LOS ANGELES – Following Ford Motor's highly anticipated debut of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E SUV, attention is turning to General Motors to potentially leverage the Chevrolet Corvette, its most-iconic nameplate, into a sub-brand and SUV.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas believes the Corvette brand could be worth $7 billion to $12 billion on a stand-alone basis, according to a note to investors last week exploring the idea. "It's time to look at the potential of GM's supercar brand," Jonas said, citing it would be "more than a needle-mover for GM."
Jonas said the upcoming mid-engine Corvette could "halo a sub-brand that hatches" an all-electric Corvette SUV that would increase Corvette volume fivefold to 80,000 units by the mid-2020s.
"Historically, the thought of GM expanding Corvette into anything beyond its single model status would have been brand heresy," Jonas said. "But times are changing in global autos."
Corvette, according to Jonas, is "undervalued and underappreciated by the market." An expansion, he said, could assist in funding the automaker's pivot to all-electric vehicles.
Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet passenger car and crossover marketing, last week didn't squash the potential of expanding Corvette into an SUV and sub-brand.
"We're flattered by the attention," he told CNBC last week at the Los Angeles Auto Show. "We're very happy with the Corvette we've got to sell, here, right after we turn the calendar in 2020. What future plans are, we'll see."
GM CEO and Chairman Mary Barra last month also didn't kill the idea of a Corvette SUV: "Well, I appreciate that you think our Corvette franchise is very strong. I'm not going to talk about future," she said in response to a question from Jonas during a call on Oct. 29 to discuss the automaker's third-quarter results.
Barra later added that GM will look "at a variety of things as we move forward. She said that the company recognizes "the strength of the Corvette brand."
Jonas, in his note, cited the Mustang Mach-E as setting a "clear precedent with relevance to Corvette." He also noted the success of luxury brand Porsche with SUVs.
Porsche, which is widely credited with starting the trend to SUVs for traditional sports car companies, began selling the Porsche Cayenne SUV in 2002. The Cayenne and Macan SUVs now account for a majority of the brand's sales in the U.S., including 67% of sales through October of this year.
Other traditional car brands such as Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati have successfully followed Porsche's lead with SUVs among their top sellers.
Aston Martin became the most recent company to enter the SUV segment. The famed British car brand last week unveiled the $189,900 DBX – the first SUV in its 106-year-old history. Ferrari also has announced plans to release an SUV.