GM's truck trash-talk didn't persuade shoppers, but cash might've

July 18, 2016

Someone wiser than us once said that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Apparently, the same holds true in truck advertising: as recent sales stats suggest, tough talk may not be the best way to lure potential shoppers, but the sweet-nothings whispered by automaker incentives are another story.

Unseating the king of the hill

The Ford F-150 has been America's best-selling vehicle for more than 30 years. For the 2015 model-year, though, Ford made a big change to its big gun, opting to use lighter-weight aluminum for most of the truck's sheet metal.

That made the pickup about 750 pounds lighter, but it also made some longtime customers nervous: would aluminum be rugged and durable enough to meet their needs?

ALSO SEE: Ford says new Super Duty can drag 20 tons, no tree stump safe

Sensing weakness, General Motors launched a series of ads, suggesting that the Ford F-150 wasn't what it used to be, and that trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado were much tougher.

Did the ads convince shoppers to make the switch? Not so much. In fact, Silverado sales dipped 3.7 percent in June, while the GMC Sierra fell 7.8 percent. Ford's F-Series pickups, however, saw a 29 percent uptick in deliveries.

Why the ads failed is up for debate. Some might argue that they weren't persuasive. Others suggest that truck buyers are very dedicated to their preferred brands. And still others would suggest that negative advertising--particularly when it comes to trucks--isn't always effective

What is effective, though, is cash. GM ran a sale for the first ten days of July, offering 20 percent off truck sticker prices. During that period, incentives on the Chevrolet Silverado averaged $7,962 and those on the Sierra averaged $9,457 (up 76 percent and 147 percent, respectively, from June).

During the same period, Ford's incentives for the F-150 were around $4,457, while those for FCA's Ram hit $6,172.

The results? According to GM, half of all pickups sold to retail customers (i.e. excluding fleet sales) were either Silverados or Sierras.

In the comments below, you can discuss what those stats say about GM trucks. If you're in the market for a pickup, though, GM notes that its 20 percent discount is still valid on some models.  

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