By on April 4, 2019

2019 RAM 1500 front quarter

There’s a chill in the auto industry that wasn’t present a year ago. Sales are down compared to this time last year, with only a select few automakers posting year-to-date gains. Among members of the Detroit Three, volume loss is the order of the day.

Over the first three months of 2019, Ford sales sank 1.6 percent, General Motors sales declined 7 percent, and Fiat Chrysler volume dropped 3 percent. While the long-predicted slowdown is upon us, rivalry in the lucrative full-size pickup segment has never been hotter — and the battle for second place among the top three truck nameplates shows no signs of ending.

Naturally, Ford’s F-Series line took the volume crown, just as it has for decades, with sales up 0.2 percent through the end of March. Ford boasts that F-Series incentive spending was the lowest in the segment.

Chevrolet claims it’s standing firm on its spending, avoiding the urge to boost sales with a hood-denting cash dump. Unfortunately for Chevy, sales of the Silverado line are down 15.7 percent, year to date, despite the automaker keeping the old Silverado 1500 (now with an “LD” suffix) on the market to bolster volume and offer buyers a lower entry price. The next-generation 1500 dropped late last year, with the controversially designed 2020 Heavy Duty launching this summer.

2019 Chevrolet Silverado 2.7L Turbo

As for Ram, the continued production of the old 1500 (“Classic”) and new-for-2019 model worked wonders for volume, with the brand up 15 percent, year to date. March sales rose 9 percent.

Ram now has a growing lead over Chevrolet in the full-size truck race, recording 120,026 sales in the first quarter of 2019 to Chevy’s 114,313. In the last quarter of 2018, Silverado edged out Ram by just 226 units.

While a botched launch of the 2019 Ram 1500 proved beneficial to Chevy, which finished 2018 ahead of Ram, leads don’t always last. Compare Q1 2019’s results to the same quarter a year ago, when the Silverado nameplate garnered 135,545 buyers to the Ram line’s 103,964.

GM points to FCA’s generous sales incentives as the reason for its rival’s second-place position, though some question whether the General will have to follow suit. Even if it’s willing to let Ram take the silver sales medal, falling sales are cause for concern.

“Chevrolet has been disciplined. But how long can they maintain discipline as they’re losing market share? They’ll have to respond in some way,” Autoline host John McElroy told the Detroit Free Press.

2018 F-150 Power Stroke Diesel, Image: Ford

For Ford, safe in its first-place perch (it sold 214,611 F-Series trucks last quarter), the battle between GM and FCA is an amusing distraction. The Q1 volume bump, small though it may be, is no doubt music to Jim Hackett’s ears.

A next-generation F-150 will make an appearance later this year before going on sale as a 2020 model.

[Image: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC, Ford, General Motors]

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45 Comments on “Domestic Truck Wars: No One Wants to Finish Last in Detroit...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Is market share worth a dent in total profit? You can gain a crap load of market share by giving stuff away for free. I think Chevy’s approach is the right one. The incentives race is a race to the bottom and a bad way to train customers.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Suppose you’re about to buy your first personal use pickup. You just looked at the window sticker and found out that it’s going to cost $52,500 to get the equipment you want. Perhaps a nice CUV with a powerful V6 won’t be so bad after all. You remember when you were buying your first new car and a base pickup truck was priced against cars like Ford Escorts and Toyota Corollas. Did they add more technology to pickups than they did to cars? Not even close. A back seat and power windows doesn’t explain the 250% price increase when adjusted for inflation. Now suppose you saw the window sticker and it said $65K. If you’re a puppet, suddenly $52.5K doesn’t seem as bad. That’s how they’re priced. It has nothing to do with discipline. GM is run by people who were taken for a ride by higher education.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Apples to Apples, there’s no real price increase, aside from inflation. Of course the crank windows, vinyl bench seat, regular cab, manual trans, base engine, 2wd truck is unacceptable by today’s consumers, socially or otherwise. And that’s talking full MSRP. Back then rebates and incentives weren’t as generous.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Every class of vehicle has exploded in size and content over the past thirty years. Most of them have doubled in price while pickup prices have increased 400 to 600%.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I won’t disagree with you, sportyaccordy…but when I jumped on Chevrolet website a month ago the opening scrolling graphic touted incentives of $10K on the new ’19 1500. I thought to myself, ‘Well, the new trucks must not be selling well.’

    • 0 avatar

      It’s interesting to watch. There is a balance point there of profit to volume. It seems GM may thinks it’s about now as they are starting to pile incentives onto the 2019 models (they have been doing it for 5 months or so on the 2018 classic or whatever they call it models.) While some may say that’s a sign of GM hubris they timed it well for shareholders as they can pass the incentives off as necessary due to a falling market not product issues.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      sportyaccordy,

      Major manufacturers get really stupid when it comes to market share – and office buildings.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m not sure why GMC Sierra sales weren’t counted in this. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why the Ram is selling – I’m no truck guy, but clearly it’s a damned nice piece.

    • 0 avatar
      EquipmentJunkie

      I know what you’re saying, but I can’t remember when GMC numbers ever were combined with Chevrolet’s. I’m wrong…they were years ago when Ford was threatening to outsell both Chevrolet & GMC brands combined for the first time.

      • 0 avatar
        SD 328I

        Actually, there has only been 3 times in the last couple of decades where the combined total of Silverado and Sierra outsold the F-series.

        Last time was in 2015 as the new aluminum F150 was running into production delays.

        Rare is it that GM combined full size truck sales have outsold Ford.

        • 0 avatar
          EquipmentJunkie

          SD 328I, I was referring to the ’90s when Ford overtook the GM truck twins…which was almost considered unthinkable at the time.

          It is amazing how much sales progress Ford has made in the truck realm in the last 40-45 years. Same thing for Dodge/Ram. Dodge sold less than 100K trucks in ’93. Of those, 50K were Cummins-powered…because that is all the engines they could get.

          I think of this quote often when it comes to the Chevrolet brand:
          “No marketers have done less with more than the people charged with nurturing one of the most iconic American brands of all time.”
          – Peter M. DeLorenzo June 4, 2018

    • 0 avatar

      Looks like 40K Sierra sales. So still better then Ram but getting mighty close.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Seems that price is the issue. Keeping less expensive older models around, FCA incentivizes etc. What I’m saying is that full size trucks especially with options are really expensive and maybe they have reached the limit of what most buyers are willing to pay.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Ranger sales averaged 3,140 units a month (total of 9,420 units)

    That’s pitiful. The Colorado averaged 11,164 units a month with a total 33,492 units. Canyon added another almost 7k sales to that total.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Not sure about your locale, but here in Houston Ranger supply is running really thin still….

    • 0 avatar
      SD 328I

      When did full scale Ranger sales actually start? From what I understand, they are working overtime to crank out trucks. I went to my local dealer recently to check them out, they only had 5 trucks and 3 were sold.

      Lets see how they are doing by the end of the year.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    So
    214,611 Ford Fseries up 0.2%
    120,026 RAM P/U up 15%
    114,313 Chevy Silverados down 15%
    40,546 GMC Sierras down 2.2%
    25,100 Toyota Tundras down 4.6%
    9,683 Nissan Titans down 23.9%
    6,952 Honda Ridgeline down 0.8%

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah looks like a small number of conquests for Ford and whole lot for Ram.

    • 0 avatar
      Peter Gazis

      Midsized

      58,183 Tacoma up 8.2%
      33,484 Colorado up. 16.1%
      20,221. Frontier down 11.4%
      9,421 Ranger. New
      6,954 Canyon down 3.6%
      123 Gladiator New

      When the ____ hits the fan GM will still be selling a hell of a lot of pickups. Nissan & Honda will be quickly discontinued.

      Toyota will have 2 shiny new factories. To go with all the shiny Toyota pickups on the road. By that I mean pickups that don’t get used for work.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    I was shocked to see GM third but as already mentioned, sounds like GMC was excluded.
    Anyhow, that front view of the Chevy reminds me of their “cats eyes” front ends from the early 2000s which was hideous. My 2014 Chev HD gets more handsome every day.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Amazing how far Chevy has slipped with its most profitable product line. Nobody would have ever believed that they get so far behind Ford and even behind Dodge/RAM 20-30 years ago.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Wasn’t GM bragging about the profit they baked into each Silverado? Something like double Ford (I don’t know about FCA).

    Not sure where I’m going with this point, honestly… I supposed that there should be room for Chevy to play the incentives game and still maintain healthy profit.

    Unfortunately the double the profit margin also shows in the truck. I actually like the new style, but on the whole, inside and out, it just kinda feels like an old, dated truck already vs the other 2.

    Which makes me think they’re gonna need even more incentives than Ford and FCA in order to move the metal on an inferior vehicle.

    I suppose if I’m honest, the biggest thing GM has is their V8s. Yes, FCA and Ford offer them as well, but GM’s are excellent. Its too bad they’re wrapped in mediocrity.

    I never wish GM ill, but sometimes I do wonder what they’re thinking. You can certainly go the cheap-out-double-the-margin route. Looks good short term on the financial statements. Until suddenly it doesn’t and the consumer figures it out and now you’ve got a sales problem. See Ford in the Jacques Nasser era. Or Mercedes in the 2000s era.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      At the launch event for the truck several journalists recorded that GM actually bragged about getting MORE profit out of this generation than the last generation.

      That would make me SO confident in plunking down my hard earned dollars.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The 4.3L and 6.2L are really the two big GM guns for me. Motor Trend just did a “base” (although still crew cab and 4WD) truck test and that V6 did quite well against the Ford & Ram. Plus it’s the last pushrod V6 *EVER*. And, any additional praise I’d give for the mighty 6.2L would be superfluous.

      The 5.3L is alright. It seems capable of good fuel economy but it is down on power compared to the “volume” V8s offered by competitors. That wouldn’t be such an issue if the 6.2L wasn’t behind a big paywall.

      The 3.0L TD looks good on paper, but it feels like GM kind of pulled it out of its butt and it’s still an American diesel which means it has a lot of expensive emissions equipment hanging off it. It’ll probably be behind a big paywall too. So it’s really only for the diesel fetishists.

      The 2.7T would be a hard pass. Maybe it works for the 4-cylinder fans out there.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        “The 4.3L and 6.2L are really the two big GM guns for me. Motor Trend just did a “base” (although still crew cab and 4WD”

        The Chevy is 2 HI and 4HI only. No low range.

        RAM completely murdered both those other trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      A friend of mine is getting weekly calls from his Chevy salesman friend who “thought you might be interested in a new 2019 Silverado!”, with over $!0K off sticker before he even dickers. He’s tempted, but he thinks the Chevy/GMC fullsized pickups are pretty hideous,and Ford and FCA offer similar deals. He’s happy with his paid off ’16 Silverado and usually keeps a vehicle until it’s a basket case before scrapping or selling it. I don’t like the looks of any of the latest gen of pickups, the Ram was the best looking one, IMHO, by far, but it’s gotten uglied up too, but the inside is very nice.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The new Silverado features a notably crappier interior and poor ride and handling compared to the Ram in particular. I’m with you that if GM isn’t incentivizing the truck to the same level as it’s competitors, they’re merely insulting customers and driving them away.

      You can’t take a strong margin to the bank on a lost sale.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The bottom line is the redesign of the 2019 Silverado IS NOT being well received at all. The front end is a botch job and the interior reeks of rental vehicle status.

    The moment I saw the PICS of the 2019 I went down to the Chevrolet dealer and bought a new 2018. Silverado LTZ Crew Cab-4WD. My 2018 is the same color as the 2019 pictured above.

    Got $10,000 off sticker. Later they put another $2,000 on the hood after I purchased.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    GM’s V8s are hard to beat.

    But the new Ram’s looks, especially the interior are hard to ignore. For people who want to look richer than they are (and that’s a lot of people), the Ram is going to capture a few Ford sales and a few more Chevy/GMC sales.

    And I may be wrong about turbos’ longevity, since Ford keeps selling lots of them. and wrong about the aluminum boxes (I actually did drop a tool box in one and it did pierce it).

    GM risks permanently losing customers. It’s kind of late now to change things, but the one thing they can do, which would cost them nothing, is OFFER THE BIG V8 on lower-level trims. Sell me a big V8 in a cheaper truck. How hard is that? Then, I can live with my sub-Ram interior.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I honestly agree the only way GM can save this botched truck is with $30k 6.2L trucks. That’s the only way I can imagine looking past that hideous truck.

  • avatar
    Jawn_Kochtowstun

    Well once again Ford walks all over the competition, despite having the oldest offering in the group. Great job Ford!

    • 0 avatar
      EBFlex

      Fleet sales are amazing aren’t they?

      • 0 avatar
        SD 328I

        You mean farmers, construction companies, that sort of fleet buyers?

        The very people and companies that full-size trucks advertise to?

        This isn’t a Fusion being dumped at a rental car service.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          Any fleet buyer. It’s easy to rack up sales when you sell vehicles to fleets via dirt cheap pricing.

          I know this is some time ago but an employer of mine bought a crew cab super duty for $25k at state bid fleet prices. That was 2010, but you couldn’t step into that truck on the retail side for less than $35k.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      When your entire firm depends on one model, you better get it right.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        The F-Series is not a model.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It’s just F-series, not “F-Series”. But they’re all on the same “platform” now, since 2016 calender. Just different fenders, few cosmetics and whatnot.

          Silverado and Sierras are also multiple “models”, 1500, 2500HD and 3500HD. It’s the same with RAM (R-series?), except they’re running two different platforms simultaneously.

          But Fleet Sales are actually a good thing for pickups. Who told you otherwise? They’re not like fleet cars that get dumped back on the market within months.

          Fleet pickups get driven into the ground, sold for scrap value, and fleet buyers come back for more. They fly off the assembly line, scores or dozens at a time, all identical strippers and fleet white.

          Plus fleet buyers aren’t particular over fit-n-finish, paint quality, etc. They’re looking for durable, not soft-touch, and small warranty-issues are usually ignored or fixed by their own staff, just to keep the wheels turning.

          • 0 avatar
            EBFlex

            “But they’re all on the same “platform” now, since 2016 calender. Just different fenders, few cosmetics and whatnot.”

            Pretty sure a F150 doesn’t share a frame, grille, headlights, etc with a F450.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Frames don’t define a “platform”, same as fenders, headlights, etc.

            First learn what a platform consist of. Tahoe/Escalades for example share the Silverado/Sierra platform, depending on the generation changeover, and this while their frames are far from interchangeable.

        • 0 avatar
          SD 328I

          Neither is the Silverado, Sierra or Ram.

          They are a line of light and heavy duty trucks. There is no difference to how their numbers are calculated.

  • avatar
    kushman1

    So let’s be honest all if not most full size pickups are all collectively ugly and overpriced as of late but when it comes down to it, it’s:

    Ford’s #1 vs Ram’s interior vs chevy /GMC , than toyota, nissan

    When FCA made Ram into it’s own entity with marketing etc to match it was a great idea because in both “america segments” of pickups and muscle coupes ram/dodge challenger is killing Chevy. If FCA woke up and realized now the time to build out both brands to take on chevy.ford etc now is the time built around those 2nd place successes. All FCA needs to do is keep marketing money going and they got it. It was never Chevy putting out a better product it was just an untapped Ram Brand.

    • 0 avatar
      WhatsMyNextCar

      I read through this comment 3 times, and I still don’t follow.

      What are we all being honest about? And how is that related to the rest of your comment? What’s the garbage about “america segments” [sic]?

      Is your point that FCA just needs to keep advertising? Is the whole comment just a rant about FCA?

      My goodness… This was a waste of time.


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