Bad News for Chevy as Ram Sales Pass Silverado

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The three top-selling vehicles in the United States remains the same month after month. Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) F-150 is first, followed by the Chevy Silverado from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and then by Fiat Chrysler Automobile N.V.’s (NYSE: FCAU) Ram. The natural order dissolved in September as Ram sales pulled ahead of Silverado’s.

Pickup sales are among the most profitable of all vehicle sales made by global manufacturers. Ford’s F-Series sales are about 20% of its total unit sales each year. Silverado sales are slightly less critical for GM, but still important.

Through the first nine months of the year, the standard order has held, however. Silverado sales have fallen 3.5% to 425,556 from period last year. Ram sales surged 8.6% to 359,226. F-150 sales have risen 5.5% to 595,656, so its lead is not threatened.

September was a horrible sales month for Silverado. Units sold dropped 15.5% to 45,380. Ram sales soared 30.6% to 47,792, while F-150 sales dropped 2.6% to 67,809.

The ability to forecast the sales of Silverado and Ram, and their profitability, are clouded by incentives. Chevy offers 0% APR for 72-month financing for “qualified” buyers. The other important qualification is that the Silverado has to be a 2016 model. Chevy offers particular heavy discounts on one model of the pickup. A 2016 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab LT All Star has discounts that add to $11,115, but the offer is only for special “tagged” Silverados, whatever that means. The $11,115 is calculated by adding a $4,000 cash allowance, $3,500 bonus cash tag allowance, $2,865 factory reduction below MSRP, and $750 option package discount. No wonder consumers cannot figure out what sort of deals they get on new cars, or don’t get.

The Ram incentives appear to be just as aggressive as those for Silverado. Buyers can get as much as 20% off MSRP, on “select 2016 Ram 1500 models.” Additionally, these must be in dealer stock. The discount is only available on the “oldest 15% of the 2016 model.” An effort to find a truck with those qualifications could be difficult.

For now, just one month, Ram sales moved past those of Silverado. GM may be able to discount its way back into the number two position. Or, perhaps, consumers like its pickups better, and September was just an aberration.