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Where is Europe's Corvette? PH Footnote

The new V8-powered Stingray costs about the same as an entry-level Alpine A110. No fair

By Dan Prosser / Sunday, August 18, 2019

If you happen to live to the west of the Atlantic Ocean, your £49,500 (or $59,995) sports car budget will run to a 2020 mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette Stingray with a 194mph top speed, a 6.2-litre V8 and a wholesome 495hp. For those of us who live to the east of the Atlantic, that same budget will afford not much more than a very basic Alpine A110 Pure with a sports exhaust. You're looking at 155mph, 1.8-litres, four cylinders and half the power. Though it is also mid-engined.

It's hard not to feel a little put out by that. Why is it that for the same money a North American buyer can leave the forecourt in a thundering eight-cylinder brute that wouldn't be out of place at a supercar gathering, while those of us in Europe must make do with a dainty little sports car that looks like something a Corvette would get stuck between its teeth? Well, economies of scale for one thing. And component sharing. Chevrolet has always built and sold the Corvette in such vast numbers it can be manufactured to a cost, while its small block V8 is shared with countless other models and gets pumped out of the factory like Skittles.

Of course, when the C8 Corvette does arrive in the UK - which it will, in right-hand drive - the base model will cost more like £75,000 after duties, taxes and the rest have been applied. And the $59,995 entry-level 1LT Corvette will be an airport rental special that most private buyers will avoid like the plague, upgrading instead to the $67,295 2LT or the $71,945 3LT.

Nonetheless, the fact remains: you get a great deal more T-bone for your money in the US than you do over here. So where are Europe's bargain basement performance cars? How can it be that nothing on sale over here gets even close to matching the C8 Corvette in the US in terms of value for money? I can think of only one performance car that might exist in the same ballpark and that - tellingly - is the £42,810 Ford Mustang GT V8.

I'm beginning to think there might be space for a European performance car manufacturer that gears itself - and I mean everything about itself, from R+D expenditure, manufacturing process, dealer network, parts sharing, low cost componentry (where it can get away with it) and whatever else - around affordability. If value for money was its USP. The Dacia methodology applied to the sports car sector. And what if that performance car manufacturer was a new-look Lotus under the stewardship of Geely?

The size of the European sports car market relative to that in North America probably means no Lotus will ever match the C8 Corvette on bang-for-buck. But between the eye-widening affordability of an American sports car and the eye-watering cost of a European one, there must surely be a financially viable middle ground that Lotus could exploit. I'm thinking of a new Elise at less than £35,000, or a new V8 Esprit at around £60,000. Neither cheap as chips, but both decent value for money compared to the rest of the continental sports car market.

Would it even be possible to create a desirable and capable new Lotus, one that's also respectful of the company's heritage, under such tight fiscal constraints? Maybe not. If Lotus can't realistically position itself as the European value-for-money sports car brand, perhaps we'll just have to move to the other side of the Atlantic. Or wait for someone else to see the light.

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