If you know a fair amount about cars, you've probably aware that one of the big problems with convertibles is the reduction in performance, compared with coupes. Yes, you get to experience the wind blowing through your hair and the roar of the engine, but that comes with a price -- specifically, a loss of structural rigidity and increased weight.
However, in the latest iteration of the Corvette Stingray convertible, General Motors (NYSE:GM) tackled this problem head-on. And the result could help revolutionize General Motors' brand.
A convertible that handles like a coupe
There are exceptions, but more often than not, a convertible is designed after its coupe sibling. Consequently, installing the hydraulics for the convertible top adds weight, and removing the top negatively affects structural rigidity -- this often results in what's known as scuttle, or cowl, shake, which is where the chassis flexes, causing a noticeable vibration. In other words, if you're looking for performance, convertibles aren't the way to go.
However, according to Motor Authority, when General Motors design director Tom Peters first planned the new Corvette Stingray, he designed it as an open-top car. As a result, removing the top doesn't negatively affect the car's structural integrity. More importantly, when Motor Authority test-drove the Corvette Stingray convertible, it said, "there's really no shudder, no recognizable difference between the latest C7 Corvette, whether you go for it in Coupe or Convertible form."
Further, Corvette chief engineer Tadge Juechter, told Yahoo! Autos that the C7 Corvette convertible is 40% more rigid than the C6. Not willing to take that claim at face value, Yahoo! Autos' author Alex Lloyd, put it to the test: "Juechter let us drive his machine for hours on some truly magnificent mountain roads to verify his lofty claim." Lloyd concluded: "I can officially declare that Tadge Juechter is not a liar: During aggressive driving on twisty roads, it feels identical -- despite the convertible being 60-lbs. heavier due to its retractable roof."
What this means is the Corvette convertible handles like a coupe, and for gear-heads, this is no small thing.
Rigidity and sales
It's no secret that General Motors' reputation has taken a beating. Indeed, critics still like to call it Government Motors, in reference to the auto manufacturer's government bailout. Further, the Corvette has failed to attract younger buyers. In fact, Strategic Vision found the average age of a Corvette owner is 61, according to Yahoo! Finance.
To combat this, and actively lure younger buyers, General Motors did a number of things. First, it dropped the Corvette's price: The 2014 Corvette Stingray has a starting MSRP of $51,000, while the Convertible has a staring MSRP of $56,000. Second, General Motors gave the Corvette more aggressive styling, and redid the interior -- a constant criticism of Corvettes. And third, the new Corvette's frame is made out of aluminum, which reduces weight. Plus, with 460 horsepower, and 465 pound-feet of torque, the base Stingray can go 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds. According to General Motors, that makes the new base Corvette the "quickest, most powerful, most capable standard Corvette ever made."
Moreover, these changes seem to be paying off, as in November, General Motors reported that 2014 Corvette sales surged 128.89% compared with the same time last year.
But will it attract younger buyers?
This is all well and good, but the real question remains: "Will the new Corvette attract younger buyers?" The answer to that question will come in time, but from personal experience I can tell you my husband -- who's 31 -- called the new Corvette the "most beautiful Corvette" he's ever seen. Further, his coworker is planning on buying the new Corvette Stingray convertible, and he's in his late 40s.
However, arguably one of the most impressive things about the new Corvette, and that could help revolutionize General Motors' brand, is the fact that the convertible handles like a coupe. There are very few convertibles that can make this claim -- one of the only ones that can is the McLaren 12C Spider. As such, General Motors making this claim is no small thing, and considering General Motors' image has taken a beating, anything that can help turn that around is potentially great news for investors. Consequently, this is something to watch.
Fool contributor Katie Spence has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.