Europe, with its car park of small fuel sippers, German premium cars and sports cars by BMW, Audi, Alfa Romeo and the like, may not seem like a great market for an iconic American sports car. But GM is trying desperately to build up its Chevy brand on the continent as its century old Opel brand faces demise. Chevy success outside the U.S. is a critical pierce of General Motors comeback after going through bankruptcy in 2009.
Chevrolet sold 194,650 Chevy vehicles in Western Europe last year, and 541,760 in all of Europe, including Russia, which GM has had a stronghold for many years. That business is up, while Opel sales fell 16% last year, twice the rate of the 8% decline the whole European market experienced. Opel sold a total of 834,790 vehicles.
So, how can the Corvette help? "This new Corvette design, much more than past designs, has a global reach and appeal," says AOL Editor-in-Chief David Kiley. "It's unique and stands out against other offerings in the premium sports and convertible, and that is a good thing for Chevy going forward not only in Europe but China and the Middle East," says Kiley.
The best year Corvette has ever had in Europe was about 1,200 cars. But GM Europe chief Susan Docherty says, "We expect to do a lot more if we can get them from the U.S., but the real benefit to Chevy in Europe is the people will come to the showrooms to see it."
The Corvette coupe and convertible goes on sale in the U.S. and Europe later this year. Chevy's Kentucky manufacturing plant that turns out Corvettes can only do about 35,000 a year, and GM executives expect that, based on the response the company has gotten since January (the debut helped AOL Autos' Autoblog set a traffic record), workers at the plant will be working over-time all year.
How does the Corvette convertible stack up? The highlight of the new Corvette is an electrically powered, fabric folding top that can be operated remotely by the key fob. The top can be opened or closed while the car is moving at speeds up to 30 mph.
Like the coupe version, the Corvette convertible uses a new aluminum frame structure, which is stiffer and lighter and requires minimum changes to accommodate the folding top. Both coupe and convertible are powered by a new 6.2-liter, 450-horsepower V-8 engine.
For more pics of the new Corvette, check out our gallery below: