If you can’t beat ‘em…start pounding ‘em below the belt? GM’s Chevy division is putting this tactic in play after the Silverado’s historic loss to Fiat’s (FIATY.PK) Ram pickups in March. According to an email obtained by Auto News, GM regional managers implored dealers to “take the gloves off” in the scuffle to reclaim the Silverado’s place in the sales hierarchy. This email came to light after another GM official mocked Ram’s “1980s” marketing strategy. It’s officially gotten nasty in pickup country.
The brouhaha follows a March shakeup in the familiar order of monthly U.S. auto sales. Since Dodge debuted its Ram pickup in 1983, it has placed behind the Chevy Silverado in nearly every sales tally. According to the records, the last time Dodge or Ram pickups outpaced the Chevy mainstay was 1999, when the eponymous 1982 song by Prince called ruled the pre-millennial airwaves.
The disappointment in GM camp was immediately palpable. Following the March sales report, a spokesperson for the top U.S. automaker told Auto News the Ram win was a fluke dictated by heavy incentives. It’s easy “to offer cheap deals to buy market share,” the GM spokesperson said. He had a zinger ready as well.
“The 1980s called,” the GM rep told Auto News. ”They want their marketing stretegy back.” Fighting words, indeed.
Always at the top of the U.S. sales sheet is Ford’s F-Series pickups followed by the Chevy Silverado, even though there’s something of an asterisk in these tallies related to the separate count of the GMC Sierra.
Since the GMC Sierra has so much in common with the Silverado, it would be fair to add those two together to match them against the Ford behemoth that has sat atop the sales list for decades. Even still, Ford’s F-Series trucks topped the combined GM payload by 100,000 units in 2013. In third place is usually Ram trucks, which was spun off by Dodge in recent years to represent its own high-profile division.
According to reports, it’s now Chevy’s turn to wheel out the incentives and snatch back sales from Ram in April. To pull off this feat, Auto News reports regional GM managers are offering down payments that are $1,000 lower than Ram accepts and are nearly matching the monthly cost of Ram ownership to get prospective buyers in a Silverado.
As with Toyota in its commitment to make the Camry America’s best selling car, Chevy is not taking the drop in pecking order lightly. Will added incentives reduce profits on every Silverado sale? Undoubtedly they will. However, that’s a tradeoff GM officials appear happy to make.