GM Passes Ford in Closely Watched Truck Race -- Update
By Mike Colias
General Motors Co. in 2020 dethroned rival Ford Motor Co. in
Detroit's closely watched "truck wars," securing the top slot in
the lucrative market for large pickup trucks.
For the first time since 2015, GM outsold Ford in large pickup
trucks, a category that generates the bulk of global profits for
each auto maker.
U.S. sales of GM's two pickup models -- the Chevrolet Silverado
and GMC Sierra -- rose 3.9% last year, to 839,691 trucks, even as
industrywide sales sank nearly 15% amid disruption from the
Covid-19 pandemic. Ford's F Series line, which includes its F-150
truck as well as the larger Super Duty, fell 12%, to 787,422, the
company said Wednesday.
The rivalry among GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's
Ram brand -- which combined dominate the U.S. market for large
pickups -- has become more intense as that category has grown as a
share of the overall vehicle market. Large pickups accounted for
16.7% of overall sales last year, up from 12.5% in 2015.
The trend has bolstered the bottom lines of the Detroit auto
makers, helping to fuel a prolonged period of prosperity that only
recently was disrupted by the Covid-19 health crisis.
Ford said its F-Series sales were hurt last year by tight
inventories due to pandemic-related factory shutdowns in the spring
and efforts to overhaul plants to build a new version of its
top-selling F-150 model.
Pickup-truck sales historically have accounted for around 70% of
Ford's global profit and about half for GM, Barclays estimated in
2019. Large SUVs such as the Chevy Suburban and Cadillac Escalade
-- which have the same mechanical guts as trucks -- contribute
nearly another quarter of GM's bottom line, the bank estimated.
GM's overall results also outpaced Ford's last year. GM said its
U.S. vehicle sales fell 11.8%, while Ford's sales declined 15.8%.
Overall, U.S. auto industry's sales dropped 14.6%, to 14.6 million
vehicles, according to data provided Wednesday by Motor
While the Covid-19 pandemic crimped overall demand, American
buyers dug deeper into their pockets when purchasing new wheels --
especially pickups. The average price paid for a light-duty
full-size pickup truck rose 9% last year, to about $45,800,
according to J.D. Power.
Ford's F Series line has been the top-selling pickup truck in
the U.S. for more than 40 years. GM's trucks are sold under two
brands, Chevy and GMC. GM's pickup sales under those two brands
have eclipsed total F Series sales in some years historically.
The pecking order in the pickup-truck battle often ebbs and
flows with the freshness of the companies' truck lineups.
Ford in recent weeks began rolling out its first redesigned
F-150 in about six years. The new model includes a fold-flat,
airplane-style front passenger seat and other creature comforts
that Ford executives have said will appeal to buyers as people
spend more time in their vehicles.
But factory work needed to prepare assembly lines to manufacture
the new truck, at plants in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City, has
limited supplies in recent months, crimping sales, Ford executives
Meanwhile, GM rolled out revamped versions of its Chevy
Silverado and GMC Sierra in 2019. The company cleared more factory
capacity to make larger, pricier versions and a broader selection
of distinct models, such as an off-road-specific truck, moves that
have boosted sales, executives have said.
The Detroit competitors have long sparred over bragging rights
in pickup trucks.
In 2012, Ford threatened to sue after GM aired a Super Bowl
commercial that suggested GM's pickup trucks would survive an
apocalypse while Ford's wouldn't. This fall, when GM touted a
revamped heavy-duty pickup truck as having "best in class" towing
capability, Ford publicly disputed the claim.
Fiat Chrysler's Ram brand also has emerged as a more-formidable
rival in the truck market.
Ram outsold the Chevy Silverado line in 2019, the first time for
that to happen including when the company's pickups were sold under
the Dodge name. Silverado sales moved back ahead of Ram's in
Write to Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 06, 2021 14:42 ET (19:42 GMT)
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