The eighth-generation Chevrolet Corvette deserves a do-over. Its market launch was marred by a United Auto Workers (UAW) strike that paralyzed General Motors for 40 days in the fall of 2019 and a pandemic that forced the global economy to grind to a halt. As a result, the 2020 model may be the rarest Corvette in recent memory.
2020 looked grim even before Chevrolet began building the new Corvette in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on February 3. In January, we reported the firm planned to cut 2020 production by about 20% to make up for the working days it lost during the strike, and to offset the time it spent tracking down internal issues with the car. Dealer allocations were slashed, though executives mostly wanted to prevent stores from building an inventory.
The mid-engined Corvette finally began rolling off the assembly line, we drove it (and loved it) and customers started taking delivery, but its launch derailed again when General Motors began shutting down its North American factories to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Bowling Green built its last Corvette on March 20, according to Consumer Guide, and there's no word yet on when it will re-open. It remains idle as of writing.
Kai Spandle, the Bowling Green plant manager, revealed in an earlier interview that approximately 2,700 examples of the 2020 Corvette were built between February 3 and March 20. A spokesperson for Chevrolet told Autoblog that GM "will continue to build 2020 Corvette Stingrays when the plant resumes production." So the total number of 2020 Corvettes is likely to increase, but not by a lot.
General Motors plans to gradually begin reopening its North American factories, including the Corvette line. GM has announced a May 18 restart, but production will be slow for some time while autoworkers learn to do assembly work while minimizing the risk of coronavirus spreading. It's unlikely the 2020 model will be made in large numbers at this point.
And that means the 2020 will become one of the rarest regular-production models in the Corvette's history.
For context, Chevrolet sold 10,261 units of the Corvette during the 1960 model year, 17,316 for the 1970 model year, and a whopping 40,614 in the 1980 model year. Sales for the 1990, 2000, and 2010 model years totaled 23,464, 33,682, and 12,194, respectively. And, 34,822 seventh-generation cars were made during the 2019 model year, including 2,953 ZR1 models powered by a 755-horsepower V8 engine.
Leaked documents that surfaced online in March — two days before the factory closed — confirmed the company has stopped taking orders for the 2020 model, and it will begin selling the 2021 model in late May, or about a month earlier than planned.
"Further information will be forthcoming from Chevrolet regarding the handling of sold 2020 model year [cars] that we will be unable to accept, and the creation of a replacement 2021 model year sold order," the company told its dealers. This suggests customers waiting for a 2020 Corvette may end up with a 2021 model instead.
General Motors previously announced production of the 2021 Corvette will start on September 1, a date which — in theory — gives the Bowling Green factory time to build additional 2020 models before it switches to the next model year. We don't know if that date is still accurate, or if it has been moved. Similarly, what's on the list of changes the 2021 model year will bring is anyone's guess at this point; all we know is there are several new Corvette variants in the pipeline.