The unveiling of the eighth-generation Chevy Corvette in early July was one of the biggest automotive events of the summer. So how can Chevrolet top that?
By introducing the 2020 Corvette convertible.
"The eighth-generation Corvette was always designed to be a convertible," said Shad Balch, a spokesman for Chevrolet.
This is the soonest Chevy had brought out the drop-top version of the Vette to go with the coupe in over 50 years. Typically, the reveal of a new convertible model lags that of the Corvette coupe by a number of months, or even a year.
Drop-top Corvettes go way back. From its debut year, 1953, and on through the 1962 model year, the car was only a convertible. The additional choice of a coupe wouldn't come along for 10 more years, with the debut of the 1963 Sting Ray "split window."
But by 1975, attitudes about convertibles were changing, so the Corvette convertible was sent packing. There were no Vette convertibles from 1976 through 1982, as the third-generation Corvette ran its course. Some thought that convertibles were gone forever. But in 1986, Chevrolet had a change of heart and introduced an open-air version of the fourth-generation Corvette. And it's been coupe and convertible ever since.
For this new one, set to debut early next year for a base price of $66,400, there's a new feature. The convertible mechanism consists of a folding hardtop that retracts electrically in about 16 seconds. The driver can even raise or lower the roof while traveling at speeds below 30 mph. With that kind of convenience for open-air driving, the new Corvette convertible should do very well in California.
"Historically, in California, the take rate for convertibles has been about 35 to 40%. We suspect though, with the hardtop version, it'll even be higher than that," noted Balch.
Chevrolet currently only has one prototype on the West Coast, unveiled simultaneously with one on the East Coast. With only that single Corvette Convertible on a limited media tour, I was allowed to drive it, but only in our ABC7 parking lot and not on public roads. Hey, beggars can't be choosers.
To my delight, the new Corvette has plenty of legroom, which isn't always the case with mid-engine cars, as the passenger space is often compromised by the engine compartment right behind the driver. At 6'6" tall, I was curious about the headroom with the roof closed. While headroom is not what you'd call plentiful, it could definitely be categorized as adequate if you're on the tall side.
One little hiccup that could delay the launch of both the Corvette coupe and convertible: the current UAW strike against General Motors, now in its third week. It has all GM assembly plants shut down indefinitely, including the one in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where the Corvette is built.
Buyers who have already put down deposits on the 2020 Corvette are probably hoping that labor dispute ends soon, and they'll be driving their new sports cars on schedule. Chevrolet is still officially saying that the Corvette coupe will hit showrooms late in 2019, and the convertible will follow in spring 2020.