Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke smiles as he speaks to colleagues don the practice range ahead of the start of the British Open golf championships at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. The British Open starts Thursday. Clarke will hit the first ball at the start of the Open Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Darren Clarke never hit a tee shot at Royal Portrush quite like this.
The silver claret jug on display next to him, Clarke hit the opening tee shot Thursday as the British Open returned to Irish soil for the first time in 68 years. And then it got even better for Clarke, the 50-year-old from Northern Ireland who now calls Portrush home.
He holed a 15-foot putt for birdie to start his round.
Clarke won the Open in 2011 at Royal St. George’s and did not hesitate when the R&A asked if he would be willing to be the first to play. He hasn’t received such a hearty reception on the opening tee since The K Club in Ireland in 2006 for the Ryder Cup.
When Karen Schirack, 67, slipped on her way into her house in January and broke her left femur in multiple places, she had a decision to make. Should she get surgery to repair the fractured thigh bone and replace her hip near Ajijic, Mexico, where she has lived for 20 years, or be airlifted back to her home state, Ohio, for surgery and rehabilitation?
As the number of American retirees living overseas grows, more of them are confronting choices like Ms. Schirack’s about medical care. If they were living in the United States, Medicare would generally be their coverage option. But Medicare doesn’t pay for care outside the country, except in limited circumstances.
Expatriate retirees might find private insurance policies and national health plans in other countries. But these may not provide the high-quality, comprehensive care at an affordable price that retirees expect through Medicare. Faced with imperfect choices, some retirees cobble together different types of insurance, a mix that includes Medicare.
That’s what Ms. Schirack has done. She pays about $3,700 annually for an insurance policy through Allianz that covered her surgery at a private hospital in Guadalajara, about an hour from Ajijic. She also has a medical evacuation policy that would have paid for her flight to the States, if she had opted for that. That policy costs roughly $3,000 for five years. And she pays for Medicare Part B, which she can use for care when she visits family in the United States. (The standard Part B premium is $135.50 monthly.)
Ms. Schirack has a scar running from her waist to the middle of her thigh, but she no longer needs home nursing care and wrapped up months of physical therapy in June. After five more months of healing, she hopes to be back to normal.
Her private plan paid the equivalent of about $20,000 for her surgery. Before she left the hospital, Ms. Schirack had to cover her portion of the total, about $2,400, and bills for other expenses, including blood transfusions.
After leaving the hospital, she was responsible for paying for other services — home nurses, physical therapy, medications — and submitting receipts to the insurer for reimbursement. She estimates she has spent $10,000 and has been reimbursed for about two-thirds of that so far.
If she had had surgery in the United States, she might have faced fewer paperwork hassles, Ms. Schirack said, “but all in all, I’m not going to complain.”
The quality of health care varies widely by country, as do the services available to foreign residents. And there are quite a few of these transplanted Americans.
Between 2012 and 2017, the number of retired workers living in foreign countries who were receiving Social Security benefits grew nearly 15 percent, to more than 413,000, according to the Social Security Administration. The largest numbers of expatriates were in Canada (nearly 70,000) and Japan (more than 45,000). Mexico was third, home to nearly 30,000 retired American workers.
Commercial health care policies for them may provide decent coverage, but people can generally be denied a policy or charged higher rates for medical reasons. The plans may refuse to cover some pre-existing conditions. Ms. Schirack’s policy, for example, doesn’t cover any services related to her allergies.
Private policies can be problematic for another reason: They may have age limits. The GeoBlue Xplorer Essential plan, for example, enrolls only people who are 74 or younger, and coverage expires when people turn 84. In contrast, Medicare eligibility generally begins at 65 and continues until a beneficiary dies.
San Miguel de Allende. Mexico is home to the third-largest number of expatriate American retired workers, with 30,000.CreditAlfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
And the policies aren’t cheap. A 70-year-old might pay $1,900 a month for an Xplorer Essential plan with a $1,000 deductible, said Todd Taylor, a sales director for GeoBlue. A plan with a $5,000 deductible might run $1,400 monthly. That doesn’t include coverage for services in the United States.
Rates may also vary by country. A 67-year-old American living in Costa Rica who buys a midlevel Cigna plan with a deductible of $750 for hospital care and $150 for outpatient care might pay $1,164 a month, said David Tompkins, president of TFG Global Insurance Solutions. The same policy might cost $913 in France. If the person wanted to add coverage for treatment in the United States, the monthly premium would increase to $1,440 in Costa Rica and $1,138 in France, Tompkins said.
Since medical care is sometimes much less expensive overseas, some retirees opt to pay out of pocket for minor or routine services.
Claudia Peresman, who will turn 63 on Sunday, moved from Stonington, Conn., to San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico in November. On her first night there, she tripped in the bathroom, hit her face on a wall and split her lip. Her neighbors helped her get a cab to a 24-hour emergency room at a hospital about five minutes away, where staff cleaned up the cut and sent her home. She paid the roughly $25 fee in cash.
Ms. Peresman recently bought a private insurance plan with a $2,500 deductible, for which she pays about $100 a month.
“What I wanted was catastrophic coverage,” she said. “Things are so affordable here that, outside of being admitted to the hospital, I can probably afford it.”
Even when retirees buy a private policy, Medicare is another piece of the puzzle that they have to consider. Once people become eligible for Medicare coverage, they face a 10 percent premium penalty for every 12 months that they are not enrolled in Part B, which covers outpatient services. (People who are 65 or older but still covered by an employer plan generally do not face that penalty.)
After paying into the Medicare system for decades, typically via payroll taxes, some expats are frustrated that they generally can’t use the program outside the United States. That’s just the way the law is written, an official at the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said.
“C.M.S. cannot speak to or speculate on congressional intent,” the official said.
And retirees should honestly consider whether they will spend the rest of their lives overseas.
“Even if that is their goal, is their health and mobility going to allow them to accomplish that?” said Dr. David Shlim, 70, who treated many expats when he ran a medical clinic in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the 1980s and ’90s. “People should imagine that they may need to come back to the U.S. and ask themselves how are they going to do that and afford that.”
Rules on whether noncitizens can enroll in a national health plan vary by country.
After living in the United States for nearly 30 years and raising a family here, Alberto Avendaño, 61, is moving back to northern Spain in August with his wife, Zuni Garro, also 61. Mr. Avendaño has dual citizenship, and his wife is a United States citizen. The couple can enroll in the Spanish universal health system and receive care there. They also plan to buy a private plan to use if they want to get medical services without a wait, Mr. Avendaño said.
Once they turn 65, they may enroll in Medicare as well, Mr. Avendaño said, depending on their circumstances. Their two children live in the United States.
Ms. Peresman also has a few years before turning 65 and making a decision, but she is leaning in the other direction. She is worried that the Medicare program may not exist in its current form when it comes time to decide.
“I’d sign up if it were absolutely free,” she said. “But I’m already paying $100 a month here.”
The directors of an existing telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea evacuated employees Tuesday amid growing protests that have blocked an access road to the construction site of a second $1.4 billion “Thirty Meter Telescope” (TMT) to be built on the mountain, reports said.
Directors closed the East Asian Observatory located on Mauna Kea on Tuesday as a safety precaution for employees, effectively abandoning millions of dollars worth of instrumentation on telescopes at the facility that require constant maintenance, Hawaii News Now reported.
“This is a risk for us to have to step away at this point,” Jessica Dempsey, deputy director for the East Asian Observatory, told Hawaii News Now. “This is not a decision we came to lightly, but want to emphasize the importance of safety for our staffs and the facilities.”
Police, the Hawaiian National Guard and self-described native “protectors” had been engaged in a tense standoff there since Monday’s scheduled start of construction. Some native Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea a sacred place. On Wednesday, 33 people were arrested during a sit-in on the Mauna Kea Access Road, a state spokesperson told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Those arrested were booked on misdemeanor charges and immediately released.
Demonstrators reportedly abandoned vehicles in the middle of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway leading up to the Thirty Meter Telescope construction site. Police eventually drew back from the protest after a deal was reached that demonstrators would clear their cars from the road to allow construction equipment to be transported up the mountain, the newspaper reported.
Mauna Kea, the highest peak in Hawaii at nearly 14,000 feet, was chosen as the site for the telescope in 2009 because of its elevation and lack of light pollution. The TMT’s size will allow it to see into deep space and produce images 12 times sharper than the Hubbell Space Telescope, its website adds.
The telescope, when completed, will have a 30-meter prime mirror diameter that is “three times as wide, with nine times more area, than the largest currently existing visible-light telescope in the world,” its website says. The TMT International Observatory LLC, which describes itself as a “non-profit international partnership” between educational and scientific institutions around the world, is the designer of the project.
Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen stretches during the ninth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia won 9-8. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts says it’s “a little bit tough to swallow” that closer Kenley Jansen changed his mind about the severity of a foot injury after blowing a save Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Jansen was struck in the foot by Adam Haseley’s grounder in the ninth inning but told Roberts he was OK to continue pitching. After blowing the lead in Philadelphia’s 9-8 victory, Jansen told reporters he should have come out of the game. He was limping in the clubhouse postgame.
Roberts said Wednesday he was caught off guard by Jansen’s remarks.
“I think I do a very good job of being honest with my guys,” Roberts said. “We’re all trying to win, we’re all trying to compete. But when you give certainty that you’re not compromising yourself for the team, then I’m going to trust it. So to then go back and say, ‘I should’ve come out of the game,’ it’s a little bit tough to swallow.”
Roberts said Jansen was not available to pitch Wednesday night against Philadelphia but would be able to close if needed in the series finale Thursday.
We’re all well aware that getting a good night’s sleep can do wonders for our overall health and well-being. It can make you more alert and more creative. It can strengthen your heart, your mind and your mood.
It’s no wonder people have become obsessed with tracking their sleep. Nearly22% of U.S. adults use a wearable sleep tracking device, and about half of the nation’s population would consider buying one.
But even though sleep trackers have become increasingly popular in recent years, many health experts think they’re kind of, well, bogus. Not only are the tools fairly inaccurate, but they also don’t offer a deep, comprehensive look at our sleep patterns.
“The common use of commercially available sleep trackers by the general public should be done so with a clear understanding that these are very limited tools that at best can tell you a bit more about your sleep duration and sleep timing,” said Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, a sleep medicine physician and chief medical officer of the sleep health company FusionHealth.
Here’s what you should know about sleep trackers and why they might not be all they’re cracked up to be:
Sleep Trackers Tend To Be Inaccurate
Sleep trackers typically measure how long you’re sleeping based on your movement throughout the night. The basic methodology behind the tool is that when you’re awake, you move more, and when you’re asleep, you’re still.
This might be true, generally, but it isn’t always the case, said Richard Shane, a behavioral sleep therapist and developer of the Sleep Easy method.
“Somebody could be, let’s say, a serious insomniac and they have trained themselves to lay very still when they’re not sleeping, and the activity monitor or motion sensor will record that as being asleep,” Shane said. “Likewise, somebody could be sleeping but very restless in their sleep, and their device might measure that as being awake.”
Consequently, these trackers don’t get a laser-sharp look at how long you’ve been asleep. In certain cases, people who may be zonked out might assume they’re missing out on z’s based on false data. And what’s even more concerning is that people with actual sleep disorders may be fooled into thinking their sleep is deep or healthier than it really is, Durmer said.
They’re Also Pretty Limited
Not only do most sleep trackers tend to be inaccurate, but they’re also fairly limited. To get a solid understanding of your sleep quality, you need to evaluate much more than the duration of your snooze.
Mapping out your brain waves is the best way to monitor what stage of sleep you’re in (like REM sleep, for example) and determine if you may have a sleep disorder, Shane said. Eye movement helps, too, as do breathing patterns and blood oxygen levels — all things an app or wearable can’t track.
The insights that sleep trackers provide — such as a report saying you got “light sleep” — aren’t considered to be clinical or medically sound definitions. Rather, this is more or less the company’s way of interpreting and making sense of your sleep data, Durmer said. Additionally, the trackers also don’t share the reasons behind your sleep patterns or potential steps you can take to improve your sleep.
There Are Some Benefits To Using The Trackers
That said, sleep trackers can give you some useful information to work with, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Sleep trackers can help you recognize patterns in your sleep and adjust certain habits. For example, if you feel sluggish when you go to bed later, try shifting your bedtime to an hour or two earlier. And if you notice that you sleep more soundly after a workout, make a point to exercise more.
While the trackers can’t replace formal testing, they may help your doctor determine if it may be time for you to undergo further examination or see a sleep specialist, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Bottom Line: Your Sleep Tracker Isn’t Doing You A Ton Of Favors
If you do decide to use a sleep tracker, understand that you’re getting a narrow analysis. And try not to get too obsessed with monitoring your sleep patterns.
Some people could develop orthosomnia, or a disorder in which you become obsessed with getting a perfect night’s sleep. Instead of improving people’s sleep, using a tracker can lead to sleep-related anxiety or sleep perfectionism, keeping them up in the wee hours of the night.
“My advice to people is trust your body more than a device,” Shane said. Pay attention to what helps you sleep better, and take note of how you feel.
If you want to get into the nitty gritty of your sleep patterns, go see a sleep doctor. They can conduct a polysomnography, or a medical sleep test, to get a thorough look at the various factors that may be affecting your sleep each night.
“If you are not sleeping well and would like to improve your sleep, a tracker is not going to provide you with a solution,” Durmer said. “The complexity of our sleep and circadian rhythms requires a much richer data set, including specific and personal, medical, well-being and psychological information in order to help you improve your sleep.”
Lastly, don’t skimp out on proper sleep hygiene, Shane said. Go to bed at the same time every night, keep the room quiet and dark, and avoid screen time before bed. Most of the time, that’s way more effective than measuring your sleep with a tracker.
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Former Auburn University assistant basketball coach Chuck Person arrives at federal court in New York for sentencing in a bribery scandal that has touched some of the biggest schools in college basketball, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Former Auburn University assistant basketball coach and NBA star Chuck Person’s lifelong generosity may have driven him to the poorhouse, but it saved him from the jailhouse Wednesday when a judge sentenced him in a bribery scandal that touched some of the biggest college basketball programs.
U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska cited Person’s “random acts of charity that happened all the time” as she explained why he won’t be locked up for taking bribes to steer top college players toward a financial adviser who was cooperating with the government’s investigation.
“The worst thing you have to say is that you were charitable to a fault,” she told Person, who wiped tears from his face repeatedly. “Keep up the good work.”
She ordered him to do 200 hours of community service during the two years the Probation Department will supervise him.
“No purpose would be served by incarceration,” Preska said.
Sentencing guidelines called for two years in prison, though three other coaches who pleaded guilty to the same bribery conspiracy charge also received leniency.
Preska said the money Person gave to family, friends, strangers, charities and the schools that propelled him to a 13-year NBA career earned him leniency and a shot at redemption.
She said she “disagreed vehemently” with a prosecutor’s claim that Person was motivated by “insatiable greed.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Boone told Preska that Person’s crime was worse than others in the bribery scheme because he tried to get players and families to accept bribes even though the government cooperator never suggested it.
The judge read extensively from over 70 letters of support, many citing the generosity which included houses for at least 10 family members, college tuition for two nieces, and computers, school supplies and shoes for high school students.
When he ran out of money, he took out loans to give even more, including $300,000 for a lighted softball complex in Laverne, Alabama, Preska said.
Person, who was in financial trouble at the time, accepted $91,500 in bribes to parlay his relationships with top players to steer them to a financial adviser, federal prosecutors said. The adviser, however, was working as a government cooperator.
Preska noted that after signing his first NBA contract, Person sent most of the money to his family and bought his mother a house. After his playing career ended, he turned down lucrative jobs in the NBA to make less money as a college coach.
Person, who started a personal basketball training business in Atlanta last year, told the judge he had “deep remorse” for taking advantage of his players. He said he still loved Auburn and always will and hoped that “they will one day forgive me and let me come back.”
Of his crime, he said: “I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway.”
Person’s March guilty plea came nearly two decades after he was a regular presence on NBA courts, known as “The Rifleman” for lighting up scoreboards with long-range shooting skills.
After the Indiana Pacers drafted him in 1986, he played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons. In 2010, he earned a championship ring as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lawyers wrote that Person’s previous financial troubles intensified almost as soon as his NBA career ended, when he was paying $30,000 monthly to his ex-wife while he was earning $18,000 annually in his first non-playing role with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“Chuck’s singular focus on basketball, his failure to plan for his financial future, and his unbounded generosity ultimately had catastrophic consequences,” they wrote.
By 2016, when he was an assistant coach at Auburn, where he had set a record as the school’s all-time leading scorer in the 1980s, he was deeply in debt with bank loans, the lawyers wrote. One financial institution had obtained a default judgment that garnished 25% of his wages at Auburn, they added.
“Creditors were growing impatient, and Chuck was becoming desperate. Chuck could have turned to his many friends for help, but he was embarrassed and ashamed,” they wrote.
Instead, the man who overcame racism and extreme poverty growing up in rural Alabama got swept up in the college basketball scandal when his search for a new loan earned him an introduction to the government cooperator, the lawyers said.
Letters submitted to Preska included one from Charles Sonny Smith, who coached at Auburn for 11 seasons through the 1980s, and one from Sam Perkins, another former NBA player who met Person when both competed to be on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984.
Smith called Person “my favorite player ever.” Perkins said Person was “still a good friend.”
Trash piles in Monteverde, a residential neighborhood in Rome. During this scorching hot summer, the city’s residents and visitors are being tested by a massive trash crisis that has prompted doctors to warn of the possible spread of diseases as birds, vermin and wild animals scavenge amid the rotting refuse. Sylvia Poggioli/NPRhide caption
Trash piles in Monteverde, a residential neighborhood in Rome. During this scorching hot summer, the city’s residents and visitors are being tested by a massive trash crisis that has prompted doctors to warn of the possible spread of diseases as birds, vermin and wild animals scavenge amid the rotting refuse.
Rome is known as the Eternal City. Over many centuries, it has been sacked by marauders and repeatedly resurrected from decline. But this summer, Roman residents are being tested by a massive trash crisis that has prompted doctors to warn of the possible spread of diseases as birds, vermin and wild animals scavenge amid the rotting refuse.
Already, flocks of cawing seagulls have replaced traffic roar as the soundtrack of Roman life.
No need for them to dive for fish in the sea 15 miles away, when they can feast on garbage strewn across the city. Some neighborhoods have reported boars and foxes picking through trash.
The artwork and monumental sites of ancient and Baroque Rome have long overwhelmed — metaphorically — visitors’ senses. Today, with the miasma of tons of putrescent trash emanating during the summer’s scorching hot spells, the risk is literal.
The problem is putting increasing pressure on Rome’s City Hall, as its leaders with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement are criticized for how they manage the Italian capital.
On a July afternoon, despite the 95-degree temperature, tourists visit the Trevi Fountain. Sylvia Poggioli/NPRhide caption
On a July afternoon, despite the 95-degree temperature, tourists visit the Trevi Fountain.
“Trash all over”
One of tourists’ first destinations in the city is the Trevi Fountain.
On a July afternoon, despite the 95-degree temperature, the square was packed with people tossing coins in the marble fountain.
“A lot of the garbage cans nearly overflowing or full. It’s disgusting,” says Callum Leeks, from Virginia. Pointing to the fountain, he says, “I would like to come here to see beautiful things like that. The garbage on the ground and spilling out, just kind of ruins the effect.”
Zoe Houseman, visiting from North Carolina, also found Rome much dirtier than she expected.
“We came from Germany and [it] was a lot more orderly and clean and well-kept. The streets [here] are hot and messy and chaotic. There is uncollected trash all over the ground, cigarette butts.”
Around the corner is Vincenzo Caiazzo’s restaurant, Panetteria. With trash collection nearly halted over the last several months, he says, he and other business owners joined forces to clean their streets.
“When we arrive at 6:30 a.m. we find seagulls and rats picking through overflowing bins. It’s disgusting. The Trevi Fountain is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it must be safeguarded!”
But, says Caiazzo, no one at City Hall tells them where they should dispose the trash once they have collected it.
Rome produces on average 2,100 tons of waste every week, according to local media reports. City Hall officials blame the collection hiatus on the closure of two big waste collection plants for maintenance. No information has been provided on when trash collection will return to normal. City Hall did not respond to NPR’s calls for comment.
Tourists stand near an overflowing garbage receptacle near the Trevi Fountain. Sylvia Poggioli/NPRhide caption
Tourists stand near an overflowing garbage receptacle near the Trevi Fountain.
The situation is no better in the residential Monteverde neighborhood.
At the Sashamia Caffè and tobacco shop, owner Marco Rinaldi is furious. The stench from garbage bags piling up around the corner keeps customers away from his outdoor tables.
“I pay the city 350 euros [$392] every two months for trash collection. I’ve decided to stop paying until they clean up this mess,” Rinaldi says.
He blames the mess on Mayor Virginia Raggi, widely criticized for incompetence.
Raggi has engaged in a war of words with Nicola Zingaretti, governor of the surrounding Lazio region — and a member of the rival, center-left Democratic Party. Raggi accused Zingaretti of failing to provide sufficient collection sites in the region for Rome’s waste. Zingaretti shot back saying, “instead of thanking and apologizing to the mayors and residents of many Lazio towns for helping dispose Rome’s trash, Raggi throws accusations around,” according to La Repubblica newspaper. The governor said he wonders if the mayor “doesn’t feel a bit ashamed for her arrogance,” adding, “she has reduced the most beautiful city in the world into a disaster zone.”
After meeting with the two earlier this month, Italy’s Environment Minister Sergio Costa suggested that “while we wait for new collection sites to be opened,” a temporary solution would be to “negotiate with other EU countries for disposal” of Rome’s excess waste.
Meanwhile, Rome’s doctors’ association warned of potential health hazards because, in hot weather, rotting garbage attracts flies and cockroaches that can spread diseases. There are no known reports yet of new sickness from the problem.
Rome has a long history of trash issues. In the past, prosecutors found close links between waste management companies and organized crime.
And six years ago, Malagrotta, the main collection site, was shut down after the European Union ruled it didn’t meet minimum standards.
“Nobody knows how to deal and how to do the job actually,” says Bianca Bisarra, a born and bred Roman. After living and working for a few years in Shanghai, her home town saddens her. “The mood of people, they’re suffering. I would love to come back but after staying abroad, Rome is very hard to reconnect with.”
Even Pope Francis recently complained of Rome’s “decay and neglect” in a homily delivered in the working-class neighborhood Casal Bertone.
He has reason to scold today’s Romans: For centuries, city upkeep was the job of his many predecessors — when Rome was under papal rule.
By the late 1600s, stern warnings against illegal trash disposal were inscribed in marble on city walls not far from the Vatican.
On Via dei Cappellari, there is one inscription from 1733 that says: “Dumping trash here is explicitly forbidden under penalty of 25 scudi. The whistleblower, who will remain secret, receives one-third of the fine. The father will be held responsible for his culprit sons, the master for his guilty servants. Further penalties include corporal punishment.”
Not only are today’s penalties far more lenient, the trash crisis is so vast, they are incredibly difficult to enforce.
Bisarra, the woman saddened by her home town, acknowledges that cleaning up the city is a huge task. But part of the solution, she suggests, would be if her fellow Romans show their civic pride and take time off to clean the streets themselves in order to restore Rome to — at least a little bit — of its former glory.
And at a starting price of less than $56,000, it’s much more accessible than many of its exotic European competitors.
Known for its affordability as well as its lightweight, high-powered, low-slung design, the ‘Vette is ranked as the most collectible car of all-time, according to classic-car insurer and valuation firm Hagerty.
“The Corvette has existed in a category all its own as an American car,” said Hagerty CEO McKeel Hagerty. “It’s a pretty magical story through and through. It’s very evident they’re about to do it again.”
The ‘Vette, a Chevrolet model made by General Motors and built in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is getting one of its biggest changes yet: The engine is shifting from underneath the hood to the middle of the car, making it a “mid-engine” car much like some of Europe’s speediest vehicles.
But expect eye-popping numbers for the loaded editions, including a possible ZR1 supercar.
Rumors were flying earlier this year that GM had to delay the new Corvette because it was so powerful that its frame was warping in track tests. Industry observers have speculated that the high-flying version could achieve an astounding 1,000 horsepower.
The extra-powerful edition is sounding like an “unbelievable performer and fire-breathing monster,” Hagerty said.
The new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette made its first public appearance as GM CEO Mary Barra and chief engineer Tadge Juechter cruised about New York City. Detroit Free Press
Don’t change TOO much
The shift to a mid-engine setup carries risks, considering that even the slightest changes for a vehicle with a rabid following can stir up angst. (When engineers abandoned the car’s trademark round headlights in the 2014 redesign, critics loved it, but some fans were upset.)
To be sure, many ‘Vette enthusiasts have been clamoring for such a mid-engine version for years. Even the GM engineer credited with transforming the car into a powerhouse, Zora Arkus-Duntov, is said to have proposed a mid-engine version since nearly the beginning.
Many fans are putting their trust in GM to get it right.
“I’ve never met a Corvette that I didn’t love,” said Chris Mazzilli, owner of Dream Car Restorations on Long Island and co-founder of Corvette Heroes, which is conducting a sweepstakes to give away 36 Corvettes from the first 36 model years at CorvetteHeroes.com in a promotion with the National Guard Education Fund.
One widely rumored change that might not sit well with fans: the elimination of the manual transmission.
Brauer said the stick shift is likely to go away for the Corvette, though he doubts it’ll lead to many lost sales. After all, the stick shift is slowly dying.
Be careful about the price
The Corvette’s appeal has long been predicated on price. You don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to get a new one.
“They’ve always tried to be at the cutting edge of technology at a reasonable price,” Mazzilli said.
Its starting price of $55,900 in 2019 is more than most of us can afford, to be sure, but it’s still far below six-digit competitors like Aston Martin and Ferrari.
“It’s represented great value over the years,” Hagerty said. “Not bargain basement, but cutting-edge technology for a fraction of what the rest of the world has to offer.”
Yet GM is widely expected to increase the price for the 2020 edition. How much is too much?
Brauer said it’s possible GM will go upscale with the new ‘Vette under the assumption that the loyal fan base will stick around and that it should potentially prioritize lower-volume, higher-profit cars.
Appeal to younger buyers
Here’s where GM has a big challenge with a vehicle that debuted in 1953: The Corvette’s most loyal fans are typically Baby Boomers or older members of Generation X, according to Hagerty.
What can GM do to appeal to a younger crowd to ensure the ‘Vette’s longevity continues?
That’s hard to say, though one step could be to offer a powertrain that incorporates batteries and electric motors.
Brauer said a plug-in hybrid electric version of the Corvette is a possibility.
Take cues from the past
The 2020 Corvette needs to appeal to young buyers, but it also needs to capitalize on the qualities that have gotten it this far.
Lessons can be learned with the 1967 Corvette L88 Coupe, which set the record for most expensive ‘Vette ever when it was sold in 2014 by auction house Barrett-Jackson for $3.88 million.
That car’s powerful, exclusive engine put in the rarefied company of the era’s elite race-worthy beasts.
GM could also take cues from the second generation Corvette from the mid-1960s, when the car was truly in its heyday. The average value of the second-generation Corvette is the highest at an average of $162,148, according to the Hagerty Price Guide.
But don’t repeat the mistakes of the ho-hum fourth-generation Corvette. It’s cheapest average Corvette at $13,726, according to the Hagerty Price Guide.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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