Thursday, July 18, marked a day that many auto enthusiasts and car industry watchers thought would never happen: After decades of rumors and innuendo, Chevrolet finally introduced a production, mid-engined Corvette. It's fair to say the 's Tustin, California, reveal was a blockbuster event by the numbers. You may have already committed the key metrics to memory: 495 horsepower, 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 3 seconds, .
The C8 Corvette wasn't the only thing to generate impressive stats that night: The reveal event itself triggered massive online traffic for the automotive websites and forums covering the C8 Corvette's reveal, and General Motors was temporarily overwhelmed by the unbridled interest the reveal generated. There were times when the bogged down, and when the automaker revealed that its 2020 Chevy Corvette "Visualizer" configurator tool was already live on Chevrolet.com, a tidal wave of traffic ensued, effectively gridlocking the experience for most users for the better part of a day.
When the digital dust settled, the 2020 Chevy Corvette had set a number of impressive online records for GM. In the main, 471,000 people tuned in to watch the livestream unveil of the Corvette -- an impressive figure given that the event was held midevening on the West Coast (a good portion of the event happened after much of the country had already gone to bed).
But Corvette fever didn't stop there. Friday, July 19, the first full day after the C8's debut, saw the C8 shatter Chevrolet.com traffic records, too. According to Steve Majoros, director of passenger car and crossover marketing for Chevrolet, the brand's consumer site saw five times the normal traffic load it hosts on a daily basis. Corvette-related traffic set an all-time record for Chevy's website, even with the slowdown.
"With a pretty rabid and passionate base, we knew we'd take 24 hours of grief," Majoros tells Roadshow. "The majority of people got the full [configurator] experience, which is the full 3D experience. We do have a way that the system throttles to what we're calling a 2D experience [to speed load time]. Once we hit thresholds, we worked with Amazon Web Services very quickly to double our server capacity." (GM may have outsourced its server support for things like 3D rendering, but it built the C8's configurator tool internally, a move that helped keep a lid on information leaking out about the top-secret car.)
Through the end of July, traffic to the C8's Chevrolet.com landing page alone amounted to 2.4 million visits, with 750,000 of those users coming within the first 72 hours after the reveal. By the end of July, some 1.3 million users had already tried out out the Corvette's Visualizer, poking through the various colors, options and features to configure their dream Corvettes. In total, visitors to the website built over 940,000 Corvettes and logged in excess of 152,000 hours spent on the Visualizer tool before the month of August even began.
Those are huge numbers, especially when you consider that the outgoing C7 Corvette sold just 18,791 units last year.
Making sense of the numbers
It's difficult to put the Corvette's reveal and website figures in proper context, as most automakers don't hold online reveal ceremonies for new cars and trucks this way (let alone disclose data about the online footprint of these events thereafter). The clearest recent example is arguably Tesla's unveiling of the in March 2016.
Tesla didn't release data about subsequent website visits, but we do know that event led to a claimed 115,000 buyer reservations within 24 hours -- including $1,000 deposits. This is admittedly an apples and oranges comparison. The Model 3 four-door sedan is designed to be a more affordable mainstream automobile (that happens to be electric), versus the two-seat Corvette's much more specialized nature. Clearly, however, these are big numbers that show significant interest in both milestone automobiles.
A lot of users have configured C8 Corvettes in the Visualizer in many different ways. "Corvette, as a vehicle, has always been about personalization and bespoke and customization -- making it yours," Majoros tells Roadshow. "We wouldn't be having this call if this was [a]or , right? [With those vehicles] we've got like 40 build combinations ... we have [with Corvette], because that's what customers want. They want a car that's uniquely theirs ... it's not a surprise that people are building and saving multiple versions."
Are there any common threads emerging in users' Visualizer selections that could point to what types of cars will end up in dealers? Not necessarily. Right now, the two most popular configurator paint color selections are Rapid Blue (new) and Elkhart Lake Blue Metallic -- two of the C8's bolder color choices. Similarly, two of the most popular interior colors have been Two-Tone Blue and Natural Dipped (tan).
Majoros doesn't necessarily think the aforementioned choices will correlate to those particular paint and upholstery finishes being the most popular when it comes down to actually ordering vehicles. "The Visualizer results to date are inconsistent with what a long-term sales trend would be," he says. Rather, Chevy officials suspect customers are focusing on newly available colors and bolder material choices and letting their imaginations run wild.
Special 'Corvette Academy' call center
GM hasn't just rolled out the digital red carpet for the Corvette-curious online, it's also formed a special call center task force dedicated to answering customer questions. According to Majoros, Chevy pulled a number of employees from its regular customer call center, "sequestered them for six weeks" in advance of the reveal and gave them in-depth Corvette Academy training on product and process. "We skimmed off the creme de la creme and really 'Corvetted' them up," he says.
These special phone reps have been trained in "engineering, dealers, history, allocation, ordering, speccing, specifications, anything that we think could come our way," Majoros says. Housed in GM's Renaissance Center headquarters, there are five such "concierge" staffers working the phones and keyboards at any given time, and these representatives are available to answer phone calls, emails and live chat requests 12 hours a day. Average phone calls last about 15 minutes, but some extend an hour beyond that, says Majoros. Anyone can call upon these experts; you don't need to be a Corvette owner or someone who has placed a deposit for the new car.
Majoros says these call-center reps have entertained everything from general questions about how to use the website to very specific engineering questions like what the maximum possible negative camber angle is on the rear wheels when setting up the car for racing. Patrons can have repeat access to the same call center expert via phone or email as new questions arrive, too, and they can even help spec out a Corvette and transfer that information to the dealer along with discussion notes when the time comes. "i want these people to be your Nordstrom concierge. I want them to know you, basically be your personal shopper," he says.
The last time Chevrolet queued up a special concierge experience like this for one of its products? The first-generation Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, circa 2010 or 2011.
It will likely be many months before we can tell if early interest in the livestream reveal and website configurator will translate into robust sales for the 2020 Chevy Corvette. Right now, customers can make deposits, and while dealers can place orders, in the absence of full pricing information (coming in mid-August), many are electing to wait to enter orders into their systems.
In other words, we probably won't know for a while if the C8 has more record-breaking performances in store.