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Do Chevy ads help Ram?

by David Zatz on

One year ago, Chevrolet launched a series of ads attacking the aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 pickups, to convince buyers that the Silverado’s steel was superior. One commercial shows rocks being dropped dumped into the pickup beds, damaging the Ford’s bed but not the Chevy’s.


When this ad was first aired, some pointed out that a bed-liner prevents this kind of damage. While some thought the ads would be devastatingly effective, others thought it would help sell Fords by publicizing their use of aluminum.  Ram chose to go its own way, and market the strengths of their trucks while making tributes to their owners.

Based just on sales numbers, the Chevy ads helped Ford and Ram more than Chevrolet.  Both Ram and Ford have seen their market share rising; and what was once thought impossible, Ram out-selling Chevrolet, seems to be a sustainable trend.

Some buyers may have been convinced about steel beds, but every full size pickup other than the Ford has them.

The “big three” pickup brands dominate the field, with around 84% of sales; the rest is split between the GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan. That includes all full size pickups from class 1 to 5 (F-150 and 1500 are class 1, F-250 and 2500 are class 2, etc.), along with Ram chassis-cabs.

J.D. Power figures show that Ford has cut retail incentives, while Chevrolet piled another $1,200 onto the hood of each truck, catching up to Ram — which tosses around $5,800 (January-May 2017) onto the hood, up by $100 since January-May 2016.

Ford also has an enviable average retail transaction price (the average price actually paid by individual buyers) of nearly $45,700. That’s well over Chevrolet’s $41,300 and Ram’s $40,100, though Chevrolet’s numbers are diluted by having GMC selling only premium trucks.

ford f150

A Ford rep noted that the premium series pickups, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum, were over half of all Super Duty sales last month, pushing up their average.  Ford’s average sales price went up by nearly $3,400 since Chevrolet started its “busted bed” campaign, far beating Chevrolet’s average increase of $550 and Ram’s $38.

These prices are retail only, and do not account for fleet sales — which are a huge chunk of Ford’s business. In May, a stunning 34% of Ford’s business was fleet sales (though few pickups are sold to the least appetizing fleet market, rental agencies). GM and FCA have slowly been pulling back from fleet sales.

The lower average-price increase for Ram could be due to a decision to garner more entry-level sales, pushing for the vast amounts of free publicity one gets by beating Chevrolet.

2016 chevrolet silverado

Chevrolet’s numbers are a bit lower than they should be due to the GMC-Chevy split, where both brands sell the same truck in different trim. Their new midsize Colorado/Canyon also drew away some full size sales, though Ford’s F-series outsold all GM pickups, combined, in May, albeit a good month for Ford pickups.

Automotive News wrote that GM’s “Tag Sale” may have turned customers away. Specific vehicles got large discounts, so a customer could be told a blue car was $7,000 more than an otherwise identical black one. GM recently dropped the Tag Sale.

There’s some evidence that Chevrolet’s ad campaign may have backfired, to the benefit of both Ford and Ram. If there’s a sense of déja vu, it may be from the Daimler-inspired Chrysler “German Engineering” ads — which caused Volkswagen sales to soar and took away Chrysler sales.

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