As someone who grew up in a Corvette household, I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear that Chevrolet was coming out with the 7th generation Corvette. If you’re a car aficionado or just as intrigued as I am with the new Vette and can’t wait to hear more about it, you’ve come to the right place! General Motors Head of Consumer Affairs, James Bell joined me live from the Detroit Auto Show last week to dish on the new Stingray everyone is talking about, the Cadillac ATS which beat out the BMW 3 Series for the 2013 North American Car of the Year award, and the latest concept SUV on the block.
Candace Rose: Why do you think the Cadillac ATS won the 2013 North American Car of the Year award?
James Bell: “Well, I think because it’s going to have a big impact on the business in general. When Cadillac announced they were going to come out with this new sports sedan a lot of people scoffed. Cadillac in this segment of the business have not done very well together for many, many years. So the idea that Cadillac was going to come in and also go after the segment leader, the BMW 3 Series was a big challenge. But I think once the judges got a hold of it and saw how pretty it is and what kind of good fuel efficiency it gets, what sort of great technology it’s got on the inside, as well as the way it drives. I think that’s the biggest shock- that thing really sticks to the road. It’s a lot of fun, and a lot of driver engagement in the car. I think those are the things that put it over the top and by winning this North American Car of the Year award it really puts those big German brands on severe notice.”
Candace Rose: What global debuts did you see at the Detroit Auto Show, and what should we expect to see at auto shows across the U.S. this year?
James Bell: “I think the biggest one is definitely going to be the Chevrolet Corvette and that’s because the Corvette has been on the road for 61 years now but this is just the seventh new version. So GM took a lot of responsibility and a lot of effort to make sure they got it right and that’s because, let’s be honest, everybody’s got a relationship to this car. Whether your uncle had one when you were a kid and you got to ride in one or maybe a neighbor down the street had one and you stopped on your bike to look at it on your way home from school, everybody knows about the Corvette, and everybody has a relationship with it and so when you go to redesign a car like that, that has such a legacy, you need to take care of that group and then of course it’s a business after all, and you need to make sure that you also appeal to new consumers. I think from what we’ve seen at the Detroit Auto Show, Chevrolet has really nailed that.”
Candace Rose: That’s funny you mention that because my mom has one, so I’m obsessed with the Corvette!
James Bell: “I rest my case!”
Candace Rose: Can you tell us a little bit more about the 7th Generation Corvette?
James Bell: “I think from the power side it’s also very innovative and exciting, because a Corvette (as you know) has to have a big V8 engine. It has to have that growl otherwise it’s never going to quite feel like a Corvette. So what we’ve done is come up with a brand new 6.2-liter V8 that incorporates some really innovative technologies. I think the one that’s biggest impact to me is something called cylinder deactivation, so again it’s a big V8 engine but when you’re cruising down the highway just mellow (like most people are driving most of the time) four of the cylinders turn off. They just kind of go quiet and it acts like a 4-cylinder car. Then when you give it some power, you need to take off and you need to have that typical corvette fun, you give a little bit more power, the other 4-cylinders kick on and you’re back to a car that can do 0 to 60 in less than four seconds, but still get close to 28 miles per gallon on the highway so it’s the best of all worlds.”
Candace Rose: What are some of the other trends you noticed at the auto show?
James Bell: “I think for me, it’s the downsizing that we saw. There’s been a lot of pressure from the global governments on the industry to really lower emissions but really increase fuel efficiency, and a good example of that was shown in the new Honda Urban SUV Concept. This is a small car, it looks like a big SUV, but it’s really quite small. It’s built on the same platform as the Honda Fit which is their smallest car in their lineup. It’s going to have a 4-cylinder engine, it should be a lot of fun to drive, very nimble. Again, downsizing, trying to get that fuel efficiency up and I think that’s going to be the biggest trend. I think you’re going to see in the very near future that small’s going to be cool.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
James Bell: “Well, I just think an auto show is a great time to get back in the market. The average car on the road right now is over 10 years old. So there’s a lot of people that haven’t been to a dealership or to an auto show in a while, so if you’ve got some time get out to your local show, enjoy it. Put your hand over the badge and just appreciate the car, and then see what brand it is because I think you’re going to be surprised by what you see.”
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?
James Bell: “That’s easy, just go to www.GM.com.”