Mark Reuss, the current president of General Motors (North America), has hinted at the possibility of a hybrid addition to their popular Corvette series of sports cars.
During an interview with the LA Times, Mr. Reuss made statements like “I think it is a very attractive Idea” and “I think it would be really fun to do” when referring to the hybridization of the classic “American Muscle” car which, many believe, strongly suggests that this is indeed a possibility.
Mr. Reuss, in his many years in the automotive industry, has gained considerable knowledge of the market and realizes that to the majority of “gear heads” in the world, the concept of a hybrid Corvette is a hilarious one to say the least.
Is a hybrid Corvette really something to snicker at or, it is instead an inevitable evolution in motor vehicle technology?
A new breed of consumer (generation Y) have grown up in an era of economic uncertainty, global warming awareness and a globalized economy.
Unlike their predecessors, modern consumers are less likely to be impressed by toutings of “increased performance” and, to the annoyance of the automotive industry, have to be approached with a more nuanced strategy.
They seem to have far less brand loyalty (towards american manufacturers) and are a lot more concerned with the overall utility of the vehicles they choose purchase.
When making the decision to buy a new car, studies have shown that fuel economy is now, unsurprisingly, the second most important factor taken into consideration, with price being the first.
Current trends in purchase behaviour, many believe, are likely to pour over into the (admittedly less price sensitive) sports car market in the near future.
While it is clear that the current pay back period for “hybrid” motor vehicle technologies are well outside of the normal car purchase cycle (about 8-10 years), with the rate at which the technology is improving, it is not hard to see how that time period could shorten significantly.
Many car manufacturers are now coming under increased scrutiny, from environmentalist groups, about their apparent lack of concern when it comes to environmental issues.
This combined with the fact the the average consumer is now more informed about, and is more concerned with, issues related to global warming means that car companies will now have to make a more proactive effort to comply with environmental regulation (or face the wrath of the media).
Motor vehicles now contribute to 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions (in the United States) and this number is still rising.
Faster and More Efficient
Apart from all the moral benefits to be gained from taking this path there are also some, more pragmatic, advantages that are sure to ignite the passions of many a car nut (apart from the nostalgic variety).
For a model like the Corvette, where performance is is definitely a major concern, it is likely that Chevrolet will keep this in mind and implement a hybrid technology similar to the KERS system used in the LaFerrari supercar.
The technology that choose to implement will likely, despite the common misconception about hybrids, actually increase the performance of the vehicle due to the advantages gained from electric engine technology.
So at the end the day will there, or will there not, be a hybrid Corvette in the near future?
I am (admittedly) no expert in this field but, from what I have read, all signs seem to be pointing towards a resounding yes.