Prior to 2017, the Dodge and Ram trucks had only outsold the Chevrolet Silverado on a monthly basis two times. This year, however, five months into 2017, the Ram has outsold the Silverado three times, in three consecutive months. After 40 years of the Ford F-Series being the #1 selling truck in America, the coveted position is actually the number two spot.
Year-to-date, Ford has sold almost 352,000 pickups, Chevy has 212,425, and Ram is sitting on 207,370. In percentages, Ford and Ram are both up over 8% year-to-date, while Chevy is down 5%. So, why the sudden fall for Chevy Silverado?
Chevy Lost The Incentive War
Last summer, Chevy started its campaign of Red Tag Bonuses. The dealers had to choose specific vehicles at the beginning of the month that carried extra incentives. I wrote about this in January in an article titled “auto manufacturer-sponsored bait and switch”.
The Chevy dealers chose their oldest inventory for the extra incentives, and usually, there are reasons a vehicle is still in inventory. So, a prospective buyer walks on the lot and looks at a new Silverado with the Bonus Tag and he or she loves the price, but the same truck in the color he or she really wants is thousands higher. This put the dealers in a position of trying to explain this ridiculous program and their buyer heads to the closest Ford or Ram dealer where all the vehicles carry the same rebates and incentives. Chevy scrapped the tags at the end of May 2017.
The question I have for the Chevy marketing gurus is, what took you so long? Silverado sales have been sliding all year, so wouldn’t it make sense to assume your marketing and incentive programs are not working? I can tell you with certainty, in March when Ram outsold Chevy the first time, if I am running GM, I pull the plug and do something different.
Did Slamming The Ford Aluminum Body Backfire?
You saw the ads many times. There is a Ford truck and a Chevy truck and they drop hundreds of pounds of bricks of some sort into the beds of both trucks. The Ford aluminum bed showed damage and the Chevy did not. I had a lot of radio show listeners ask me what I thought of the commercial. Frankly, I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot, but the question is, did Chevy actually let people know that Ford went aluminum for the first time? As I told many people, if you routinely drop that many bricks in the bed of a truck from 10-feet above, buy the Silverado.
I have done a lot of advertising in my life, and that commercial broke all my rules. First, I never slammed my competition, I don’t think that is any way to build credibility. Second, if I am running a car company, I’m not going to spend millions of dollars showing off my #1 competitor. I wonder how many people liked the looks of the Ford most?
Where Does Chevy Go From Here?
Again, if I am running Chevrolet Motor Division, I am going to study what Ram is doing and making sure my dealers are competitive with incentives. Should Ram finish the year ahead of Silverado, heads will roll. I would not spend any time worrying about Ford, it’s already too late for this year. The Ford aluminum body has been widely accepted and Ford has done a good job marketing its Ecoboost family of engines.
GM execs say that GMC trucks hurt Chevy sales, but I am not really buying that story, GMC has been around for many years. For the last three months, Ford F-series pickups have outsold Silverado, GMC Sierra, Chevy Colorado, and GMC Canyon combined.
My final move if I am running Chevy? I would be talking to my retailers. I want to find out why they are losing pickup deals to Ford and Fiat Chrysler. The factories know exactly how many vehicles the dealers sell, but have no earthly idea how many deals are lost, and that is the question that needs to be answered.