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Radical New Corvette Renews Interest In American Cars In Japan

Having just captured the North American Car of the Year gong, the revolutionary all-new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray (C8), the first-ever Vette to get a mid-engined layout and right-hand drive, has just been unveiled in Japan for the first time. Given the fact that this reveal at the Tokyo Auto Salon was the first time that this radical new Vette has been shown anywhere in Asia, the reception was nothing short of rapturous.

At the world’s third largest customizing show, after SEMA and Germany’s Essen Motor Show, the Tokyo Auto Salon, staged inside the massive Makuhari Messe site became the location for GM Japan to unveil their biggest, most high profile launch in a decade.

Sitting on the stand in Zeus Bronze Metallic with a light tan-colored leather interior, GM Japan’s president Tadashi Wakamatsu explained to the thousands of gathered press and onlookers that the Japanese market would get a US-spec “2LT” and the high performance “3LT” and that deliveries would start in early 2021.Today In: Lifestyle

Asking several of the assembled media and Vette fans in the audience about their interest in the new coupe, this writer was not surprised to learn that all interviewees found the revolutionary new mid-engined layout, in comparison to the outgoing front-engined setup employed through seven generations of Corvette since the first 1953 model, especially appealing.

GM Japan president Tadashi Wakamatsu conducts press conference introducing the new Vette to Japan's media and car fans.
GM Japan president Tadashi Wakamatsu conducts press conference introducing the new Vette to Japan’s

All pundits also agreed that the recently launched and highly rated movie “Ford v Ferrari” had heightened their desire to see the all-new Vette.

“Sure the Vette is not a Ford, but its a reasonably-priced mid-engined American muscle car and that is more than worthy of attention,” said one Vette fan. In a country where American cars account for less than 2 percent of the market, it is rare to hear car buyers speaking in such glowing terms of American cars.

Several other audience members said that they found the all-new mid-engined layout and right-hand-drive feature “extremely appealing.” Even though the starting price in Japan will hover around $100,000, in contrast to the surprisingly low $60,000 entry level sticker price in the U.S., dozens of Japanese onlookers expressed great interest in an American-made supercar that undercuts many of its European rivals like Lamborghini, McLaren and many Ferraris by less than half. 

Even at that $100,000 entry level price in Japan, one sports car fan said, “I think Chevrolet have pretty much pulled a rabbit out of a hat here. Apart from the near 500 hp V8, which has switched from front-engined to mid-engined, it gets lightweight hi-tech aluminum construction, its composite and it has carbon fiber in it. And I love that sleek supercar silhouette.”

That is all true. But one of the main ways that parent company GM was able to keep the new Corvette’s starting price under $60,000 back home is to leverage the company’s economies of scale, with specific reference to the brand’s new Global B electrical platform. At last November’s L.A. Auto Show, I listened as Corvette chief engineer Tange Juechter explained how this new platform would provide the wiring, computers and structure for active safety systems, infotainment systems and even the groundwork for future electric cars.

GM Japan’s Wakamatsu couldn’t hide his joy as he unveiled the new Vette by saying, “We have a car here that gets inspiration from both an F35 jet fighter and and F1 race car. That great design, the all-new mid-engined V8 power, 0-60mph in 3 seconds and an appealing price tag is generating tremendous buzz in Japan.” And that will no doubt lead to unprecedented Vette sales in Japan. Time will tell.

Source: Peter Lyon for Forbes