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As the automotive industry continues to streamline production processes around the globe, General Motors has bucked the trend by offering its low-volume Chevrolet Corvette C8 in both right-and left-hand-drive options from the factory.
In fact, it’s the first time in the car’s almost-70-year history that Chevrolet has offered the sports car with the steering wheel on the ‘wrong’ side.
That, according to Tadge Juechter, the executive chief engineer of Corvette, is a pretty big deal.
“We’re super proud to be doing it,” he said, speaking to the Autoline After Hours podcast. “It’s the first time ever for us.”
The key to the change of heart is in the C8’s mid-engined layout – which was, of course, partly engineered underneath the skin of a Holden Commodore ute mule.
“It was never affordable [to do],” explained Juechter. “The good thing we did was move the engine to the back. Not having the engine in the way and being able to translate everything over and not having to worry about all the plumbing in the engine… being mid-engined meant it meant it inherently simpler on the outside.”
In order to execute a steering wheel swap, the interior also needs to be flipped. On a car as bespoke as a McLaren GT or Ferrari 488, budget is not an issue, but the Corvette – despite its high-tech build – still needs to be a relatively affordable car.
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“If you look at most people who do right- and left-hand-drive, they have plainer interiors, which makes it easier; door trims can be the same, the IP is perfectly symmetrical,” explained Juechter. “You’ve seen how bespoke ours looks, so we had to come up with some very clever ways, honestly, some clever tooling solutions – it’s going to be relatively low-volume because there are relatively few markets outside America.”
Juechter acknowledged that the Corvette has never made it down under as a production car, despite a loyal fan base.
“We’ve never sold the car in Australia; we know we have passionate fans there, but we really don’t have a great sense of what the volume’s going to be,” he said. “So we had to look at new ways of tooling parts to do the exact part as a mirror image to get to right-hand-drive and do it as a reasonable business case.
“We’re taking a little bit of a bet there. We’re dipping our toe in the water for right-hand-drive, and we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, it takes off.”
Juechter said that GM would market the car in other right-hand-drive markets like Japan and the UK, while countries like South Africa would likely miss out. Australian deliveries were meant to start late in 2020; however, three weeks of industrial action late last year has reportedly put Corvette production behind schedule.
Meanwhile, it’s been suggested that the designer of the modern-day Monaro, GM’s VP of global design Mike Simcoe, will be the recipient of the first-ever right-hook C8, who will use the car in the US before shipping it back to Australia.