The Corvette line has made great strides since its inception in 1953. In fact, looking back, it is hard to believe that the Corvette once teetered on the brink of discontinuation, as the result of abysmal sales performance. This is even harder to fathom when one stops to consider that Chevrolet produced and sold over 33,000 C8 Corvettes during the previous calendar year alone.
These sales figures are quite staggering for a number of reasons, yet few are as poignant as the fact that the Corvette outsold every other sports car in America during the fourth quarter of 2021 by significant margins. In fact, the Corvette alone accounted for over half of all sales in the U.S. premium sports car market during the last three months of the year.
So what, exactly, is behind this significant uptick in Corvette sales, and can we expect this trend to continue into the future?
Supply vs. Demand
Much of the C8’s record sales success during the 2021 calendar year can be attributed to prior product scarcity. The C8 Corvette first entered production in mid-2019, nearly four years ago. Since that time, production has slowed to a snail’s pace or even ground to a halt on numerous occasions.
Almost immediately, C8 production was halted at the hands of a United Auto Workers labor union strike, which lasted for approximately six weeks. Then, within months, the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in the United States. Supply chain shortages followed shortly thereafter, further slowing production.
As a result of these setbacks, Chevrolet produced only 20,368 C8 Corvettes in 2020, falling substantially short of earlier projections, which quoted a production goal of 40,000 units. This, in turn, resulted in a product shortage of epic proportions, leaving many consumers without any ability to purchase the mid-engine Corvette they had previously dreamed of.
Again, this only exacerbated the issue at hand, as demand continued to skyrocket without any increase in supply. Many of these eager consumers quickly signed up to purchase their C8 in 2021, albeit a year later than previously intended.
As a result, a great percentage of C8 sales were bottlenecked into the first year of “normal” large-scale production, which happened to occur in 2021.
Sale records indicate that 2021 purchase orders peaked during the fourth quarter, reaching an all-time high during the final weeks of the year. This, too, was likely for good reason and is far from a coincidence. At approximately the same time, Chevrolet tweaked the manner in which Corvettes were allotted on a dealer-by-dealer basis.
In the past, Chevrolet awarded Corvettes to their dealers based upon historical sales averages and totals, meaning simply that some dealers were allotted a substantially higher number of Corvettes than others. Dealerships were rewarded for selling a certain number of Corvettes overall, rather than by the speed at which they moved a particular Corvette upon delivery.
This led to a number of dealership-level price hikes, which were widely reported during the earliest days of C8 production. Understanding that the new mid-engine C8 was in short supply, crafty dealers marked up window prices on their newly delivered Corvettes to play upon increasing demand.
Under the long-standing Chevrolet sales model, dealers were not penalized for these actions; all that mattered was that they were able to sell all Corvettes that they received—eventually.
New for the 2022 model year, Chevrolet converted to an ADA (Available Day Supply) model when awarding Corvettes to their numerous dealerships. Under this model, dealers are rewarded for selling Corvettes at an expedited pace, upon delivery.
The faster a particular dealership sells its stock of Corvettes, the more Corvettes they are ultimately provided with. Therefore, dealerships now have every reason to make a sale enticing to consumers.
As a result, one could easily speculate that at least a portion of the 2021 Q4 uptick in Corvette sales came as a result of this sales model restructuring. Dealerships were far more eager to sell any 2022 Corvettes that they were allotted during the final days of 2021. A quick sale equated to quicker delivery of additional units, resulting in greater potential for profit.
A Continuing Trend?
This begs the question: can we expect C8 sales to continue on their current projected path? While this is purely a matter of speculation, one could likely assume that Chevrolet’s newly adopted allocation model will continue to reflect positively upon total unit sales. However, one could also speculate that consumer demand will likely level-off as a return to standard, sustained production alleviates supply shortages. Nonetheless, only time will truly tell.