Buoyed by its redesigned lineup, Ram pickup truck sales surpassed Chevrolet Silverado during the first quarter of this year.
Ram, the truck brand of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, has long been the third-biggest seller of full-size pickup trucks in the U.S. after the second-place Chevrolet Silverado and industry leader Ford F-Series.
But Ram sold 120,026 pickups during the first three months of this year, a 15.4 percent gain from the same period a year earlier. Sales of the Silverado fell 15.9 percent during the same period to 114,037 trucks. That flipped Chevrolet to third place. Ford remains at the top. It sold 214,611 F-Series trucks so far this year, a few hundred more than it sold during the same time last year.
Overall full-size pickup truck sales stood at 523,967 in the first quarter, a nearly 2 percent decline from the same period in 2018.
NEW RAM, CHEVY DESIGNS
Both Ram and Chevrolet have newly redesigned half-ton trucks in the market. Each automaker will bring a new heavy-duty pickup to dealers this year. Ford is expected to unveil a new F-150 next year.
It’s not clear if Ram will maintain its lead for the entire year, but the brand has inched closer to Chevrolet over the past decade. Last year it sold 536,980 trucks compared with the 585,581 Silverados Chevrolet moved. Ram’s truck sales grew by more than 7 percent last year, while Silverado sales were flat.
Ram had 22.2 percent of the pickup truck market last year, gaining 1.2 points of share from the prior year. It has climbed from 15.9 percent of the market back in 2009. Its first-quarter market share was 22.9 percent.
The brand has benefited from a slow ramp-up of production of the new Silverado.
“GM had lower inventory in most of the first quarter, giving Ram some opportunity and contributing to Silverado’s decline,” said Stephanie Brinley, an automotive analyst at IHS Markit.
The double and regular cabs of the new Silverado are just starting to roll out in larger volumes, said Paul Waatti, manager of product analysis at the AutoPacific consulting firm.
“Still, the competition reflects the competitive nature of the pickup market, as well as strong consumer reaction to the redesigned Ram,” Brinley said. “A more clear picture will emerge later in the year.”
Ram is also aggressively pricing its trucks with incentives and discounts, Waatti said.
But the company has a good product to sell.
“It’s also clear that Ram understands what today’s truck buyers are looking for and is gaining momentum by offering the most compelling packaging, tech and content,” Waatti said. “Ram offers a mix of luxury and rugged lifestyle that has resonated with an increasingly growing audience of sophisticated pickup truck buyers that want comfort and capability, without compromising on either.”
Ram will likely continue to keep the sales gap over Silverado in the short term, Waatti said, “but don’t think Chevy will give up the silver medal without a fight.”