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Auto blogSat, 21 Sep 2013 17:03:00 EST
Even as fuel prices creep back up, trucks are still a hot item among new-vehicle shoppers. To see how popular pickup trucks still are, you don't have to look any further than how much effort automakers put into the continual one-upmanship of their trucks. Backing this fact up, USA Today is reporting that the segment could top two million sales this year - a total not matched since 2007, though still far from the pre-recession, three-million-unit levels.
Through August, the Ford F-Series continues to be the segment leader with almost 500,000 units sold, but the Chevy Silverado (328,269), Ram 1500 (234,642), GMC Sierra (122,232) and Toyota Tacoma (110,293) are all seeing at least 20-percent sales increases, helping to account for around 1.44 million truck sales so far this year - not including possible outliers like the Suzuki Equator and Chevy Avalanche.
This year alone, General Motors has completely redesigned its fullsize trucks, Ram and Toyota have significantly updated their offerings, the next-gen Ford F-150 will be out next year and Nissan is promising an all-new Titan around the same time with an eventual Cummins diesel under the hood. It would seem, then, that truck sales are poised to continue their upward trend.
As Ford prepares to hit the market with its x-factor, aluminum-intensive F-150 and Ram sales stand tall enough to meet General Motors truck sales eye-to-eye, GM is putting the word out that it's going to add more features to its trucks and do so more regularly. An executive engineer for pickups told reporters that "a whole array" of changes are on the way as soon as the 2015 model year and then would likely come "the year after that, the year after that, the year after that."
Only GM knows the way it plans to go with its fullsize trucks, with almost everyone else - including its dealers - griping about market share at the same time as they applaud profits and hope for clarity and growth. GM raised prices on the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra not long after launch even as it was losing market share and getting called "the least successful large pickup launch over the last 15 years," further upsetting dealers, then Ram outsold the Silverado in March of this year and led GM to increase incentives. But transaction prices rose with the premium; in the first quarter of this year more than 37 percent of the trucks costing more than $40,000 were the Silverado and Sierra, leading one dealer to say of the Sierra, "You can't sell a cheap one," and the analyst who made that "least successful launch" comment to opine, "GM may have made the right call to go for price over share."
We won't know for a few months what any of these updates will be, but the rumored changes for the Silverado and Sierra appear to cover all the bases, including appearance, capability and fuel economy. Rumors run to higher gear counts, stop-start technology and diesel engines before brand-new pickups come for the 2019 model year, those next-generation models supposedly to be engineered with a lot more aluminum.
The backlash is beginning. Following General Motors' price hike of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra last week, dealers across the country are expressing their ire over increasing prices in the face of rebates and discounts on trucks from Ford and Ram.
Speaking to Automotive News, Sam Pilato, the general manager at Dimmitt Chevrolet in Clearwater, FL, Silverados are "selling very poorly." W. Carrol Smith, the president of Monument Chevrolet in the heart of truck country, Texas, said, "[GM's] position is that the vehicle stands on its own and it doesn't need a bigger rebate. That's not what the market is telling us."
According to AN, that's the general attitude amongst Chevy and GMC dealers across the country, where the twin pickups are getting butchered in sales by competitors offering up to $9,000 off their sticker prices. Part of the problem for GM is that its trucks are arriving on the market near the end of the current F-150's lifecycle, a fact that Ford has taken advantage of.