The Stingray Experience: Hot Laps On Racetracks

One thing about Chevrolet's new Corvette Stingray: you kind of have to drive it to appreciate it. The car looks great, but a performance-car enthusiast with a Porsche in his or her garage is not likely to take a $50,000 high-performance sports coupe seriously as an adversary of German cars that cost up to twice as much. Advertising can only go so far. 

Thus, for the income demographic inclined to consider a vehicle with 400-plus horses under the hood, an automaker like Chevy has to offer seat time. That means drawing up a list of prospects, renting a racetrack and inviting fairly affluent car lovers out for a day of hot laps and clinics with top-drawer racers. 

This weekend, the automaker did just that. The GM division took over the private racetrack in Monticello, N.Y. for an invitation-only event co-sponsored by several Conde Nast titles. The three-day program, two waves per day -- with capacity for about 600 -- featured a performance drive that opened the pretzel-esque track to a fleet of 2014 Stingrays and the participants who got to drive them around the course several times. Hot laps were interspersed with classroom tutorials on the Stingray's features and performance and efficiency technology, as well as pre-lap clinics by Mario Andretti's nephew Adam on how to drive the course without having an accidental off-road experience.     



Todd Christensen, Chevrolet’s performance car advertising manager, tells Marketing Daily that the company invited consumers living within a 150-mile radius, give or take, and that the brand’s media partners helped by sifting through their own subscription lists for invitees. “The ulterior motive to make sure they are getting a great impression of the car and that we are translating the experience into a perception change," he says.

Christesen says that while the invitations can’t help but net late-model-Corvette owners, the company is really focused on people who own competitive vehicles, whether or not they also own a 'Vette. "We really want European sports car owners here to see what they think about the car." 

The company will hold two or three such events this year, per Christesen, with the next one in West Palm Beach, Fla., in the last weekend of October. The company has also had the car at classic car shows like the famed Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey.

As for the Stingray ad campaign, Christensen says it will be very targeted -- with a focus on print publications like Conde Nast titles Wired, Bon Appetit, GQ and Architectural Digest, which are also present as lifestyle brands at each test-drive event. He says there will also be digital elements to the campaign, with a focus on video. 

One attendee told me that among his cars are a Porsche Panamera sedan, an Audi sports car and a late-model Corvette, and that he will probably buy the new Stingray, too. Several others were a bit wary, mostly because the Stinger is fresh off the Bowling Green assembly and they are inclined to wait a model year or two while Chevrolet shakes out the bugs with its first-year tiger cruise. But just about everyone was impressed by what the car offers for the price.

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