Dodge Ram

Ram pickups are gaining ground on the Ford F-Series and Chevrolet Silverado, boosting sales nearly 20% this year. Photo source: Chrysler Group.  

Ford's (NYSE:F) F-Series pickup truck and General Motors Company's (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Silverado were the two top selling vehicles in the United States last year. Despite seeing sales slip slightly in 2014, Ford and Chevy's pickups are yet again the top two in sales so far this year. But the Fiat Chrysler (NASDAQOTH:FIATY) Ram pickup  is quickly gaining ground. When there is a disruption like this in the industry, investors should take notice.

Below are the sales results for the three truck competing models for the first six months of 2014:

Vehicle 1H 2014 1H 2013 Change
Ford F-Series 365,825 367,486 (0.5%)
Chevrolet Silverado 240,679 242,586 (0.8%)
Ram Pickup 203,860  170,319  19.7%

Source: GoodCarBadCar; table created by author. 

First, the F-Series
Recently, F-Series sales have been slumping, which may be of concern to Ford investors. After all, the F-Series isn't just the company's top selling model, it's been top selling vehicle in the country for 32 consecutive years

That's why when sales fell 4.3% in May, and then a chilling 11% in June, I had to take a look, and the results I found were actually calming. 

F-Series sales have taken a hit due to temporary assembly line halts, most of which will take place in the second half of the year. These are necessary for the production of the new, aluminum-bodied, 2015 F-150. 

Also, dealerships are using fewer incentives to get low-paying customers in the door. In other words, Ford's pickup units are already in tighter supply and dealerships won't be willing to tack on the kinds of incentives they usually do. 

As a result of these two temporary situations, Ford F-Series sales are down. 

Okay, so what about the other two?
Ram pickup sales continue to surge ahead, and its not just this year that's been a success. In 2012, Ram was the seventh highest selling vehicle in the U.S., when sales grew 19.9% to 293,363. 

In 2013, growth stayed on track, as sales swelled 21.2% to 355,673 units on the way to becoming the fifth best selling vehicle of the year. 

Ford F

Ford F-150. Source: Ford Motor Company

For the first six months of 2014 -- as noted in the table above -- sales are up 19.7% to 203,860, while the Ram pickup has become the fourth best selling model in the U.S. 

Over the previous four years, Ram truck sales have been stronger in the second half of the year, compared to the first half. For that reason, I would expect Ram to approach 420,000 units for 2014, which would represent a conservative annual growth rate of 18%, lower than the past few years. 

To date, the Silverado has sold approximately 240,000 units, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Ram become the second best selling pickup in the U.S.

While I don't think it's likely that Ram will surpass the Silverado in sales in 2014, I certainly think it's plausible in 2015 -- which would happen if sales growth remains the same for each vehicle. 

Money talks
Taking a look at a standard 2014 Silverado 1500 crew cab truck, the MSRP price is $36,250. A comparably equipped Ram 1500 costs $33,775 and the Ford F-150 costs $35,930. In this case, the Ram has more horsepower than the Silverado and the F-150, but lacks the torque of those two models, (the best in this metric is the Silverado). 

Aside from being $2,500, or roughly 7%, cheaper than the Silverado, the Ram also has more incentive-friendly offers. This is likely giving the model a boost in sales over its competitors -- especially as Ford remains stingy with its offers.  

And in a world of ever-rising fuel costs, you can believe that consumers are looking at fuel efficiency. The Ram pickup edges out all other players in the truck market with its 20/28/23 city, highway, and combined miles per gallon, (tied on combined mpg with the Toyota Tacoma). 


Chevrolet Silverado. Source: General Motors

May the best truck win
It's perhaps not surprising that with a lower price tag, 2013 and 2014 Motor Trend "Truck of the Year" awards, and better highway fuel efficiency, the Ram is eating Chevrolet's lunch in terms of taking market share. 

Sure, the Ram hasn't surpassed Silverado sales, but at this point, the trend suggests that it will. The only question, is how long will it take?

When the 2015 F-150 comes on line, it will be interesting to see if there's a change in the sales trend for the top three selling pickup trucks. Stay tuned. 

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Bret Kenwell owns shares of Ford. 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.

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