The Ram truck division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is poised to topple the Chevrolet Silverado pickup from its perch as the second best-selling vehicle in the U.S. This could shake up the domestic truck market for years to come.
Ram has sold 461,115 light-duty trucks through the first nine months of this year. That represents 25.5 percent of the segment. That’s a massive gain from the 5.9 percent of the market Ram held a decade ago. Ram sales are up nearly 23 percent over the same period a year earlier.
Meanwhile, sales of General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado dipped 2.9 percent to 412,259 trucks so far this year. Silverado’s share of the market has fallen to 22.8 percent. That’s down from 24.7 percent in 2017.
Ford’s F-Series pickup line continues to lead the market. Although sales of the Ford have fallen 2.4 percent so far this year compared with the same period in 2018, the automaker still has sold 662,018 trucks. Even though Ram is on a roll, it doesn’t have the factory capacity or as large a loyal owner base to surpass Ford’s F-Series for now.
Ram is capitalizing on a smart redesign that has proved popular with truck buyers. At the same time, Ram continues to sell the older version of the Ram 1500 as a budget play. Both versions of the truck have supported rapid sales growth.
STEALING MARKET SHARE
“It isn’t simply a Silverado versus Ram question. Ram is taking buyers from Ford, Chevy and gaining from organic growth in the segment,” said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Markit.
It’s also pulling share from the Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan. Neither is selling as well as it did last year.
Chevrolet also redesigned the Silverado, but the new version has not caught on as well with consumers as the Ram, according to Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst for Navigant Research.
“The new Ram is a far more appealing truck than the Silverado, with a better design, vastly better interior and superior driving dynamics. For personal-use customers, I can’t imagine why anyone would choose the Chevy,” Abuelsamid told Trucks.com.
Moreover, the older Ram 1500 remains a good option for consumers and commercial buyers, he said.
Consumers continue to snap up pickup trucks. Sales of full-size pickups rose 3 percent for the first nine months of the year to 1.8 million compared to the same period a year earlier. Ram and the GMC Sierra were the big gainers.
Sales of midsize pickup trucks rose 18 percent to 469,000. The Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Silverado and Ford Ranger all are selling well. Sales fell for the Nissan Frontier and Chevrolet Colorado.
In the full-size truck market, the Silverado has never trailed Ram in annual registrations since at least 2009. That is the earliest automotive information provider IHS Market has data for the vehicles. The Silverado led Ram by 135,000 to 140,000 registrations for most of the time from 2009 through 2013, according to IHS. The gap widened to 164,000 trucks in 2015 before starting to narrow rapidly.
With GM mired in a strike that is cutting vehicle production, it is unlikely to make up the deficit with Ram this year.
“It doesn’t seem likely that the Silverado can get back its advantage until the midcycle refresh, which will hopefully address some of the issues with the interior and perhaps the exterior styling. But that’s probably at least a year off,” Abuelsamid said.
Another option would be for GM to offer steep discounts. But that’s unlikely until GM settles the strike and returns to normal production levels.
The brand flop will have lingering repercussions.
“With truck buyers being notoriously loyal, unless FCA really screws something up and has major quality issues with the Ram, they will likely keep their advantage for a while,” Abuelsamid said.
Brinley said whether Ram can convert its first-time buyers into repeat Ram buyers will depend on the overall experience of the customer — and how the Chevrolet and Ford products evolve. Ford is expected to introduce a significant F-150 redesign soon.
One way Chevrolet can regain its position is through electrification. Both GM and Ford are working on battery-electric versions of their pickup trucks. Abuelsamid said Ram is well behind them.
“While the market for those is yet to be proven, it may take FCA awhile to catch up if they aren’t already working on something,” he said.