In this epic debate, two Motley Fool automotive analysts square off on the most important auto debate of this year: Will the 2014 Chevy Silverado unseat Ford from the dominant spot for top-selling pickup? Both companies derive a substantial amount of profits from truck sales, and the coming truck war will be a huge factor in the profitability of both companies. Read below and then vote on which one you think will come out on top in this epic battle.
Daniel Miller: Why I think the Ford stays tough at No. 1
It's a fact that Ford's (NYSE:F) F-Series has been the No. 1 selling vehicle for 36 years, and that won't change. I think General Motors (NYSE:GM) merely took a small step ahead with the 2014 Silverado, while Ford will be taking a leap ahead with its 2015 F-150 – a one-year head start won't be enough for GM. Here's why.
If you follow both companies you know that GM's marketing and ad campaigns seriously lag behind Ford's. This will hurt GM with its 2014 Silverado and Sierra lines. Ford was ahead of the game in touting the capabilities of its turbocharged EcoBoost engine and did so with great success. GM is just now catching on and calling its new lineup of engines EcoTec.
Let's give a round of applause and welcome GM's marketing into the 21st century. In other 21st century news, Obama was reelected and he – along with taxpayers – are still awaiting the thank you note for the bailout!
The problem with the poor marketing is that a lot of the changes GM made aren't ones you can see. It's a story that needs to be told, something GM typically fails at. GM's recent ad campaign "Chevy Runs Deep" was a flop, and didn't "run" very long. That's a trend all too familiar with GM.
Speaking of things in the Silverado and Sierra you can't see, how about that new design? Er, wait, what new design? It looks exactly the same as the 2013 model it replaces. To some, that's fine, it doesn't matter – a truck is a tool. That said, to some it does matter and the sneak peak of the 2015 F-150 looks awesome.
Here are 65 reasons the new F-150 takes a leap ahead, not just a step forward like the 2014 Silverado.
Speaking of GM merely taking a baby step ahead with the new Silverado, do you know what the MPG increase of its new V8 EcoTec engine versus the current F-150 EcoBoost is? It's a mere one MPG more. That's not enough to upstage Ford – period. Ford's response with the 2015 F-150 is a 20% increase in fuel efficiency, which could meet CAFE standards out as far as 2025! Take notes GM, that's how you drastically improve a vehicle.
Truck guys, and gals, are an extremely loyal bunch. The line in the sand is drawn and you're on one side or the other – and you stay there. Whichever brand has the most loyalty will take the majority of the market share. Guess which brand came in at No. 1 in two recent brand loyalty reports?
If you guessed Ford, you're correct!
It placed No. 1 in loyalty rate of any brand in 2012 according to Polk Automotive, sporting a 61% loyalty rate compared to the industry average of 48%. Experian said Ford also finished No. 1 and that seven of the 10 top models were all Fords – including the F-Series.
Did GM do enough with its Silverado to upstage Ford in the truck wars? Absolutely not. Ford nails the most important factors to win this war, with brand loyalty, marketing, design, and fuel efficiency. GM has a one-year head start, and still has no chance.
John Rosevear: Why I think GM's pickup will make a difference
Ford's the "undisputed" leader, but...
It's true that Ford's F-Series pickup line has been America's best-seller for decades. It's also true that the F-Series is a great truck. But that sales lead is kind of a loaded statistic. As General Motors points out in a fit of frustration every now and then, GM sells its big pickup line under two different brand names, Chevy and GMC.
That splits GM's sales tally, and that means that the Chevy Silverado almost always trails Ford in the monthly results. But the truth is, there have been plenty of times where the total sales of the Chevy Silverado and its GMC twin, the Sierra, have outdone the F-Series.
That hasn't been true lately, though, as the still-fresh F-150 has outshined the somewhat tired GM twins. But I think GM has a real chance to close the gap with its new truck. Sure, as I said last week, it looks a lot like the outgoing truck. And that has led some folks, like my colleague Daniel Miller, to dismiss it as a half-hearted effort.
But I think they'll be proven wrong.
GM's not messing around anymore
Of course, for a long time, half-hearted product efforts were kind of GM's specialty. (Trust me, I owned a few. I know.) But here's the thing that I think Daniel and many armchair pundits are missing: That has changed.
GM didn't just get a new lease on life from its 2009 bailout. It got new management.
And folks, that management hasn't been messing around.
Nearly all of GM's recent models have been terrific: The Cadillac ATS, GM's just-refreshed, midsized crossovers like the Chevy Traverse, the new Impala, even going back a couple of years to the Chevy Cruze, GM's best-ever compact car. All have been contenders for top-of-class.
Now consider: GM's pickups are its most important product. Its engineers and designers have clearly proven that they can now create top-notch vehicles, and GM product chief Mary Barra has overhauled the company's development process to ensure that nothing gets in their way.
To my mind, that all makes it a good bet that these trucks will be good. And already, we know that the new GM pickups will have at least a few features that could have Ford scrambling.
A V8 that beats Ford's V6
Here's one that I think will be a biggie: As Daniel pointed out, GM's most fuel-efficient pickup drivetrain has a (small, but still) miles-per-gallon advantage over Ford's much-touted EcoBoost V6 powerplant.
That may seem like peanuts, but it could be significant to corporate fleet buyers, who are responsible for a lot of pickup sales. But here's what's not peanuts, and what might be a big deal for a lot of retail customers (and probably more than a few fleet managers, too): GM's high-tech, fuel-efficient powerplant is a V8, not a V6 like Ford's.
It sounds like a V8. It pulls like a V8. It responds like a V8 when you floor it. But here's the thing: It's a brand new version of GM's proven smallblock V8. It comes with a whole bunch of fuel-saving features, like the ability to seamlessly (that means you won't notice) shut down four cylinders when you're just cruising and don't need all that V8 power. That'll save a bunch of gas, but you'll still have a good, strong V8 when you need it.
The upshot: It'll be closer than you think
Sure, Ford has a new truck coming in a year, and there's no doubt that Ford – which has also been doing top-notch products lately – will deliver a pickup that represents another step forward. And really, there's not much doubt that the F-Series will continue to be No. 1 in the sales standings for a long time to come.
But I think the new GM trucks will compete quite well with the current F-Series and the next one.
I think they'll be tough, reliable trucks with nice interiors and smart features, and we already know that they'll be priced the same as the outgoing models. I think GM loyalists will be happy, I think commercial buyers will find them compelling... and I think that fuel-efficient V8 is going to be more of a sales advantage than the Ford guys would like.