Is Chevrolet Attacking Ford's Aluminum Because Silverado Sales Are Flat And The F-Series Is Surging?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

After watching General Motors drop 825 pounds of rock into the beds of a Chevrolet Silverado and a Ford F-150, I wasn’t caught up in fairness or relevance or with the advertisement’s status as a marketing stunt. Some observers asked whether GM crossed an unwritten line shared by Detroit’s cross-town truck rivals, as if in a year when presidential candidates toss deeply personal insults around like water balloons at a summer picnic a pickup truck critique would be over the line.

To me, it simply seemed clear from the moment of the ad’s YouTube launch that the Chevrolet Silverado’s apparent toughness advantage would be more frequently viewed than a traditional truck commercial. As of this writing, Chevrolet’s YouTube channel has racked up 4.4 million views with “Silverado Strong: Steel Bed Outperforms Aluminum Bed,” ten times more views than the channel’s 22 previous ads have generated in the last month, combined.

The Silverado could use the increased attention. U.S. sales of GM’s best-selling model line are flat despite a six-percent sales increase in the truck market so far this year.

GM could also stand to see the Ford F-Series taken down a peg. F-Series sales are growing faster than the sector as a whole.

In calendar year 2015, GM’s full-size pickup twins — Silverado and Sierra — combined to outsell the Ford F-Series lineup for the first time since 2009. But the Ford family was picking up steam after sliding 2 percent through the first-half of the year, a boom period for pickup truck sales. Second-half F-Series volume jumped 12 percent, and the F-Series hasn’t looked back since. Through the first five months of 2016, year-over-year F-Series volume is up 7 percent in a full-size pickup truck market that’s grown only 4 percent.

U.S. sales of the Chevrolet Silverado, meanwhile, rose to an eight-year high in calendar year 2015, climbing by 71,000 units compared with 2014. In early 2016, however, while U.S. new vehicle sales volume is rising steadily and the truck market appears very healthy, Silverado sales growth has stalled.

GM, fortunately, has seen a noticeable uptick in sales of the GMC Sierra, which has helped the twins to a 2-percent increase despite the Silverado’s slight downturn. But after outselling the F-Series by roughly 5,000 units in the first five months of 2015, the GM full-size twins trail the F-Series by 11,000 sales during the same period one year later.

The fickle U.S. sales race, fraught with all-encompassing figures that group lower-volume heavy-duty trucks with their light-duty brethren, isn’t the be all and end all of an automaker’s daily operations. But it’s reasonable to believe that General Motors, after making such headway last year when the F-150 was an all-new model, wants to take the resurgent Blue Oval down a peg in 2016. In so doing, if the soft glow of rugged, durable toughness casts a positive light on the Silverado’s bowtie grille, so be it.

From a strict sales perspective, the Honda Ridgeline’s subsequent performance — far less staged and consequently more believable — won’t result in hundreds of thousands of truck buyers shifting their allegiance to Honda. But the battles being waged are not at all dissimilar.

Chevrolet is determined to make the Silverado appear as the tougher full-size pickup truck. Honda must convince truck buyers that the Ridgeline is tough. Perhaps the er can come later.

Timothy Cain
Timothy Cain

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  • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Jun 16, 2016

    This reminds me of ads that successfully ruined the market for the Chrysler Airflow. The ads by GM emphasized that the Airflow had an all steel body that wasn't reinforced with wood. They showed how a thin-walled steel tube could bend, while the same tube with a wooden dowel through it could not. The implication was that Chrysler's all steel line of Airflows were weak and dangerous. I've read that the other automakers weren't using any wood in many of their bodies by that time either, but the advanced Airflow was associated most with all-steel construction. The part that's important to GM is that the car buying public ate up their BS stunt and the Airflow withered on the vine, even if almost every advanced feature of the car would later become industry standard. A good BS stunt is better than being a pioneer in the market of ignoramuses today. If they can sell their conventional trucks a little longer by scaring people, they'll benefit now and nobody will remember when every pickup has to be aluminum with a time bomb for an engine.

  • Shawnski Shawnski on Jun 17, 2016

    What a ridiculous stunt. You reap (rip?) what you sow if you load an unprotected bed like this, regardless if it's steel (with scratches through the paint) or aluminum.

  • Kars This article was about Ford not Tesla - you are clearly confused.
  • Ollicat Those are individual charging stations vs entire gas stations that have 8 - 16 pumps. And gas stations take 3 minutes to fill vs 30 min to hours for a charging station. And gas pumps are much more likely to be working vs charging statins. Nice try with more propaganda though.
  • Richard Poore Sure, as the article itself notes (hence my ire) California has mandated that all new vehicles sold in state be EV by 2035. They require EV or hybrid by 2026. Since the author admits to this mandate it seems that the article title is clickbait... was really hoping that there was some sort of changes in the CA position since the state is sorely behind on where they need to be with charging stations for this sort of requirement.
  • VoGhost When will Audi eliminate the fake, oversized grills that impede aerodynamics?