The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, which came out new as a 2014 model, is being hailed as a technical marvel and a competitive threat to European sports cars due to its more affordable price. At least one of Corvette’s cool technical features, added for the 2015 version, is also illegal.
General Motors (GM) is warning owners of the new Corvette to refrain from using “valet mode” in its performance monitoring system because recording anyone in the car without the person’s knowledge and permission is against the law in many states.
The system, which can record speed, engine r.p.ms and g-forces during laps on a race track or on rally routes, allowed owners to monitor how another person drove the car, such as when it was being parked, serviced or cleaned. The feature included a voice recorder.
“Hey, let’s see what this thing can do” might be one incriminating statement worth recording. “Hmm. I wonder what’s in the trunk” would be another.
“Think of it as a baby monitor for your car,” said Harlan Charles, Corvette product manager. “Anyone who has felt apprehension about handing over their keys will appreciate the peace of mind of knowing exactly what happened while their baby was out of sight.”
GM developed the performance data recorder with Cosworth, the British motorsports-engineering company that supplies the Corvette Racing team’s data and telemetry electronics systems.
By entering a four-digit code for valet mode, the owner is able to disable the infotainment system, lock the glove compartment and begin recording the engine’s performance, as well as the voice recorder. Later on, the recording data can be viewed on the car’s video display or transferred to a computer.
A GM spokesman, when asked what states specifically outlawed spy recordings, wasn’t able to provide additional information. The automaker, notwithstanding the legal glitch, has been thrilled with Corvette’s reception by consumers. Fielding a competitive sports car is an element of the automaker’s recovery from its 2009 bankruptcy.
Retail deliveries of the car in the U.S. totaled 2,679 in August, compared with 655 a year earlier. Through the first eight months of the year, Corvette sales reached 23,483, compared with 6,999 last year.
According to Edmunds.com, the average retail price paid for a Corvette is about $67,000. That compares favorably to a Porsche 911 that starts at about $100,000. Increasingly, some sports car buffs say Corvette has narrowed the gap with the German sports car, in terms of performance and handling.
GM says it is revising its software and thus will solve any legal problems encountered in some states by valet mode. Until then, Corvette owners might want to consider asking the attendants to park their vehicle near the entrance, in plain sight.