Ford Motor Co. is saying "not so fast" to General Motors Co.’s claim to total U.S. truck sales leadership.
In the first quarter, Ford delivered more F-Series pickups than GM sold Chevrolet Silverado, Colorado and GMC Sierra and Canyon trucks. GM has tallied up its total volume from its four models the last few years and stacked them up against Ford’s F-Series to claim superiority, including during an investor day in January.
The results are somewhat of a surprise, since the F-150 is the oldest light-duty truck line in Detroit. GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV rolled out redesigned versions of their full-size pickups last year and are ramping up production. But Ford also has fresh metal in showrooms, having just revived the mid-size Ranger that started selling in January. This new addition to the lineup may help Ford to hold onto its early lead through the rest of the year.
“We knew we were going to be facing intense competition,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s U.S. sales chief, said in a phone interview. “We’re delighted that so far, we’ve withstood it pretty well.”
The F-Series has been the best-selling model line in the U.S. for almost four decades. As Ford abandons the traditional sedan market, it’s key that the company protect its full-size truck turf and reclaim some of the ground given up in the mid-size pickup segment it sat out from for seven years.
In January, Ford said the operating-profit margin for its worldwide truck and van business was 14 percent in 2017, miles ahead of the 4.4 percent margin the company earned from all its auto operations last year.
Ford started April with 84 days supply of F-Series in inventory, according to Automotive News Data Center estimates. GM had 128 days of Silverado and 109 days of Sierra supply, while Fiat Chrysler had 134 days of Ram pickups.
LaNeve, Ford’s sales chief, said the company is “very comfortable” where it’s at in terms of truck inventory.
“I tend not to worry that could be a precursor to more aggressive activity in the market,” LaNeve said. “All three of us build so many pickups that you could adjust production so quickly. They could take that number down by adjusting production actually a lot easier than spending more incentive money. I’m not predicting they’re going to do that.”
While GM may have lost the first-quarter truck battle, it didn’t go down without some fighting words. Jim Cain, a spokesman, said Ford’s total vehicle sales to retail customers -- excluding deliveries to rental-car companies and other fleet buyers -- ranked fifth in March, behind GM, Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and Fiat Chrysler.
“If I were Ford and my retail sales had fallen to No. 5 in the industry, I’m not sure I would crow so much about the success of one product,” Cain said in an email.
-- Bloomberg News