Power. Passion. Precision. Three words that define the sixth
generation of an American performance icon -- the 2005 Corvette.
Over the course of the next six months, Chevylaunch.com will sit
down with key individuals from the Corvette team to talk about their
roles in creating the most perfect Corvette ever. This month, we sat
down with Dave Hill, chief engineer of the Corvette, to talk about
his launch experiences and the overall development of the vehicle.
CL: You led the development of the
landmark "C5" Corvette, launched in 1997. How do your experiences
during the creation of the 2005 Corvette compare to that launch?
The fifth generation was an enormous task because it was a
completely new invention from the ground up. It was a total
revolutionary change for the Corvette, and we couldn't use anything
from the past. So it was very demanding and very daunting to get it
all done. With the sixth generation, there's less new invention and
more working on excellence. We're now building from a very sound
platform -- that of the previous generation, and because of that we
have the opportunity to concentrate on achieving excellence. The
team feels reinforced by the fact that we're starting from something
that's very good already, and we believe people will find that we've
made it substantially better.
CL: Describe the enthusiasm of your
team for Corvette.
I think that being involved with the Corvette brings out the best in
all of us who have the privilege of working on it. It represents the
best that GM has to offer, along with the best America has to offer,
to a lot of people. And since it is such an icon now, the Corvette
causes us to rise to a higher level in everything we do. Our
customer interaction also plays a role in our enthusiasm. And I feel
that customer contact, and knowing what we do means so much to the
customer, drives us to try to make everything we do exceed their
expectations. The Corvette is very personal. We're not talking about
transportation here -- we're talking about a product that changes
someone's lifestyle, and that causes us to be enthusiastic about our
CL: The fifth generation was a very
successful vehicle, yet you improved upon it with the new vehicle.
How did you identify areas of improvement?
We upgraded the fifth-generation Corvette almost every year since it
came out in 1997, and yet, with a chance to do the next new one, we
knew we had to find ways to really jump ahead. That's what people
expect us to do. That being said, the first major area of
improvement is in technical awareness -- bringing to reality in 2005
something that would give us a technical jump forward. And as much
as design is important to the Corvette success, we feel that if the
vehicle is technically advanced over its predecessor, it's going to
make the total Corvette something worthy of a new generation.
Secondly, I again bring in customer contact -- knowing how they use
their car and having a keen awareness of where our shortcomings are.
We're never satisfied with our previous best. We love every Corvette
-- the 2001 Z06, the 2003 Anniversary Car -- and we put the very
best that we can into each one of them. But at the same time we
technical types are very judgmental. We no sooner bring it out and
we're dissatisfied with it and want to be on to the next. Again,
we're trying to jump ahead with a car that's distinctly better than
the car being replaced. People can only see the car now. But when
they interact with it -- when they drive it, when they use it -- I
think the appreciation for the new car will be very satisfying.
CL: What are some specific areas of the
vehicle that have been improved over the fifth generation?
Performance would be number one, obviously. We talk a lot about
refinement and perfection when we talk about the sixth generation,
but you must have performance to make the whole thing work. This
vehicle has total performance -- not just acceleration performance,
but braking and handling performance as well. It's the kind of
performance that makes you believe that you can take it out on a
race course and turn very good lap times, yet also be very easy to
drive. Quietness is another area of improvement. Ridding unwanted
noises and bothersome fatiguing noises from inside the car is a big
part of the value of the sixth generation. It's been difficult
because we don't want to make the car heavy or boring, but it was
important to reduce the noise in the car -- especially the road
noise from the big tires and the wind noise from the high-speed
driving. This new quietness upgrades the worthiness of the car, and
how the customer feels about the value in the car, so it was a big
factor. Perfection in every little detail and great workmanship is a
third major area where we feel we''ve made distinct improvements.
Then there are a lot of features in the car which are entertaining
and useful and add value to the car, such as the navigation system.
People are going to enjoy that in the way they like using the car.
If they just want to turn right and go down that winding road just
because it looks cool, they can and they have the navigation to help
them find their way back. Features like the navigation system are
going to increase the total Corvette ownership experience.
CL: How important is it to know your
customers and to understand what they're looking for with the
We always try to get as much information out of customers as we can
during our interaction with them. And usually that means taking
compliments about how much they appreciate what we do. But we also
try to discover how they use the car, what the car does well for
them and what could be improved. We try to understand how they
think, how they feel and what the car means to them. And I think
there are enough of us on the team that have an understanding of
what makes the customer tick that we can drive good decisions in
areas that will impress our customers.
CL: The three words that seem to
surround this vehicle are Power, Passion Precision. Can you talk a
little about each, and how they relate to the engineering and
development of the 2005 Corvette?
Power doesn't just mean acceleration. Of course we have to have more
because our customers expect it. But power doesn't just mean the
ability to pass just about anything on the road. It's power with
control. That's the thing that's great about the Corvette -- it
allows the driver to be good. It enables drivers to hop in and go
quickly without getting in over their heads. It is power, but it's
total performance and power with control. That's what separates it
from the Viper or other cars of that ilk. With passion, we are
talking about the exciters in the car. Initially, this means the
total appearance. But as you study the Corvette more, you continue
to find exciting details in the car -- not just visual details, but
tactile ones as well. We feel that we can passionately design a
suspension control arm, an air inlet duct or even an exhaust tip.
It's not just the styling guys who exhibit passion. All of us --
every member of this team -- work on passionate designs that make
people take notice. And finally precision, which is having
everything be as perfect as humanly possible. Everything on this
vehicle exemplifies the workmanship, the craftsmanship and the pride
of the people who made it, and then conveyed into the pride of the
people who own it.
CL: How were you able to add so many
new features -- push-button start, high-intensity headlamps, LS2 --
without affecting the fantastic value of the Corvette?
With Corvette come three things: state-of-the-art performance and
technology; passionate design; and tremendous value. And we can
never walk away from the value obligation that we have to our
customers. In order for us to earn our share for the stakeholders,
we have to sell a substantial number of cars and pay all the bills
and bring a return for the owners of the business. We can only get
that volume by offering a tremendous value. We have to remember that
many of our customers spend a significant portion of their income to
be a Corvette owner, so value is critical. What we do is look hard
for ways to cut costs where the result is just as good for the
customer. And we look in design, engineering and purchasing for ways
to drive the costs down, which in turn enables us to allocate those
resources for other higher-value, higher-impact features -- such as
keyless entry with push-button start -- in the car. The 2005
Corvette boasts several visible features that look more expensive
and more upscale, yet the car will cost approximately the same as
the current vehicle.
CL: How important is it to "obsolete
the C5" -- meaning, make everything on the sixth generation better
than the fifth-generation vehicle.
I don't want to be derogatory to the C5, but we live in a very
competitive industry with the best makers from Europe and Japan all
throwing entries into this very open American market. Everyone wants
to have these notable cars -- halo cars -- for their company. It's
extremely intense. And as much as we love the C5 and put all of our
effort, passion and energy into making the best car we possibly
could, we had to go into the sixth generation with the notion of
making the fifth generation obsolete. We needed to leapfrog and make
this car so much better than the previous version. The only real
competitor the Corvette has is another Corvette, so if we're going
to continue to employ our people and keep our factory running, we
have to keep making it better. Those C5s are not worn out or
anything. In fact, the only reason customers are going to get out of
a fifth-generation Corvette is because they want to get into the
sixth generation vehicle. People have wondered if the new car is a
C5 and a half
-- if it's just a facelifted version of the
old car. I think that question will be answered resoundingly when
people experience the car, because it's a totally new car in the way
it behaves and things it does well.
CL: From your point of view, what one
thing makes the vehicle special?
The one thing is everything. I think our accomplishment here is
better than any previous Corvette because this car is going to do so
many things so much better. I say that with some trepidation because
I have to live up to those words. But honestly, I think we have a
very well-rounded car today -- but this one is much more so. It
doesn't matter what you want this car to do, it'll do it and then
CL: You recently said that your goal
was to create the most perfect Corvette ever. Is this it?
That's still the goal and it's a daunting, daunting goal. There are
thousands of things that need to come together to make a car, and
it's even more challenging to have them come together on a schedule.
I do believe that our mission is nothing less than bringing out this
new car with everything improved over the outgoing car. And I
believe everyone on the team has that as their mission and we have a
very strong team. Time will tell if it did happen, but I think it's
CL: Has Corvette reached the
world-class status you desire?
We benchmark everything that's out there -- Porsche, BMW, Honda,
Acura, Mercedes, Nissan, Mazda -- all of them. We buy the latest
versions, we study them, understand how good they are, test them
against our cars -- we know the competition and we feel very
strongly about how our car measures up to these cars, many costing
substantially more. We know every one of those cars, and we feel
that we are doing the very best car against all of those competitors
for the way America sees sports cars.
CL: You once said that your favorite
Corvette is always the next one. Is that the case right now, or are
you enjoying what's happening with the 2005 Corvette?
have to be dissatisfied in our profession, even with great
accomplishments of the past. We are always looking for more because
that's what we get paid to do. But today, I would say I am 85%
focused on the 2005 because we're at an intense time of the program
where all the little details have to come together. This car is
going to secure our future for the rest of this decade, and our
success depends on how well it comes out and the reputation it
establishes early on. So it has the majority of my attention. Having
said that, I will tell you that the Z06 is going to have super
car performance at unbelievable value. The Z06 is very healthy,
it's going to be very awesome, and as I say to people it'll be worth
the wait. So, while 85% of my time is spent on the 2005, that leaves
another 40% for the Z06. Plus we have some other things we're
playing around with too.