Battle for Top Pickup: Chevy Silverado vs. Dodge Ram

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U.S. automakers have a lot at stake in the battle for sales of full-size pickup trucks. Nearly 1.3 million pickups have been sold this year through the end of August, the fourth-largest segment in the U.S. new vehicle market. That is what makes the latest comparison between the Chevy Silverado 1500 from General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and the Ram 1500 from Chrysler a big deal.

Consumer Reports has just completed such a comparison and declared that the two vehicles finished in a virtual dead-heat, separated by just three points. The Silverado had the top score and is the top-rated truck, followed by the Ram, with two pickups from Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) finishing third and fourth.

In the sales race, though, Ford’s F-series remains nearly untouchable. At the end of August, according to Kelley Blue Book, the F-series had nabbed nearly 40% share of the full-size pickup market with sales of nearly 500,000 units. The Silverado had a 24.2% share and the Ram had 18.3% share. GM’s Sierra brand — essentially identical with the Silverado — claimed a 10% share, and the full-size Tundra from Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) claimed a 6.3% share.

The GM combination of the Silverado and the Sierra have sold about 450,000 units so far in 2013, and more than 72% of those sales are chalked up to Silverado, the less-expensive of the two. If the Consumer Reports review results in a few more sales, the GM trucks could topple Ford’s long-standing leadership in the full-size pickup segment.

GM also is developing a poor-man’s electric car that will have a driving range of 200 miles and sell for around $30,000, putting up a challenge to high-flying Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) and its $70,000 Model S sedan. GM has to do better than the Chevy Volt, a major sales disappointment, to say the least.