The Pettiness of Pickup Sales

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the pettiness of pickup sales

With Ram having surpassed Chevrolet as North America’s number two truck brand, automotive outlets everywhere rushed to report on it — we sure did.

Unfortunately, General Motors hasn’t been fond of the framing used to discuss the matter. Tough cookies, right? Well, the situation is pretty nuanced and we should always strive to be thorough. GM officially still trumps Fiat Chrysler in terms of overall full-size pickup sales, thanks to the one-two punch of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra. And the company is also keen to point out that Ram’s volume has been inflated by the previous-generation 1500 being sold alongside the new version as a “Classic” model.

GM feels that this has made FCA’s win less legitimate and takes umbrage with the media sensationalizing the news as it prepares to totally destroy Ram by making a “massive move in full-size pickups” that will absolutely blow the doors off anything you could have possibly imagined. Insane!

Alright, I’m teasing. But GM’s recent statement to The Detroit News, simultaneously criticized the media for being hyperbolic while fanning the flames. “The thing everybody needs to remember about this sensationalized Ram versus Chevrolet sales battle is that Rome won the Pyrrhic War,” said GM spokesman Jim Cain. “They’ve indicated they’re gonna stay on offense. That’s fine. We are about to make a massive move in full-size pickups.”

If you need to brush up on your ancient history (kudos to GM hiring someone so well read, by the way), the Pyrrhic War was a five-year engagement between Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, and Roman Republic. However, the point is that it’s often used as an example of winning a war at a cost that effectively negates a real victory. Epirus won important battles, but ultimately lost the war due to the staggering amount of casualties the Romans inflicted upon its army.

An apt analogy, we suppose, but it doesn’t exactly shy away from the sensationalism GM seemingly wanted to avoid. But what fun would that be, really? Without a bit of pettiness and some corporate grandstanding, the truck war would be a absolute snooze-fest. Automotive rivalries are a big part of what gets me out of the bed in the morning and the main reason most brands even bother to up their game.

From The Detroit News:

GM and Cain maintain that selling a discounted Ram Classic alongside the new Ram light- and heavy-duty models will come back to bite FCA eventually. FCA leadership, meanwhile, has said their sales strategy is paying off. Ram Classic discounts meant Ram’s previous full-size model cost less than a new GM midsize truck.

“Ram has been on a tear since we made the strategic decision to enter the year with a three-truck strategy,” FCA U.S. sales chief Reid Bigland said in a statement. “The new Ram 1500, Ram Classic and Heavy Duty are all generating a huge response from customers and critics alike. This is now the third month Ram pickup sales have surpassed 60,000 since December. Our dealers had a steady stream of customers all month long.”

“It’s an extremely strong pickup market,” said Michelle Krebs, industry analyst with Cox Automotive. “But this is not some kind of new game. New trucks are expensive, and there are truck buyers that don’t care if they have the previous generation, and they get it deeply discounted. It’s how the game is played, and they all play it.”

General Motors recently said that it would begin reporting Silverado and Sierra heavy and light-duty truck sales separately, likely in a bid to push Ford and FCA to do the same. However, Ford has no incentive to do so as it’s F-Series is nearly assured to remain the volume leader for some time. And total volume is what matters most. Big trucks provide big margins for automakers and the more they sell, the more dough comes rolling in the front door — which is a point for GM over FCA.

So far this year, FCA has sold 299,480 Ram pickups against GM’s combined Silverado and Sierra volume of 352,866. Meanwhile, Ford’s siting pretty at 448,398 F-Series deliveries.

Although, the General has continued losing ground with both light and HD pickups enduring weakening sales vs last year. GM claims this is the result of it continuing to ramp up the all-new models. True, but we’d imagine the vehicles themselves retain some onus. The Ram 1500 has been a media darling ( it’s quite good) while the Silverado was dinged for its polarizing appearance and less comfortable ride (handles well for a truck, though).

Your opinions may vary, which is fine, but the point is that GM isn’t likely to shrug this off. It’s going to make excuses and play it cool, sure, but then it’ll build a more-competitive truck and come after FCA’s throat — which should be a lot of fun to watch. The more they keep fighting, the better.

[Image: General Motors

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  • Thelaine Thelaine on Jul 09, 2019

    Truck owners are some of the most brand-loyal buyers, but GM is still managing to lose them. With GM, there is always a "game-changer" just around the corner. More often than not, unfortunately, the game stays the same: GM shrinks. It is the most consistent aspect of their company performance for the last 50 years. GM just keeps getting smaller. They are the master of nothing. They are known for nothing. They are distinguished by nothing. Their reputation is nothing. They will inevitably go back to selling pickups on price. They have no choice. Thank God they have Denali, which was a great idea, well executed. Those guys should move to Cadillac, where they could do some good.

    • See 1 previous
    • Thelaine Thelaine on Jul 09, 2019

      @highdesertcat Same thing happened to me when I bought my Ram way back when. The second dealer, after wasting my time and trying to screw me, ended up offering me the truck for 100 dollars less than the first dealer who had been straight with me from the beginning. I went back and bought from the first dealer.

  • Avanti! Avanti! on Jul 09, 2019

    I won’t be in the market for a truck for another 5 years. Funny enough, but if FCA goes full Grand Caravan on the 1500 Classic and keeps churning them out at that point, that’s probably what I’ll buy. Unlikely, though.

  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
  • Kevin Ford can do what it's always done. Offer buyouts to retirement age employees, and transfers to operating facilities to those who aren't retirement age. Plus, the transition to electric isn't going to be a finger snap one time event. It's going to occur over a few model years. What's a more interesting question is: Where will today's youth find jobs in the auto industry given the lower employment levels?
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