2019 Work Truck Show: GM Closing Gap With Ford

March 07, 2019 by Alan Adler, @AlanAdler

With steady gains in the last five years, General Motors Co. has drawn closer to industry leader Ford Motor Co. in work truck sales.

Ford held a 59,270-unit lead at the end of 2018, less than half of the 132,224-unit advantage it held in 2014, according to Bobit Business Media, which tracks sales by original equipment makers.

Fierce Battle

The battle for sales in heavy-duty pickups and medium-duty work trucks is fierce. All three Detroit companies have announced updates or additions to their business-focused lineups in the last 12 months.

At the Work Truck Show this week in Indianapolis, Ford unveiled a new F-600 medium-duty, giving it two entries in the upper end of medium-duties. At the Work Truck Show last year, GM showed its first medium-duties since leaving the segment a decade ago.

“To say I am elated about being back in this business would be an understatement,” Ed Peper, U.S. vice president of GM Fleet, told Trucks.com. “The quality of this product as we return to market in the 4-5-6 series segment is outstanding.”

Navistar International Corp., which builds Chevrolet Silverado-branded medium-duty trucks for GM, displayed its CV Series versions at the Work Truck Show.

Not to be overlooked, the Ram Trucks division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles showed the Tradesman version of its new heavy-duty pickup series unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show in January and the new chassis cab it revealed at the Chicago Auto Show in February.

GM Strides

Ford has led the industry in commercial-vehicle sales for four decades, a streak unlikely to end soon. Its market share exceeds 40 percent. Ford has the only lineup of work trucks covering all but the heaviest of eight weight classes.

Still, GM has made strides in closing the gap, even before it resumed selling medium-duties earlier this year.

GM sold 628,000 cars and trucks to business, government and daily rental fleets in 2018. That represented a 9 percent gain, or 51,000 more sales than in 2017, Peper said.

Last year, GM sold fewer vehicles to daily rental companies than to business and government fleets for the first time. The 51 percent-to-49 percent split compared with 64 percent daily rental business to 36 percent business and government sales in 2014.

GM’s commercial business in 2018 grew 11 percent to 258,630 sales from 233,519 in 2017. GM added 1,250 new commercial fleet customers in 2018, representing 146,000 conquest sales taken from other companies, Peper said.

More than 70 percent of GM’s commercial sales in 2018 were trucks, including 24 distinct pickup models. In addition to the heavy-duty pickups it builds on its own and the medium-duties it gets from Navistar, GM buys a medium-duty cabover truck from Isuzu that it sells as a Chevrolet.

“They are looking at different parts of the market,” said Antti Lindstrom, an analyst with IHS Markit. “The question is how many different kinds of products do you want to have available?”

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