From the moment that the C8 Corvette made its debut, folks in the aftermarket have tried their best to improve upon General Motors’ mid-engined sports car through traditional tuning measures. Unfortunately for all of us however, the efforts of these companies have been hindered by the automaker in quite a serious way. More specifically, the Global B electrical architecture that underpins the C8 Corvette’s ECU is backed by some incredibly stringent cybersecurity measures. This in turn means that engine tuning is nearly impossible without running a ton of aftermarket computers in tandem with the factory ECU – otherwise known as a “piggyback”. The process isn’t exactly without serious compromises, either, often involving a rats nest of wires, and major drivability issues.
In order to learn what GM plans to do in terms of supporting the C8 Corvette in the aftermarket, MC&T sat down with Corvette Executive Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter. What he had to say might not be what most of us want to hear.
C8 Corvette: It All Starts With Global B
General Motors’ Global B architecture (also known as GM VIP) is a direct response to how technologically dependent our modern vehicles have become. Whether you’re talking about ADAS systems or emissions control devices, automaker’s rely heavily on the computers in their vehicles to give us all the features we’ve come to expect. Whenever there are computers involved however, hacking becomes a concern. This is why cybersecurity restrictions are becoming an industry norm.
“The aftermarket crew is very talented and resourceful,” said Juechter in an interview with 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 Corvette just like any other General Motors product. Our desire is to make the car as hack proof as possible to protect our customers.”
Despite the C8 Corvette’s enthusiast customer base, it does make sense that GM wants to keep their ECU cybersecurity restrictions consistent across the board. That said, the hacker scenario they’re concerned about does sound somewhat like something the lawyers came up with.
Computer Driven Machines
“You know these cars are extraordinarily capable and they are also more and more computer driven,” said Juechter. “If somebody can take over those computers, they can take over your car. It hasn’t really happened yet, but sometime a high profile vehicle takeover someday will probably happen and we want to make sure we’re putting enough firewalls in that we protect our customers every way we can. Unfortunately, that has the side effect of making that hurdle greater for the aftermarket.”
A great hurdle is exactly what the Global B electrical architecture has become. As we near the third year of C8 Corvette production, not a single aftermarket forced induction kit has been fully developed for customers. Companies like Extreme Turbo Systems and FuelTech have built 1,000+ horsepower C8 Corvettes for testing, but the work involved in the builds is far beyond what we’ve seen in the past.
The need for several additional computer modules not only drives up the complexity of these builds, but also the price. There has been hope that GM might choose to help a select group of aftermarket tuners in their efforts. But we wouldn’t hold onto that hope.
“The answer is essentially no,” said Juecther. “We’re not going to go give everybody keys to the backdoor into our modules to do whatever they want. We think the best will figure it out.”
A Small Caveat
Now it does appear that there is one caveat to that statement. Juecther noted that due to their long-standing relationship with GM, Callaway will get a little assistance from the automaker with the C8 Corvette situation. This has to do with the customer and warranty data that Callaway supplies GM with from their buyers, but we’ve yet to hear any specifics from either company.
“That’s probably a tough pill for some folks but we have to keep a reasonable workload for us,” said Juechter. “There are so many products out there, we can’t keep up testing them. We can barely keep up with testing our own production intended stuff to make sure that’s fully validated in every way. That’s a pretty big workload. So we really stay away from endorsing or recommending any kind of aftermarket product.”
Bad News For The C8 Corvette Faithful
So not exactly the news we were hoping to get. In fact, it’s about the exact opposite of what we were hoping to hear. That said, none of this is that surprising based on the current industry trend. For the sake of the aftermarket, here’s to hoping the mad lads figure out how to bust into the C8 Corvette’s ECU on their own.