Even as they purchase fewer autos overall, Americans continued to gravitate to pickup trucks last year, with the Ram brand growing quickly and knocking the Chevrolet Silverado down a notch.
Automakers sold more than 3.1 million pickup trucks in the U.S. last year, a 6 percent gain from the previous year. Pickup trucks now account for more than 18 percent of new vehicles sold.
Ram capped a remarkable decade where it climbed from 15.9 percent of the market back in 2009 to finish 2019 with a 25.5 percent market share. A recently redesigned Ram 1500 half-ton pickup, along with sales of a budget-oriented older design, fueled the brand’s growth. Ram is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The new 1500 has gained new Ram customers and earned significant critical acclaim, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Markit.
“Ram has capitalized on that momentum, Brinley said.
FCA sold 663,694 Ram full-size pickups last year, an 18 percent increase from 2018. That propelled the brand to second place in the half-ton pickup truck market, supplanting Chevrolet’s Silverado.
Sales of the Chevy truck fell almost 2 percent to 575,600. The 40-day United Auto Workers strike limited production and hurt Chevrolet parent General Motor’s truck sales. But the Silverado had tracked below Ram for all of 2019 before the work stoppage. GM said its share of the retail portion of the truck market grew. Many truck sales are to companies such as utilities that operate fleets.
“Ram outselling the Silverado is a feather in Ram’s cap,” Brinley said.
But Brinley added that GM also sells pickup trucks under the GMC brand, and combined, sold more trucks than Ram in 2019.
“For GM and for Ram, the most significant concern should be ensuring pickup sales are profitable. Volume is part of the equation, but only part of it,” Brinley said.
Ford’s F-Series line of trucks dominated all truck sales. It was the best-selling pickup for the 43rd consecutive year. But sales of F-Series trucks eased last year, falling 1.4 percent to 896,526.
The automaker will introduce a new generation F-150 truck later this year.
Ford truck sales for the year, including pickups and vans, climbed 9.1 percent, with more than 1.2 million trucks sold. Combined sales of F-Series and the mid-size Ranger pickup totaled at 986,097 vehicles for the year – an increase of 8.4 percent. That narrowly beat GM, which sold 963,052 full- and mid-size pickup trucks last year.
Ram also had a banner year, including its van sales. The brand logged record sales of 703,023 vehicles for 2019. It is the highest level of full-year sales ever for Ram and an 18 percent increase over 2018. The brand split off from Dodge a decade ago and now operates as a division of FCA.
“It has taken some hard work, but it has been a true reward to see how Ram has evolved over the past 10 years,” said Reid Bigland, FCA’s head of Ram and U.S. Sales.
The average transaction price of the Ram 1500 half-ton pickup has jumped almost 50 percent from 2010 to about $50,000. Also, the average transaction price for Ram’s heavy-duty pickup has increased more than 20 percent to about $55,000.
Brinley said she thinks Ram might outsell Silverado again this year. That’s because it will continue to sell two Ram 1500 versions. Also, GM is still catching up on lost production from the strike.
Chevrolet could recapture its traditional second spot in the sales ranking if it is willing to do heavy discounting.
“If they race to bottom on incentives Chevy could claw back market share, but at a heavy cost that I’m not sure they are willing to spend,” said Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst for Navigant Research.
Additionally, the automaker could push needed upgrades to the interior and do a front face-lift of the Silverado, “although I’m not sure if it will be enough,” he said.