When the C8 Corvette came out, it fulfilled one of the two big, longtime Corvette dreams: a mid-engined ‘Vette. That other dream, I think we’d all agree, is the dream of a smoky, slow, diesel Corvette. Right? What Corvette fan hasn’t dreamed of that? That diesel dream seems to have an unexpected glimmer of hope, thanks to an eagle-eyed person spotting a diesel glow plug warning light on a C8 dash. But don’t get too excited just yet. Just get ready to be confused.
This all started when I was alerted to this post on the Reddit r/Cartalk forum, where a user named RefrigeratorRunner posted an image of a 2021 Corvette instrument cluster, a closeup on the warning lights panel showing what is clearly the icon for a diesel glow plug:
Huh. Look at that. Just to be certain someone wasn’t having a bit of fun with Photoshop, I looked for other C8 ‘Vette dash photos to confirm, and, yep, it’s there (I zoomed in and highlighted the shape, but you can see it next to the arrowhead):
I also checked the owner’s manual, and it’s not mentioned there, which makes sense, because if it ever actually came on, that would mean somehow your entire engine had been swapped for a diesel engine with glow plugs.
Baffled by why a car with zero glow plugs would have a warning light for those non-existent plugs, I reached out to GM to get some answers. I asked why the light was there, and if it was a clue about a future diesel ‘Vette. Here’s what they responded with:
We appreciate the speculation, but that symbol was included as part of our standardization process. It is not indicative of any plans to add the feature to Corvette and we plan to remove the icon in the future
Okay, so nobody is delusional, that symbol is there on the dash! And GM has no plans to add glow plugs to the Corvette. Good to know.
But I still had questions. It’s not like the C8's instrument panel was just yanked from the GM parts bin—it was designed very specifically for that car.
Why would the designers of the Corvette’s instrument cluster include an icon for a warning lamp for a component that GM had absolutely no plans to ever include on the car? This was the response:
It’s an internal GM process when we sell cars in international markets.
Okay, fine. But not really fine. I can’t quit thinking about this. Is there some rule in this internal process for international markets that states that all cars must have every possible dash light symbol, no matter if that particular car will never, ever use that warning light? Do GM EVs have to have catalytic converter warning light symbols, for example? What’s the rule here, what’s going on, why is it like this?
I got this response:
Sometimes we plan to share some of the displays across vehicle programs and so we standardize icon placements.
The tone of that “Jason:” part made it sound like I was getting the PR rep irritated and pissed at my incessant questions about some ridiculous, unimportant bullshit, but I can’t help it. Every answer just introduces more questions!
He said “sometimes we plan to share some of the displays across vehicle programs”—does this mean that GM is actually considering some international-market diesel car that might use the instrument cluster from a Corvette? Is there going to be a new Indian-market Chevy Sail Diesel that might use this dash? Or a Chinese-market GMC Yukon diesel with a Corvette instrument cluster?
I can answer these questions: no. Hell, no, even.
There’s no way in our understanding of the universe that GM is going to use this particular instrument cluster in anything other than a Corvette, especially not in anything with a diesel. And there’s even less of a chance of some Corvette coming out with a 2.2-liter diesel four sitting back there behind the seats. Those are just not events that are going to happen.
And I’m pretty certain everyone involved in the development of the C8 Corvette knows this. And yet, somehow, an instrument cluster designer took the time—however minimal—to include that little scrim of the glow plug symbol on that shaped strip of indicator lights.
They had to adjust the spacing and size of the other lights to make sure it fit. It was silkscreened or whatever onto the plastic panels that form that part of the display.
Does the glow plug light have traces on that circuit board for the components to make it light up? Does it have the components themselves? I haven’t found a picture of the bare circuit board online yet to see, and have no access to a C8 to pull apart, so I just don’t know. How far does this go?
I know GM is a company and like all companies there’s absurd rules that make no real sense but just exist, anyway. I understand that. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t at least a tiny bit of madness.
And when GM’s rep said
we plan to remove the icon in the future
...that just makes this even more absurd! I mean, it’s already bonkers that they would design and build a car with a warning lamp symbol (and possibly more hardware) that it was never, ever intended to use, but it makes even less sense to take the time and effort to remove it later.
It’s barely visible. It’ll never turn on. It’s already there. Why waste more time and effort to get rid of it?
I know I’m kind of obsessing over this, but I can’t help it. What would have happened if the instrument cluster designer would have just, you know, left out the symbol for the light that doesn’t exist, to warn about the parts that don’t exist? Would an inspector have noted it and halted the process until the designer went back and included the symbol? All while knowing that every single action being taken would result in absolutely no fucking difference whatsoever to the resulting car?
Is that what the process would have been? If so, why? And if not, then why is the fucking symbol even there?
This is haunting me. GM, why are you like this? Can’t you see what you’re doing to me?