Domestic Truck Wars: No One Wants to Finish Last in Detroit

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

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.

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.

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]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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

    • See 8 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Apr 05, 2019

      @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.

  • Kushman1 Kushman1 on Apr 05, 2019

    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 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.

    • WhatsMyNextCar WhatsMyNextCar on Apr 07, 2019

      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.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X As much problems as I had with my '96 Chevy Impala SS.....I would love to try one again. I've seen a Dark Cherry Metallic one today and it looked great.
  • Susan O’Neil There is a good reason to keep the Chevrolet Malibu and other 4 door family sedans! You can transport your parents and other somewhat handicapped people comfortably and safety! If someone can stand and pivot you can put them in your car. An armrest in the back seat is appreciated and a handle above the door! Oh…and leather seats so your passenger can slide across the seat! 😊Plus, you can place a full sized wheelchair or walker in the trunk! The car sits a little lower…so it’s doable! I currently have a Ford Fusion and we have a Honda Accord. Our previous cars were Mercury Sables-excellent for transporting handicapped people and equipment! As the population ages-sedans are a very practical choice! POV from a retired handicapped advocate and daughter! 😊
  • Freddie Remember those ads that say "Call your doctor if you still have...after four hours"?You don't need to call your doctor, just get behind the wheel of a CUV. In fact, just look at one.I'm a car guy with finite resources; I can't afford a practical car during the week plus a fun car on the weekend. My solution is my Honda Civic Si 4 door sedan. Maybe yours is a Dodge Charger (a lot of new Chargers are still on dealer lots).
  • Daniel J Interesting in that we have several weeks where the temperature stays below 45 but all weather tires can't be found in a shop anywhere. I guess all seasons are "good enough".
  • Steve Biro For all the talk about sedans vs CUVs and SUVs, I simply can’t bring myself to buy any modern vehicle. And I know it’s only going to get worse.