Chevy ramps up Corvette output to fill dealer, customer orders

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LAS VEGAS — The long-awaited mid- engine Chevrolet Corvette will reach dealerships in the coming weeks. Chevy’s next challenge? Getting them to dealers eager to capitalize on the hype, and to the tens of thousands of customers who are waiting for the car.

“We’ve educated people about how great the car is,” said Steve Majoros, Chevy’s U.S. vice president of marketing, “but we have to make sure we can provide a world-class customer experience with delivery and post-delivery support.”

Production capacity at the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Ky., is about 80,000 per year, and Chevy is expected to build about 40,000 of the cars this year, according to LMC Automotive. Chevy did not disclose production targets.

Coupe production started Feb. 3, and convertible production starts in April.

Production of the eighth-generation Corvette originally was scheduled to begin by the end of 2019 but was delayed by the UAW’s 40-day strike against General Motors last fall. To increase output, GM has added a second shift at the plant, which had been on one shift since the mid-1980s.

“We’re pretty happy with what we think the throughput can be with that second shift,” Majoros said at a Corvette media drive last week. “It’s a big step for manufacturing, labor, supply chain, everything that’s required to make sure we can satisfy that demand.”

The Corvette was named the 2020 North American Car of the Year last month, and since the car was unveiled in July, Chevy has received at least 45,000 preorders through its website, Majoros said. In addition, many dealers have taken numerous preorders and want even more cars for their showroom and lot as well.

Dealer demand is five times what GM has allocated, Majoros said. “Dealers always have the opportunity to ask for more, and they are asking for way more than we’re allocating.”

LaFontaine Chevrolet in Dexter, Mich., has sold all 33 Corvettes the factory has allotted it. “We are trying to get 20 more right now, because I think we could sell those instantly,” said Shaun Bernard, the store’s general sales manager.

Chevy is providing dealer training, as well as customer education tools on its website, as it aims for a smooth delivery experience.

Chevy has launched a live chat center for customers to ask engineers and designers about the vehicle, and it will publish videos from experts to give customers the information they want.

“A whole series of video content direct from the people that designed, that engineered the car,” Majoros said. “People have an insatiable appetite for content about this car. We’re trying to try to fulfill that demand.”

Chevrolet will also work with dealers to prepare customers for delivery. Dealers can customize the process based on buyers’ preferences — offering a mostly digital experience, a traditional sales process, an expedited delivery or a longer experience with extra time for questions.

Dealers also will get email templates and videos for customers prior to delivery. For example, a week in advance, buyers may receive a document listing what to take to the dealership or explaining how to program the vehicle.

Chevy will also work to “deepen the content story,” Majoros said. “It’s important for us to set a tone, an image, a persona with this nameplate.”

Chevy plans to release a two-part online documentary giving a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the midengine Corvette and the team that built it.

Some dealerships are sending salespeople and service writers to Corvette training at the Spring Mountain racetrack near Las Vegas.

“This is a car and customer we haven’t had many of ever,” said LaFontaine’s Bernard, who believes the Corvette could conquest Lamborghini and Ferrari owners. LaFontaine will offer on-site and at-home training, some by Chevy and some by the dealership itself.

During the wait for shipments to begin, customers have continually been asking for updates.

“The quantity of phone calls, length of phone calls, is the most in my 17 years I’ve ever witnessed,” Bernard said.

The last time the excitement over a Corvette launch even compared was the C5 in 1996, said Shad Bennett, the dealership’s general manager.

“This definitely is the most excitement I have ever felt on a Corvette launch,” he said.

Chevy and its dealers expect the buzz to keep building as additional trim levels become available in the coming months.

“We’ve got a tremendous amount of demand,” Majoros said.

“But we’re always willing to take more orders and make sure that we can fulfill customer demand.”

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