The eighth-generation, mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette is, if its claimed pricing pans out, an astounding thing—it’s a car six decades in the making, and would undercut the ultra-luxury supercars of the world at a sub-$60,000 base price. But unlike past Corvettes, it won’t come with the option for a manual transmission.
No matter how disappointing that might seem, though, it’s partly our fault.
The C8 Corvette, whose engine went from the front to behind the driver, will come only with an eight-speed dual clutch, dropping the need for those pesky third pedals or numbers on the shifter. It wasn’t much of a surprise given that the C8 is a completely different car from the outgoing C7 and manual sales are slow in general, and the car’s chief engineer even said the endeavor wouldn’t have made sense given the projected low sales. But Car and Driver gave us the numbers behind that reasoning last week, and they aren’t great.
In fact, an engineer on the Corvette told Car and Driver that while take manual rates for the C7 Corvette “started at or slightly above 50 percent” at its launch for the 2014 model year, the numbers have “more recently dwindled down to only 20 percent.” Twenty percent is still a decent take rate compared to other cars clinging to their third pedal, but that’s a big drop in just a few years.
Here’s more on what could’ve been, from Car and Driver:
It certainly requires a non-trivial investment to engineer, tune, and certify an additional powertrain variant, but [Corvette executive chief engineer Tadge] Juechter’s deputy, chief engineer Ed Piatek, told us that those are challenges the Corvette’s ace engineering team would’ve happily overcome.
Piatek said that the real thing that put the team over the edge in their decision was a lack of customer demand.
Decreasing sales numbers for the outgoing seventh-generation Corvette was one of several factors ruling out a manual C8, but they’re all intertwined. From Motor Authority in July:
Juechter said a manual-equipped Corvette wouldn’t sell well enough to make it worth a supplier’s effort to develop.
“We couldn’t find anybody honestly who’d be willing to do it. Because just like the automatic, the DCT, it would have to be a bespoke manual,” Juechter said. “It’s low volume, very expensive. The reason is it’s a low-volume industry. That industry is dying—building manual transmissions.”
Ah, well. Life is full of disappointments, and, like the C7’s low manual take rates there at the end, we can often trace them back to ourselves.