Not everyone is happy that the Ram 1500 took the No. 2 pickup sales slot for the first three months of the year.
General Motors, in fact, is crying foul.
The Chevy Silverado lost out in the bruising sales battle in the competitive full-size pickup race for second place in the first quarter of 2019, and General Motors is irked. Ford’s F-150 remains well entrenched in first place.
The skirmish is the latest example of the bad blood on display in the ongoing Truck Wars, which are pitting the Detroit Three against one another in an automotive world version of "Mortal Kombat." Ram, which had been the No. 3 truck brand, had sales of 120,026 trucks in the first quarter compared with 114,313 Silverados. Ford sold 214,611 F-Series trucks.
“The Truck Wars is kind of a no-holds-barred landscape,” observed Jeremy Acevedo, manager of industry analysis for Edmunds.
General Motors spokesman Jim Cain told the Free Press that “the Ram pickup’s first-quarter sales victory over Silverado amounted to a hollow chocolate Easter bunny because FCA has been pulling out all stops to win sales.”
To Acevedo, that’s the point, and he said the trash-talking is likely to continue.
“The gauntlet’s been thrown down here, and Chevy will make some moves to get back in the second spot. I think this is just getting started,” Acevedo said.
Here are some of FCA's sins, according to Cain:
>> Paying dealers bonuses of $8,500 to put Ram Classics into courtesy transportation fleets (the sales count as “retail” deliveries but ultimately get disposed of as used cars).
>> Offering stacked discounts on Ram Classic topping $18,000 in some markets, such as Texas.
>> Aggressively pushing short-term, low-mileage leases for employees/families in metro Detroit.
Cain said the tactics have stalled the launch of the new Ram 1500, which is being built at Sterling Heights Assembly at the same time the Classic is being built at Warren.
Acevedo, the Edmunds analyst, however, noted that FCA has not limited its incentives to the Ram Classic, and is applying them to the new version as well.
“It’s aggressive. It’s kind of unprecedented. You usually don’t see new product hitting the market with these incentives right away,” Acevedo said.
As for the courtesy fleet issue, FCA did put 553 Ram 1500s in its dealer customer loaner courtesy fleet in February, which works out to about 1.4% of the 39,950 that were sold that month. March numbers were not available.
Despite the verbal jabs from the competition, FCA played it straight with its comments on the dustup.
"FCA is committed to providing competitive products at competitive prices in the marketplace. Our incentives constantly change, and vehicle prices can vary by dealership,” according to a statement from Fiat Chrysler.
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with Cox Automotive’s Autotrader, said GM and FCA are simply engaging in different strategies. GM would love to be in second place in the segment, but the company is focused on profits.
“The fact of the matter is Ram beat Chevy Silverado, period. That’s part of their strategy. GM is focused on profits and has been very restrained on incentives. Ram has been aggressive on incentives. And why not? There’s good money to be made,” Krebs said, noting that the auto companies engage in various tactics depending on their ultimate strategies.
“General Motors has used the same tricks in the past. They’ve all done this at one time or another,” she said.
Pickups are the “bread and utter” for the Detroit Three, and the segment has always been competitive, Krebs said.
“We’ll see how it comes out in wash when quarterly profits come in,” Krebs said.