When it Comes to C8 Corvettes GM Sticks it to the Aftermarket

Increasing performance is what the aftermarket has been built around. It started with Henry Ford’s Model T. But really got teeth on Ed Cole’s Chevy small block V8 in the 1950s. But today, GM won’t let anyone touch the engine in a C8 Corvette. And that’s what infuriates the aftermarket.

GM fears massive mayhem giving the ECU keys to the aftermarket

The #4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner and Nick Tandying the Chevrolet Sportscar Classic IMSA race
The #4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner and Nick Tandying the Chevrolet Sportscar Classic IMSA race | Brian Cleary, Getty Images

For three years the C8 engine’s Global B electrical architecture has been hands-off. This is because of fear of hackers causing massive mayhem if given the Corvette’s ECU keys. Cybersecurity is a big deal and will continue to be so. We get it.

Piggybacking computers in tandem hooked to the factory ECU is how it’s done now. It is full of wonky compromises, expenses, and voiding your warranty. This isn’t how the aftermarket is supposed to work.

Muscle Cars & Trucks discussed the matter with Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter. Be forewarned there is a lot of corporate-speak in talking to him about anything even the slightest bit touchy. And access to the Corvette’s ECU is a touchy matter for Chevy.

Every component and aspect of modern cars is integrated into ECUs

The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Pace Car during the Daytona 500 on February 14, 2021 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach. Fl.
The 2021 Chevrolet Corvette | David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We all know that ECUs or computers are essential for today’s vehicles. Everything from the door locks to cylinder temperatures and steering is all run through the ECU. And all of those components are constantly communicating with each other through the ECU. Now, just taking a door handle off will kill your car’s ability to start. 

“The aftermarket crew is very talented and resourceful,” said Juechter to MC&T. “They have been for years. So our business model doesn’t really cater to the aftermarket. We have to do all the things internally between the Corvette just like any other GM product. Our desire is to make the car as hackproof as possible to protect our customers.”

GM had the same attitude about the aftermarket before

An image of a 2021 Chevrolet Corvette C8 parked outdoors.
2021 Chevrolet Corvette | Chevrolet

This attitude toward the aftermarket reared its ugly head back in the days of OBD1 and OBD2 diagnostics. And it was a similar refrain. GM was concerned about revealing trade secrets to the heathen hot rodders. But it was also to keep the competition from discovering secrets as well. 

It was also afraid of the aftermarket tampering with emissions controls and having the feds go after the auto manufacturers. Eventually, the aftermarket worked with and around GM to gain access to ECUs and black boxes. But in more recent years we have seen emissions tampering happen with the diesel crowd. Rolling coal is a visible symptom of that. 

What makes sense is for a select group of aftermarket manufacturers to sign their lives away for access to ECUs. These are disciplined entrepreneurs with lifetime investments in their businesses. They won’t jeopardize that to give away Corvette ECU secrets or mess with emissions controls. 

“We think the best will figure it out”

The gray-and-yellow No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R driving on a tree-line road
No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R | Chevrolet

But Juechter says no. “We’re not going to go and give everybody keys to the backdoor into our modules to do whatever they want. We think the best will figure it out.”

And if in figuring it out a few customers’ Corvettes are compromised, then what? The whole experience will probably shift that person to a Ferrari or Lamborghini next time. So what’s great about the “figuring it out?” If GM sees it is inevitable, it should do as it did back in the mid-1990s with OBD diagnostics. 

Until then, the aftermarket is stuck with the Corvette C8 scraps

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