At George Matick Chevrolet in Redford Township, pickups are in hot demand.
Even though the dealership has sold fewer vehicles through June than it did this time last year, sales of the full-size Silverado and midsize Colorado pickups haven’t slowed.
“We’re selling less total vehicles, but we are selling more pickups,” said Molly Williams, chief operating officer for Matick Auto Group, which also owns Matick Toyota in Macomb Township. “So our percentage of pickup sales are up.”
Across General Motors, sales of all pickups are soaring, partly because of GM selling down older models to make way for the redesigned 2019 full-size pickups.
GM’s closest competitor, Ford, continues to have the best-selling vehicle in the F-150, but for the first half of the year, GM outpaced Ford in pickup sales when factoring in midsize trucks. Besides its full-size Silverado and GMC Sierra, GM also sells the midsize Colorado and GMC Canyon.
The contest between the automakers stands to get even more heated when Ford’s midsize Ranger goes on sale early next year.
But the gains to date are significant for GM. GM and Ford were tied in the U.S. for pickup market share in the first six months last year, with each having 32 percent of the market, according to a report on www.seekingalpha.com. For the first six months this year, GM sold 478,671 pickups, a 12 percent gain from the year-ago period, according to Kelley Blue Book data. Ford sold 451,138 pickups, a 5 percent gain.
As a result, GM’s total market share for pickups rose to 34 percent compared with Ford’s 32 percent, the report said.
Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles pickup sales lagged in the first half of the year due, in part, to a production snag on the new Ram 1500, the report said. Kelley Blue Book said FCA sold 233,539 pickups, a 7 percent decline from the first half of 2017.
Some of GM’s gains came from bargain hunters helping GM clear out old inventory as it prepares for the redesigned 2019 Silverado and 2019 Sierra, both due this fall.
“They’re in sell-down mode,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for AutoTrader. “When people go on Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader, the F-150 is still the most shopped truck. But we always knew this year would be a truck war because three of the big models are being redesigned and would go after the F-150.”
The 2019 Ram 1500 has also been redesigned and is new this year.
Krebs said GM largely ate up market share from the Ram last month.
Last month, “Ford sales were up 2 percent to nearly 80,000 trucks, that’s huge, pushing them up 5 percent for the year,” Krebs said.
The biggest truck months are typically in the fall, so, “it’s been unusually strong sales” this spring and summer, Krebs said, noting that a strong economy and heavy construction are driving a demand for pickups. Also, the average age of a pickup on the road is 11.6 years, making many owners ready to trade their trucks in, especially for a good deal, she said.
Three truck strategy
A GM spokesman, however, said the company’s success with pickup sales relies on more than just bargains.
“On a volume basis, we’ve sold more pickups than the F-series over the past four years in a row and that continues through this year,” said Jim Cain, a GM spokesman.
For all of last year, GM sold “a record 948,909” pickups in the U.S., “more than any other automaker for the fourth year in a row.” That includes full- and midsize trucks.
Ford sold 896,764 F-series last year, without offering a midsize truck. A Ford spokesman said F-Series is America’s “best-selling truck for 41 straight years.”
“F-Series is on a record setting sales pace in 2018, with increased market share and a winning sales gap of more than 160,000 units over its closest competitor,” said Ford’s Mike Levine in an email. “F-Series transaction prices are the highest of any full-size pickup manufacturer with lower incentives than Ram, Chevrolet or GMC.”
Levine said in the full-size pickup segment, not counting midsize pickups, Ford has a 39 percent market share, which Kelley Blue Book confirms. That’s up from 38.4 percent for the first half of 2017, KBB analysts said. When all pickups are considered, Ford is at 32 percent share, lower than GM’s 34 percent, KBB said.
For full-size trucks only, GM is at 33.9 percent share, said KBB.
GM’s Cain credited a “three-truck strategy” for driving up sales. He said Chevrolet and GMC are, “the only brands that offer a midsize, light-duty and heavy-duty pickups. Ford missed the market and they won’t have the Ranger until sometime early next year.”
GM’s pickup models are: The Chevy full-size Silverado HD, Silverado 1500 and the midsize Colorado. Its GMC brand sells the Sierra HD, Sierra 1500 and the midsize Canyon.
Ford will launch the 2019 Ranger early next year to compete with the Chevy Colorado and Toyota Tacoma.
More: Ford Ranger revives storied nameplate with new tech, features, looks
Jeep will bring a midsize pickup to market next year. Its name has not been announced. FCA is also considering a midsize Ram “work truck” for commercial users and developing markets. It could be built in Mexico in a year or two and will be sold mostly overseas. Hyundai will sell the Santa Cruz midsize pickup, but it has not given a date for when the Santa Cruz will come to market.
All of it signals a battle ahead for the midsize pickup market share, analysts said.
“That part of the market’s never been more than 3 percent or 4 percent, so you have all these players fighting for that little bit of share,” Krebs said. “That’s when it gets really interesting.”
For the price of a phone
The average transaction price on a full-size pickup in the U.S. is $49,206, Krebs said.
GM has been the most aggressive in putting incentives on its pickups, data show. For June, the average incentive on the Chevrolet Silverado was $6,600, and on the GMC Sierra, it was $4,500, an AutoTrader analysis showed. That compares with an average incentive for the Ford F-150 of $3,600.
For FCA, the Ram 1500 had an average incentive of $6,400, but Krebs said that was largely because a lot of 2017 pickups remain in inventory.
Ford’s average day supply last month was a mere 45 days, which is “insanely low for cars, much less trucks,” Krebs said. The industry average is 60 days.
The tight supply, likely related to a May fire at supplier Meridian Magnesium Products in Eaton Rapids that disrupted F-150 production, means “Ford would have had a hard time selling any more with inventory that low. Ford certainly didn’t need to slather on heavy incentives to move the inventory, because they simply didn’t have it,” Krebs said
Last month, U.S. News and World Report listed the top nine best truck leases. Four of them were for GM pickups: Silverado, Colorado, Sierra and Canyon. Ford’s F-150 and Super Duty did not make the list.
At Matick, leasing business is strong. Matick is advertising a 24-month lease on a 2018 Silverado Double Cab LT 4×4 for $106 a month with $999 down at signing. She said that same lease on a 2018 Chevrolet Cruise compact sedan is $86 a month with $999 due at signing.
“You can get a truck or a car for what you pay for your phone now,” said Williams, the Matick Auto Group COO.
At Bowman Chevrolet in Clarkston, about 85 percent of customers lease rather than buy cars, said Rhonda Jensen, Bowman’s general manager.
Bowman also has seen an uptick in the sales of pickups this year being driven by continued low gasoline prices and lease offerings that, in some cases, make a full-size Silverado more affordable than the midsize Colorado.
“I even see a lot of women buying Silverado pickup trucks now,” Jensen said. “Silverado and Equinox SUVs are the biggest parts of our sales for the first six months. Last year, Malibu and Cruise (sedans) were.”
Analysts say the true winner of a pickup sales war will come this fall when GM’s redesigned pickups come to market and all the automakers’ inventory is well stocked.
“Let’s see if they maintain that momentum with the new one,” Krebs said. “It’s always evolving.”
Contact Jamie L. LaReau: email@example.com or 313-222-2149.
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