How Chrysler's Ram Crushed the Chevy Silverado

Sales of the Ram were up big in March -- enough to out-sell Chevy's Silverado for the first time in years. Source: Chrysler

Think you had a hard week? 

Think about how it would feel to be General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) .

I'm not even talking about the beating CEO Mary Barra took when she testified before Congress about GM's unfolding recall debacle. 

That was plenty bad, of course. But behind all those recall headlines was this grim news: The Chevy Silverado pickup -- arguably GM's single most important product -- came in third in total sales last month.

That was a surprise. And it can't be making GM's leaders very happy.

Yes, the Ram really outsold the Silverado in March
's (NYSE: F  ) F-Series pickups win the monthly sales wars more often than not, even when the Silverado's sales totals are added to those of its upscale sibling, the GMC Sierra. It's not a surprise that the Blue Oval's pickup out-sold the GM twins once again in March.

But it's not every day Fiat Chrysler's (NASDAQOTH: FIATY  ) Ram pickups outsell the Silverado. 

In fact, it hadn't happened in almost 15 years -- until it did, last month.

Chrysler reportedon Tuesday that it sold 42,532 examples of the Ram 1500 and its heavy-duty siblings in the U.S. in March, beating the 42,247 Silverados and heavy-duty Chevy pickups sold by GM.

Silverado sales rose 14% last month, but it wasn't enough to beat the Ram. Source: General Motors Co.

Sure, if you add in the 16,863 full-sized pickups sold by sister brand GMC in March, GM still holds a solid second place in America's pickup sales wars.

But like I said, it has been a long time since the Ram out-sold the Silverado. How did Chrysler pull off that victory?

By going where GM has recently been trying very hard not to go: To the land of deep discounts.

Big discounts led to big sales for Chrysler
According to J.D. Power figures reported by Bloomberg, Chrysler's incentives on the Ram 1500 averaged a whopping $5,598 per truck, 35% higher than Ford, and 46% more than GM.

Now, many of the individuals who buy pickups for their own use have strong brand loyalty. It takes more than a fat discount to get loyal Chevy (or Ford, or Ram) drivers to switch brands. 

But commercial fleet buyers are much more price-sensitive. A lot of pickups are getting sold to general contractors and oilfield-services companies and the like right now. For those buyers, who might be buying three or four pickups at a time, a fat discount can make all the difference.

GM's pickup incentives used to be among the highest in the business. But the all-new 2014 Silverado and Sierra were supposed to change that. They're much better trucks, GM reasoned, so we're going to ask higher prices for them.

That has worked out pretty well for GM -- at the upper end of the pickup market. GM is selling a lot more loaded trucks than it used to, and it's getting much better average transaction prices for them. Long story short, it's making much more money per truck than it did on the old Silverados.

But that strategy has cost it sales at the lower end of the market -- and Chrysler has stepped up to take advantage.

GM is already striking back, but how much will it help?
GM initially scoffed at the Ram's sales victory. As GM spokesman Jim Cain told Automotive News, "The 1980s called. They want their marketing strategy back." He went on: "It's really easy to deeply discount your truck, mine the subprime market and offer cheap lease deals to buy market share."

That's all true. But it's also true that GM boosted its own incentives in March.  The average per-truck payout was still far lower than Chrysler's, but on some models, the discounts were rich -- over $7,500 off of the sticker price. It helped -- Silverado sales were up 14% -- but not enough.

It also rapidly became clear after the sales totals were reported that GM's dealers would really like to be selling more pickups. Just hours after Cain's statements to Automotive News, the trade publication reported that GM was setting out to beat Chrysler at its own game.

Automotive News reported that GM will extend its March discount program on Chevy trucks, and they're sweetening the pot with an additional $1,000 on Silverado 1500 double-cab models.

And so the battle goes on. But at what cost to GM's profit margins? We'll find out.

What do you think? Is the Silverado a good truck that just needs a better price? Or is GM trying to make lemonade out of a lemon, here? Scroll down to leave a comment and let me know.

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Read/Post Comments (44) | Recommend This Article (9)

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 05, 2014, at 12:18 PM, EuSnake wrote:

    I love that new Ram. I can't go on repeating myself over and over and over. That other truck has NO "wow" factor period!

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 2:29 PM, PS75425 wrote:

    1) advertising; 2) GM's styling is derivative;

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 3:20 PM, aktundra wrote:

    I agree that the RAM sales have been strong and surprising given its perenial 3rd place among the big three. I recently switched from having Toyotas for 10 years back to a Chrysler product (my last was a 1997 Ram 1500 4x4 SLT Laramie 5.9L extended cab) and I did it for a few reasons. First was the impressive mileage improvements of full size trucks, my new 2014 RAM 1500 QuadCab SLT 4x4 with the 3.6L V6 gets better mileage all around than my 2011 Tacoma with the 4.0L V6, it is hands down more refined, roomy and who can deny the RAM's looks? I do take issue with the "Crushing" of the Silverado though. With GMs combined sales of the Chevy and GM trucks still handily out pacing Chrysler's RAM, I wouldnt say it was crushed. It is doing much better and it may yet actually crush the GM product but it has a way to go. There is no doubt that the RAM is the best looking truck of the big three and if you recently have driven a Ford F-150 or a new or previous generation Silverado you can easily tell which one is the most thoughtfully designed inside and out. One thing that stands out for 2014 is the RAM's 3.0L turbo diesel V6, albiet at a price. But the 3.6L V6 bests the F-150s EcoBoost turbo V6 in mileage and horsepower yet is not a premium add on, its the standard motor and its a great one. I have yet to drive GM's new V6 powered Silverado, maybe it is as good as the RAM's 3.6L, we will see. For now the RAM seems to be the best choice and people are realizing this as they turn from GM and Ford....and Toyota to Chrysler.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 3:34 PM, jimatmad wrote:

    It's usually pretty easy to tell whether the Motley writers are long or short on a particular stock.

    Their truck and auto articles are completely useless except as a barometer to see where Motley is invested.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 4:04 PM, bcweir wrote:

    Congrats to Chrysler for seeing the wisdom in breaking one rule of truck design without breaking the other - Chrysler found a way to make a truck a large vehicle WITHOUT making it an ugly one at the same time. GM, start taking notes. Chrysler made a full sized truck without being forced to make it ugly at the same time. Ford makes an attractive full sized pick up also, and their 2015 model looks even better! GM's current Silverado/Sierra twins look like they belong in a MUSEUM, not a showroom.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 4:17 PM, mrgreenjeans wrote:

    Not hard to believe when the Silverado's are dead in the water , poor styling and not that different from the older models on top of that much higher in price and poor reliability makes is a poor choice they better start doing better or just brand will cease to exist

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 4:31 PM, mxtgary wrote:

    Love it ,Deserves it ,Is good enough to beat FORD too!

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 4:41 PM, chronarch wrote:

    GM offers sub standard squared off styling and no rear AC vents in the crew cab. It is hotter than Hades in the back seat of a 2014-2015 GM crew cab! Until GM fixes these items, people will keep passing them up for better products.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 4:42 PM, vinnieboiblue wrote:

    The GM twins design although new, looks old. It does not help when its wheel wells look square and show a big empty space between the wheel and the vehicle. They should have used the wheel well design from the Tahoe/Yukon suv's, Its grille and stacked headlights really look old. They should have used the slanted grill from the from them too.

    Where as the Ram, looks tight and taut the way a truck should. Its interior is equal if not better than either FORD or GM. The Ram did what it had to keep their truck looking fresh and rugged. Where as GM , looked old and out of whack.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 5:02 PM, LarryLugwrench wrote:

    It's about more than incentives. It's also about great ergonomics, a powerful and efficient V6 or Diesel, and an industry-leading 8-speed transmission. Along with it's good looks, it's a winning package.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 5:07 PM, tomsue1972 wrote:

    they might call it ram but its still a chrysler fiat tax payer money

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 5:40 PM, McSniperliger wrote:

    Well GM needs to stop rehashing the same body style year after year.

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 6:48 PM, Cal3576 wrote:

    I'll Bet GM and Ford, mention Dodge in they're pickup commercials now :)

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 6:51 PM, Cal3576 wrote:

    Hey Chevy, may'be you better start mentioning the Challenger in your Camaro this, Mustang that ads, or Chrysler Just might give you Another spankin' !!! :)

  • Report this Comment On April 05, 2014, at 10:10 PM, hawkhell wrote:

    People keep saying the Silverado has poor styling, I think the Silverado looks awesome. The new body style is a great change to the last model.

    When has Chrysler ever given Chevy a spankin? The LS motor line from GM is the most loved in the V8 racing world for how easy they are to make power.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 1:00 AM, INcarDoctor wrote:

    Hopefully my business won't be affected in the future. GM vehicles have kept me in business for a very long time. I hate to see sales plummet.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 5:46 AM, BeeInKc wrote:

    Chrysler got the styling right. That huge, shiny grill is the reason the truck sells so well. Its like a real life Tonka truck for guys who work in offices and the bigger versions have the guts to pull anything.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 6:01 AM, garnman wrote:

    To me it's pretty simple.

    1. The "new" Chevy/GMC trucks are ugly.

    Damn ugly.

    That may be a personal opinion you say,....but it us an opinion shared with a huge number of folks I meet in my travels each week. The GM twins are not in the same class when it comes to just plain looking good and if a guy/gal is going to plunk down $40K on something it had probably better look like $40K.

    2. Don't underestimate the Dodge. It is a very capable truck. One of my kids just bought one after shopping Ford/GM extensively. He took it over for a test drive and to me, I can't see a single area where i would say the GM product

    holds a sharp advantage. He loved the F-150 but it was mucho $$$..Just. Too. Much. Money.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 7:27 AM, tgaglione wrote:

    Looks can definitely affect sales, weird how car companies never want to go there.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:06 AM, T2858rr wrote:

    GM wasn't afraid to use big discounts when selling down their remaining 2013's in getting ready for the new 14's. it worked type them then and it was OK... Ram incentives have stayed basically the same since then. The new GM trucks simply aren't resounding well with the GM loyal customers who aren't willing to pay more for the new truck, especially when so many of them got smoking deals on 13's. The full size truck business in BIG business for Ford, GM, and Ram. The battle will continue. Ford and GM simply need to get their heads around the fact that the Ram is more than a worthy contender.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:09 AM, nightfly44 wrote:

    This is all a bunch of baloney. GM has sold the most pickups nearly every year; the only qualifier is, they have two different names, one, Chevrolet, the other, GMC. Because people are stupid. They really believe that the Chevy is different from the GMC. Yes, they do, I've spoken to lots of pick up owners. They are really, really that stupid. So who really cares; GM knows they're selling the most pickups. So they don't give a crap that the morons in the world believe otherwise. If putting on a different piece of trim with a different name sells more pickups, they'll do it. And I can't blame them for selling to the morons of the world; as P.T. Barnum said, there's a fool born every minute, and he'll buy a GM or Chevy pickup over the other because he thinks their different vehicles. What a bunch of rubes.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:29 AM, cruzin wrote:

    While the F-150 said, "catch me if you can".

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 10:10 AM, sabebrush6 wrote:

    I have had several Fords and Chevys & it's pretty hard to beat the reliability in those two. My brother-in-law bought a new Ram one year & I bought a new Silverado the same year. He's gone through two trannys and I'm still on my origional. The trucks were about the same except for the brand & I get a lot better gas milage than he does.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 10:24 AM, ddendyl wrote:

    "Crushes". Really? You are the National Enquirer of legitimate stock analysts. I don't think I'll be reading you for sound advice in the future. (P.S. - I drive a Hyundai.)

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 10:46 AM, jfelano wrote:

    When it breaks down in 5 years and is in the junkyard after 10 years, they will wish they had bought a Chevy.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 11:41 AM, glt6208 wrote:

    Is there a new definition for the word "crushed"? Do you own Chrysler stock?

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 12:07 PM, Malzone wrote:

    Crushed? Gimme a break; 285 more vehicles certainly isn't a crush. You don't harbor a bias against General Motors, or do you ? ? ? ?

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 12:09 PM, Jschanta wrote:

    Government Motors has completely lost the art of building quality, stylish, dependable vehicles. Ford builds the best pickups in the world. The UAW runs GM and they could care less what rolls out the door. Americans are waking up and refusing to buy their outdated junk.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 12:29 PM, tommyblackston wrote:

    I want to add my 2 sense worth about Ford, Chevy and Dodge or Chrysler. I am a career Ford man, have been since 14, now 60. What I see happening with Chrysler, their design team is beating Ford and Chevy hands down. Chrysler's designs are more reminiscent of the past, when cars were designed with America in mind, not Europe or some other foreign land. The Chargers, Challengers, Chrysler 300s and Pickups has a distinctive look which sets it apart from the designers at Ford and Chevy and all the foreign car designers.

    Chevy's pickup design to me are overall hard to look at. Ford has some design quirks in their F-150 that in many cases turn me off and make me look more favorably toward the designs at Chrysler.

    Too, bad that Chrysler is now owned by a foreign company, but yet are producing more of the America design of the past in their products, making their vehicles exciting to look at., as we see their star beginning to shine even brighter.

    I was all excited about the news of a redesigned Mustang. The first time I saw a picture of one I realized the designers at Ford ran out of ideas in that when it came to the design from the windshield forward. It appears they just pulled a front clip off of a Ford Fusion and bolted it on to a Mustand, thus making an odd looking Mustang as for as I am concerned. I am hoping the real thing up close will appeal to me more than when I see it advertised in a magazine or on Good Morning America.

    I say, for the sake of Ford, if they don't won't the same thing to happen to them that happened to Chevy, they better fire their design team and hire new ones before Chrysler and Dodge outsell them as they did Chevy.

    Are you listening Ford, I would hate to see that happen, but everytime I look at a Chrysler product, they are looking better and better all except the new Dodge Dart and the Chrysler 200 that look much like the cars Ford is overall turning out, just a run of the mill design, without much imagination, just duplicate copies of the European design.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 12:48 PM, owen64 wrote:

    Rams are very powerful and comfortable. Also more reliable. Tried GMC, Chevy, and Ford. All were crap and more expensive. GMC was in the shop monthly, Chevy was always requiring return and Ford was uncomfortable and had no power. Ram is fitting the bill perfectly.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 2:17 PM, chugcatsts01 wrote:

    Its all about a reliable diesel, and not paying extra for it. I have a 1996 Dodge SLT 4X4 and it cost about 2K for the 5.9 CUMMINS option. It creeped up to 8K over the years. I rigged mine to haul a 6,000 LB boat and at 325 K on it It has had the radio and head light switch replaced. The engine has no oil leaks and gets a premium oil and filter change at 7500. The valves were adjusted at 15 and 200,000 miles. The second adjustment was barely needed. It gets 15 MPG towing if you keep it down to 65 MPH. Florida is easy on trucks that are kept out of the sun, mine still looks like new.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 2:38 PM, MaxxTheKatt wrote:

    One reason for Dodge Ram trucks selling so well is the RIDE! Other trucks cannot compare when it comes to the ride. Drive all the others then drive the Ram. You will see what I mean.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 3:30 PM, 20131963 wrote:

    I drove Chevy's all my life and after we test drove our 2013 Ram 1500 crew cab, that was all it took. The ride was extremely comfortable, the interior styling is excellent ! Before this I had never owned a Chrysler product and after purchasing our 2013 Ram 1500 I'll never buy another GM product. The fuel mileage is outstanding ! It will take GM, Ford a while to catch up with Ram, they can't compete !

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 3:48 PM, emjayay wrote:

    The Rams have a coil spring rear suspension unlike the others which is part of why they ride better than any other pickup. Like the CR guys said, others may be better trucks but the Ram is a better car.

    The GMs are all new and look just like the old model.

    These two things plus price is the story. If the Ford aluminum body that is coming out and saving 6- 700 pounds works out like it does on Range Rovers that will be a game changer and differentiate the Fords just like the coil spring suspension differentiates the Rams now. The other companies will follow both, although I haven't heard that Ford is going with coils on the new models for some reason.

    Since they don't make big trucks anymore it's actually odd that GM continues the badge engineered GMC brand.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 5:20 PM, Jim85035 wrote:

    Sure, if you add in the 16,863 full-sized pickups sold by sister brand GMC plus 42,247 Chevy's , GM still Sold 16,000 more than Chrysler. Are you guys pushing Chrysler stock this month?

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 5:23 PM, pdh69 wrote:

    My father and I have purchased many Chevy trucks over the years and they have had many design flaws. Gauges dieing, hvac problems, emergency brakes wearing prematuring, airpumps building up moisture, fuelpump issues, cab mounts, window motors, the list is very long. They have tried to hide what they can so customer satisfaction has suffered. I plan on other options when I purchase my next truck. Maybe toyota or nissan; hate to say but they are the breaks. None are perfect but I have lost faith in GM products.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 5:31 PM, Shaman wrote:

    That is what RAMS do: crushing opposition. But Chevy could have change the old Silverado name to Eldorado long time ago... Gold is better than silver!

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 7:17 PM, Tjencks wrote:

    over the course of two weeks, I put right around 1,500 miles or better on each of the three major brands due to using rentals at work. The Ram was by far the best of the three. The truck had a better ride, better handling, more space and great power. None of the trucks were beat on either as each was literally just delivered to the rental agency with 18-100 miles on them. The silverado had this irritating creaking noise coming from the dash area and the whole truck just felt outdated compared to the Ford and Ram. I dropped off my rental and literally drove to a dealer to buy my own which has been outstanding including being great in the snow up here in the northeast

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 9:27 PM, RickJWag wrote:

    Besides the product deficiencies (see numerous other comments here) GM shot themselves in the foot with a left-leaning marketing campaign.

    Now don't get me wrong-- lefties do spend money, just like those on the right. But pickup buyers would seem to trend conservative more than left (seems to me, anyway). BTW, IMHO the left-lean is also a loser on sedan marketing. Most of the liberals I know prefer foreign types, i.e. Prius and Volvo.

    Disclaimer: I drive a Subaru myself, and I'm a conservative. So I acknowledge my assumptions aren't bulletproof.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2014, at 10:14 PM, arkiehotrods wrote:

    The Chevy and GMC are the same pickup. Chevy dealers sell the Silverado and Buick-GMC dealers sell GMC. Combined, they sold over 59,000 units. Dodge wasn't even close.

    Ford sold 70,000 units, General Motors sold 59,000 units, Fiat sold 42,000 units. GM is closer to Ford than Fiat is to GM.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 12:11 AM, tstorey1 wrote:

    I am unsure as to why this article was written. Nothing has changed in the pickup market. Each company has basically maintained their market share.

    Dodge has done a good job of getting away from their history of junk. The Ram is very well done. They do have about 40 years to go though. As far as commercial buyers, Ford and GM have owned that market since the invention of the pick up truck and can buy back whatever piddling gain Dodge has managed in the last 2-3 years.

    Sales spurt? Sure, what you do is boot up incentives and bring in the next six months of customers now. Wow, what a concept.

    The GM product looks just fine and Ford spends a budget the size of Chrysler updating their product.

    Truck guys don't switch brands and Dodge truck guys are in a minority today and into the future.

    (I don't own a truck and I don't own any of the stocks mentioned here.)

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 5:56 AM, twomuch2luz wrote:

    The article is right. The sales pace was driven by FLEET sales which indicates PRICE is the driver, not how much pleather is in the pretty truck.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 10:31 AM, gmerchant11 wrote:

    Clearly the new Chevy/GMC pickups are far better than their predecessors... in fact, the trucks are as good as their competition. The problem is entirely superficial but it's very very real... it's the STYLING! You absolutely cannot announce an ALL NEW truck and have it literally look like the truck it replaces! It's not ugly, but it's not dramatic either. At this point, even the most loyal of Chevy truck drivers are having a problem down deep trying to even like this new offering. Those stupid giant, squared off wheel openings don't look tough and bad ass... they just look ugly and old. The front ends are as bland as vanilla yogurt; you can't add enough LED's to dress up that ugly face. The back end tailgates are totally unremarkable. Same for the interiors... they're "different", but still look old. That entire department of those who redesigned the GM trucks and the people who green lighted this new design should all be summarily fired for botching such and important product. Down deep, it's a good, no, GREAT truck. But GM better dig deep and find some money to redesign the exterior AND interior of this thing big time because a simple face lift isn't going to cut it and sales are not coming back until they do.

  • Report this Comment On April 07, 2014, at 5:37 PM, hrmickey wrote:

    I had a 1980 Ram 1500 until last year. I looked at all the options and based on options and dollars I went with Toyota. It was a much better buy at the time then any other truck. Still have my 2000 Ram 2500 but it is still new until I put another 200,000 miles on it. So it may be more the driver and or work that are wearing the trucks out then the brand in five or ten years.

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John Rosevear is the Fool's Senior Auto Specialist. John has been writing about the auto business and investing for over 20 years, and for The Motley Fool since 2007.

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