attract kids. Most CD players in today's cars will not play an MP3 format, which allows you to play music downloaded from the Internet or anything in an MP3 format. Heated and cooled seats are another new option. Leather seats get hot, especially in the southern states, so a cooled seat, probably working off the A/C, could be a hot option.
Says Daniel, "There's going to be an upgraded, all-new interior, different colors, different appointments. The six-speed transmission is going to be standard this year. The automatic will be an option as opposed to the reverse for the C5. OnStar will be available. Home Link, a programmable remote control for garage doors and any other infrared-actuated security systems or gates, will be available."
The Corvette has always had a flair for Buck Rogers-type advances. Perhaps the most awesome is the second-generation head-up display. Dot matrix in origin, it should have two modes: sport and track. The track mode will register the g-forces achieved by the car.
Of course, many of the options from the C5 will carry over. There will be different wheels and, it's safe to say, additional colors. The coupe will be produced first and the convertible second.
Fichtner says, "They've prototyped [the convertible]. They are happy with it, the fit and finish, the shakes and rattles and rolls. They're going to be able to offer it right away."
Fichtner expects convertible production to begin around October 1. Look for the Z06 in the '06 model year, along with more jockeying for position to get early ones. With visions of 500hp Corvettes on the horizon, the Corvette feeding frenzy is likely to start all over again next year.