The all-new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado was a big step forward for General Motors (NYSE:GM). No longer would GM rely on heavy discounts to boost pickup sales. Instead, GM would keep its discounts modest and rely on the truck's quality to keep sales strong, boosting the profit it made on every sale.
Or at least, that was the plan.
Has it worked? Yes and no.
On the one hand, GM's new trucks were well-received by critics, and average transaction prices have been very strong. On the other hand, GM has lost some market share in the extremely important U.S. pickup marketplace.
It's not a surprise that pickup leader Ford (NYSE:F) has gained some ground at GM's expense. But as Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, Fiat Chrysler's (NASDAQOTH:FIATY) Ram trucks have also made some big gains in this market -- and that should have GM's leadership concerned.
A transcript of the video is below.
John Rosevear: Hey Fools, it's John Rosevear, senior auto analyst for Fool.com. Something really interesting is happening in the pickup market, and it's something that should have the folks at GM a little concerned.
GM, of course, introduced its all-new Chevy Silverado pickup last year, an extremely important product, and with it they took a different approach than they had in the past. Unlike in the past, where GM has relied on big incentives to keep its pickups selling, GM put a lot of effort into making the new Silverado a more polished product, and their plan was to be stingy with the discounts.
That has worked out in one sense: the average transaction prices for GM's pickups are way up. They're making more profit on every truck. And GM's new higher-end trucks seem to be doing quite well.
But they're selling fewer trucks overall, at least relative to the competition. Barclays auto analyst Brian Johnson said in a recent note that GM's big pickups have lost over 3 points of market share since the beginning of 2013. Ford has grabbed about half of that share -- that's no surprise. Ford's F-Series is the market leader and Ford is very very good at keeping it out in front. But Chrysler's Ram pickup has also increased its market share, up 1.8 points according to Johnson.
Now, some of that may have to do with incentives, small business buyers can be very price sensitive, and Chrysler is still much heavier-handed with the incentives than the other guys. And if the Ford guy says we'll give you a $4,000 discount and the Chrysler guy says we'll give you a $5,000 discount and the Chevy dealer says well we can't do any more than $1,500, well, that might be the end of the discussion for a lot of buyers.
But it might be more than that.
The current version of the Ram has received very good reviews. It's a very nice truck to drive and I imagine they sell quite a few just on the test drives, and it's got some other things going for it. Ford has made a big deal out of their fuel-efficient EcoBoost V6s. They've advertised it heavily and they've sold quite a lot of them, but Chrysler kind of one-upped them back in February by offering a diesel in the light-duty version of the Ram, the 1500, and that is looking pretty popular.
GM has been more aggressive in the last few weeks. They declared March to be "Truck Month" at Chevy dealers and they've been offering much, much bigger incentives, up to $7,500 dollars on some versions, and they've been running ads during the NCAA basketball tournament. We'll find out next week whether that promotion helped GM's sales in March, but the real question is, what will these big discounts do to GM's profits? We'll know more about that when we see GM's first-quarter numbers in a few weeks. Thanks for watching.
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John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.