Final Inspection

Big Pickup Sellers Piling on Incentives, Dishing Dirt

RSS

It’s a classic if not altogether common set of circumstances in the dog-eat-dog big-pickup segment: One automaker wants to dump its stock of old trucks ahead of a redesigned model coming to market, using discounts to clear the lots, while the other has a brand new model in the showroom.

Cue the Sousa. Sellers of large pickups in the U.S. are marching off to another incentive war, only this time they’re slinging as much mud as they are marketing dollars.

Ford and General Motors were the primary combatants in September, but expect Toyota to enter the breach this month.

It’s a classic if not altogether common set of circumstances in the dog-eat-dog big-pickup segment: one automaker wants to dump its stock of old trucks ahead of a redesigned model coming to market, using discounts to clear the lots, while the other has a brand new model in the showroom and wants to avoid profit-sapping spiffs.

In this case, Ford needs to trim its inventories of ’13 F-150s, because the truck-market king has a new one coming early next year. GM, after several years getting its flanks spanked by Ford as bankruptcy held up introduction of a fresh Silverado, finally has the newest pickup and wants the windfall of dollars and prestige that comes with a best-selling truck.

Without counting its GMC Sierra platform-mate, the Silverado has not outsold the F-150 on annual basis since 2011, when it edged the Ford by some 6,000 units, according to WardsAuto data. The F-150 snuck by the Silverado in 2012 by about 2,000 units.

“I think GM can own that segment again,” GM North America President Mark Reuss recently told WardsAuto in a clear signal of the auto maker’s desire to overtake its rival.

Ford, however, thinks otherwise. So in September, as flashy commercials for the new Silverado lit up televisions across America, it stoked F-150 incentives to a national average of $4,451 per unit, according to J.D. Power data.

The average incentive on the ’14 Silverado stood at $2,241. The ’13 model, meanwhile, carried an industry-high average discount of $5,111. But GM was pinched on inventory of the old one, closing the month with less than 30,000 in stock and the sales mix tiled significantly to the newer edition.

That gave Ford a clear advantage, especially among buyers on the fence between the two brands, and at the end of the day the F-150 dusted the Silverado in pickup sales by a margin of 57,289 to 32,506.

GM alleged a discount disparity in Tuesday’s conference call with journalists and Wall Street analysts to discuss September sales results.

“It’s very clear we took a disciplined (spending) approach to the marketplace,” GM’s chief sales analyst Kurt McNeil said. “No one was close to us. We definitely took a different tact.

“And if you look across a majority of the segment, there’s some pretty significant differences,” he added.

GM communications staffers moved to preempt any Ford retort with a post-sales-call e-mail titled “Bullshit Detector,” highlighting incentives on the F-150 as high as $5,250 in some regions of the country.

Ford P.R. staffers fired back, telling WardsAuto the incentive battleground was level last month and the results reflect the superiority of the F-150 to the Silverado, regardless of model year. “Remember that our 2014 units haven’t arrived at dealers yet,” a spokesman says.

The sniping may have just begun, though. Toyota launches its new Tundra this month and will be looking to sell down stocks of the older model.

“We’re not going to take our foot off the gas,” Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager-Toyota Div., said earlier this week. “We’ve got Corolla and Tundra to launch. We’ll look at incentives tactfully and expect to have a good close to the year.”

Please or Register to post comments.

What's Final Inspection?

WardsAuto editors share insights and observations on the global auto industry.

Contributors

David E. Zoia

As Editorial Director, I oversee much of what goes into WardsAuto.com, enjoying a ringside seat that lets me observe up close just about every facet of the industry worldwide. I have covered the...

James M. Amend

James Amend is an associate editor at WardsAuto.com, covering day-to-day business and product news at General Motors. He also leads coverage of regulatory and environmental issues, as well as the...
Blog Archive

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×