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The Corvette Effect

A closer look at Chevy’s fastest production car ever, and how it symbolizes manufacturing's new age.

The 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 offers a number unique features. But whether it’s the engine size or the styling, it also offers a case study in next generation manufacturing strategies focused on customization and expanded appeal.

Let’s start with the engine – mainly because I love throwing out terms like horsepower and supercharger. The 755-horsepower, LT5 supercharged engine can reach speeds of up to 210 MPH. This puts it in the same neighborhood as McLaren and Ferrari, but at about half the cost.

This is a prime example of a manufacturer accommodating a new type of customer. This Corvette is an American sportscar looking to leverage a more modest price tag in capturing the weekend racer and sportscar enthusiast. Basically, it’s using engineering as a marketing tool to attract a new type of buyer.

Next, the ZR1 will be the first Corvette with an automatic transmission. A standard seven-speed manual keeps the enthusiast happy, but paddle-shifting an eight-speed automatic ensures driver’s ed is not a pre-requisite for ownership.

The Active Rev Matching feature predicts the next gear change and adjusts the throttle to match the RPM in preventing any abruptness in changing gears. The end result is a smoother ride, less wear and tear on the transmission and an extended vehicle life.

The new Vette also pays unique attention to everyone’s need for customization. By offering the choice between two aerodynamic configurations, drivers can choose between settings that apply to either reaching top speeds on the highway, or curve-hugging handling for a lap around the track or enjoying those winding backroads.

Finally, Chevrolet is only making 2,000 to 3,000 of the cars annually, and the LT5 supercharged engines are being hand-built.

This reinforces that notion of craftsmanship and uniqueness that justifies a six-figure price tag. So even though you’re buying from a global company, the connection feels more intimate and unique.

The ZRI will be available next spring and retail for around $130,000.

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