Corvette lovers who’ve heard the buzz about the 2020 model with the revolutionary mid-engine design may not be the most patient lot as they’ve waited for their orders of the North American Car of the Year winner to roll out of Bowling Green’s General Motors Corvette Assembly Plant.
“Not a week goes by without someone texting me about the status of their order,” said Kai Spande, the Corvette plant manager.
Spande was speaking Thursday at a seminar held in conjunction with the National Corvette Museum’s 26th anniversary celebration, where he had an online audience to go along with 100 or so in-person Corvette fans at the museum.
His news was mostly good. As Spande explained the deliberate production process that isn’t nearly as speedy as the sports car itself, he revealed that the plant finally returned Aug. 31 to the two-shift operation that was first announced in April 2019 by General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
Barra came to Bowling Green to make that announcement of a second shift and a boost in employment from about 1,000 to 1,400 that would happen when production of the eighth-generation Corvette started.
While the car itself has won many accolades for its design and performance, its production has run into more than a few speed bumps.
First, a United Auto Workers strike shut down the plant for 40 days and delayed the start of the 2020 production cycle.
According to the autoblog.com website, about 2,700 Corvettes were built between the start of production Feb. 3 and March 20, when the plant was shut down because of the coronavirus.
The plant returned to single-shift production with coronavirus protocols in place May 26, and the Corvetteblogger.com website reported in August that an additional 4,000 Corvettes had been built.
That total of 6,700 cars got the plant about a third of the way toward the 20,181 cars Corvette Product Manager Harlan Charles has said Chevrolet will build for the 2020 model year.
According to Charles, Chevrolet received orders for 16,750 coupes and 3,431 convertibles.
Filling those orders looks like a tall task, so the return of the second shift comes at a good time.
“We’ve had a lot of headwinds, starting with the UAW strike,” said Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter, who spoke at the museum’s anniversary celebration via video. “But the plant is rolling now, and the second shift will help.”
Juechter said production of the 2020 model will be extended “almost to the end of the year.”
“We’re desperately trying to make as many cars as we can,” he said. “We want to get as many out to customers as we can.”
Spande said increasing production is complicated because of the impact of the coronavirus protocols on the Bowling Green plant and on suppliers to the plant.
With two shifts operating and employment at the plant back up to “the 1,400 range,” according to Assistant Plant Manager Nora Roper, Juechter believes production can now hit high gear.
“We’ve got our feet under us now,” Juechter said. “I expect by next year to be running at maximum capacity for the 2021 model year.”
Although it won’t be as limited as some Corvette followers had feared, 2020 production will certainly fall short of the 2019 production level of 34,822 cars.
But that’s not entirely bad, Juechter reasons.
“We expect vehicle values to hold up really well for the 2020 model,” he said, “because of demand and the restrictions on production.”