The Silverado and Sierra Have Topped the F-Series

Let me start by saying I'm invested in both Ford (NYSE: F  ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) and think both are excellent investments right now. Let me also say I'm proud to own both because these two are paving the way for a Detroit – nay, an American – comeback in the automotive industry. Though they took different paths to get to where they are today, what matters most is that they've learned from past mistakes. What matters now is that management is actually doing its job, and the companies are changing consumer perceptions with each new vehicle put on the market.

That said, when it comes down to the full-size-truck segment, these two – and their loyal consumers – are bitter rivals. I recently wrote about how I believe the next generation F-150 will continue Ford's recent success over GM. Historically speaking, look how closes this battle really is. Let's look at a table and a graph, and see what we can take away from each.

Last 15 years of U.S. sales

By a hair
There's a lot of things to consider here, but by the facts the Silverado and Sierra together have outsold the F-Series over the last 15 years. I'm not at all surprised to see that over the 15 years totaled, the two are within 75,000 vehicles sold of one another. What an incredible rivalry! Now you can see why both Ford and GM focus so heavily on this market; it's worth a ton of money and tough to take market share. Together Ford and GM crush the rest of the market – although Dodge Ram also had impressive growth in 2012.

Set you straight
There are no caveats here. Both automakers have historically had similar fleet sales, and both include all ranges and models in the U.S. figures. The only thing I may consider a caveat is that since the recession, Ford has managed to keep its lead while trimming operating costs much faster than GM. This has been great news for investors, and has helped Ford to much higher profit margins than competitors. GM is taking notes, and is taking the same steps to trim platforms as Ford has done, but look at the difference. By the end of the year Ford will have 85% of global sales from nine core platforms. In comparison, GM was a bit slower, and it will take until 2018 to get down to 14 platforms.

Enter the 2014 Silverado
GM's explanation for the F-Series recently outselling both its models combined is that its truck is older. This is true, since GM had to focus on correcting its balance sheet from the bailout it didn't have the cash to refresh its vehicle portfolio, which it can now finally begin doing. Now that the 2014 Silverado is going to be released this spring, all eyes will be on sales figures. This is the year in which the top dog in the most profitable vehicle segment will be decided – full-size trucks are estimated to represent over 60% of both companies' profits. Let's take a quick look at a graph made from the table above.

The long-term sales trend wasn't as evident with just numbers, so here's a better visual. No one knows for sure if full-size-truck sales will ever reach previous highs, considering that consumers are downsizing vehicles more often now. One thing is for sure: People will always need trucks. If fuel efficiency improves with the CAFE standards, there is a lot of room for growth that will greatly impact Ford and GM's bottom lines, and reward investors.

Will this be the year that Silverado and Sierra outsell the F-Series – for the first time since the recession ended? Or will it not be enough for GM, and in 2014 when the next-generation F-150 is released Ford will continue its recent success. I know where my bet lies, but after looking at the numbers today, I'm very happy to be invested in both. I'm also glad to be invested in an American comeback. 

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 4:26 PM, Desktopguy wrote:

    GM Still has 30 years of catching up to do.And when Ford comes out with there new Atlas Line in 2015.

    They well be back on top.GM would be smart to focus on the small truck line since Ford quit making the Ranger.And they better hurry because Toyota has a nice small truck line.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 4:42 PM, TMFTwoCoins wrote:

    Agreed on the next F-150, I think it wins over the market. I'm interested to see how the year head start that the Silverado has changes things short term.

    GM is definitely re-focusing on the mid-size market, as they plan to release the Canyon and Colorado in the fall -- maybe as different names. I think it's a good move.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 4:44 PM, raysscj wrote:

    silverado---chevy sierra---gmc f-series---ford thats two to one, is that what you call fair? some how your math is flawed, two vs. one if it takes two auto makers to defeat one ,and you write about it and state that fact it takes two brands of gm`s to beat a ford (and still not doing it)

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 4:47 PM, duckslayer2000 wrote:

    Not to be picky, but since the Ford logo is blue and almost all of Chevy's commercials show a red truck, wouldn't it be better to illustrate the table that way?

    Other than that, great info. Thanks for the write up.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:08 PM, TMFTwoCoins wrote:

    @ raysscj,

    My math is not flawed. This was a GM vs Ford comparison. GMC and Chevrolet are GM brands. If you combine the sales of Silverado and Sierra, it's an accurate GM vs Ford comparison for which automaker sells more full-size pickups.

    @duckslayer2000

    Ha! Had I noticed that, I would have changed it. I just went with the default excel color scheme.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:41 PM, cgjimmy5 wrote:

    It makes sense that the Silverado and the F-series truck sales will increase since GMC no longer makes the Canyon/Colorado and Ford doesn't sell the Ranger domestically anymore. However I think people looking for fuel efficiency would give up their American cars for a Toyota Tacoma since it's the last medium truck left. It's a shame to see those small (more economical) trucks go off the market.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:44 PM, Mitttt wrote:

    Governments have been doing their share to support Government Motors. Have you noticed how many GM vehicles they buy compared to others?

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 5:53 PM, Topher81 wrote:

    From what I see the F150 still tops them both. if you do them Idividually. Ford is on top..when you do the combine of the sierra and silverado yeah they have a few that top ford but the problem is your combing 2 trucks to one and unfair. Ford is on top and will stay on top.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:01 PM, pikappa wrote:

    I don't know how much difference it will make to the results. But if you are going to combine between brand lines then you need to add the Lincoln line of trucks with the Ford trucks for US sales.

    As I understand, from late 2001-2002 they sold the Lincoln Blackwood and in 2006-2008 they sold the Lincoln Mark LT.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:08 PM, klirby wrote:

    I would love to see how many of the GM vehicles were purchased by the government at all levels.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:15 PM, TMFTwoCoins wrote:

    @pikappa (Pike?)

    I suppose I could have added those in there, but it's a very tiny sales amount compared to the others included.

    Before the The Lincoln Mark LT was canceled, it peaked in 2005 at around 10k units sold and dwindled fast.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:28 PM, buz6562 wrote:

    Did they count the Lincoln trucks as well?

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 7:05 PM, cs49256 wrote:

    If they add lincoln trucks they may as well add the avalanche and I think cadillac had a version of the escalade like an avalanche.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 7:08 PM, TMFTwoCoins wrote:

    I didn't count Lincoln trucks. I explain why in a comment above

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 7:25 PM, syr1980 wrote:

    Now you need to go back an find out how many are of each are still on the road.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 10:51 PM, SwK0212 wrote:

    The bottom line. Chevy/GMC's new truck is already outdated by what Ford and Ram (Dodge) have on the market now. Sure the 5.3 in the GM has been updated and is good for 23mpg in a regular cab 4x2 but no one I know is going to go for a truck with less horsepower just to get 1 extra mpg vs. a Ford with more horsepower and a torque curve that mimics a diesel with its Ecoboost gas motor. The interior although an improvement in the GM mill's is still not on par of what Ford or Ram offer, not even when its the top of the line Denali. Now factor in the fact that Ram will have a small displacement diesel coming to their trucks very soon, well this is going to be a major game changer as well. At this point all I can say is the path that GM took in trying to make its truck brand evolutionary instead of revolutionary was a mistake. If you doubt me then look at what happened when they introduced their new model and then Ford introduced their Atlas concept and stole all of GM's thunder.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:09 PM, TRIndyWest wrote:

    It's correct to combine the Silverado and Sierra as one. They're the same truck...they're even built on the same assembly line. I used to work at a GM truck assembly plant and the Silverado and Sierra were intermixed coming down the line.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 11:54 PM, autoserv wrote:

    Do the Ford numbers include the Lincoln trucks as well? They should being you've lumped Chevy and GMC together.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2013, at 1:50 AM, pikappa wrote:

    TMFTwoCoins:

    I understand Lincoln Mark LT sales peaked in with about 12,750 units sold. Further, sales after the 2008 model year where stopped in the US. But, Lincoln still sells the truck in Mexico, today.

    IMO it seems apparent that the article wants to poke holes in Ford's claim.

    However, one key detail is overlooked. Let's investigate Ford's statement: 'Ford F-series America's Best-Selling Truck' - 36 Years. This includes the F-150, which was the limitation of the article, AND the Super Duty Series which include all F-250s, F-350s, and F-450s.

    What is the outcome if the article includes the above against the whole GM full-size line-up. One thing the article seems to prove is that the US loves full-size trucks.

    For those who care, yes I do drive a '98 F-150 w/ 167k+ miles and still going strong with original engine, transmission and clutch! But for everyone one like me odds are there is an equal on the GM side.

    I guess I am the type of guy automakers hate to see - but if something works why fix it or change it.

    This could be a factor in the lower Ford F-150 sales!?

    It would be interesting to see is how many F-150 are still on the road and how many of the sales are to 'new' F-150 owners vs repeats. But gathering this data would be a considerable effort.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2013, at 8:01 AM, TMFTwoCoins wrote:

    @pikappa

    My article isn't to poke holes in Ford's claim -- I'm a Ford guy -- but I call it like I see it. I merely wanted to find an answer I hadn't seen before. So I totaled it up myself, and drew my own conclusion to which brand is bringing home market share historically in the most profitable segment in the U.S. market.

    And to your last point, I had survey data from an automotive third party company that showed Ford owners had the highest repeat customer loyalty.Though it was not broken down by model. I forgot who rounded out the top five though.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 3:29 PM, 50yardline wrote:

    One thing too, that boosted Ford F-150 sales. In 2011, Ford discontinued the Ranger light duty truck. If someone had to have a Ford brand truck, they would be forced to buy an F-150.

  • Report this Comment On January 03, 2014, at 5:45 PM, magpies wrote:

    The Ford F-series include huge trucks in it sales count....not just pick ups. When they count the F-650 they are counting a delivery box truck as a pick up truck. GM doesn't "cheat" the stats to make a false claim as Ford does. Ford truck are years behind GM's in quality, attractiveness and durability.

  • Report this Comment On February 28, 2014, at 10:45 AM, FordF150Man wrote:

    That chart only goes back 15 years (beginning 1998). What about the other 22 years? Ford has been #1 for 37 years!

    So, is what they are really saying is that it takes two GM trucks to outsell one Ford? Yep. But, I suppose GM looks at the bottom line for sales of all their pickups.

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