Discounts signal a price skirmish in pickup market

DETROIT — Detroit automakers are talking trash and slinging sizable sums of cash as they jockey for position in the most competitive and challenging pickup landscape in years.

The fiercest battle is for the No. 2 spot in U.S. full-size sales, which Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley last year proclaimed he’d like Ram to seize from Chevrolet.

To underscore the point, FCA this month launched a “Ram Truck Month” promotion, advertising more than $15,000 off its previous-generation Ram 1500 and nearly $11,000 in incentives on the current generation. The exact terms and offers vary by region and customer.

To defend its turf and clear out older models, Chevrolet launched a “Silverado Sell Down” campaign that touts more than $10,000 off the outgoing Silverado 1500. It’s also offering more than $7,000 in incentives on the redesigned 2019 Silverado, which went on sale in August.

GMC, Chevrolet’s sibling brand, has similar incentives on the outgoing Sierra 1500 but only up to $4,500 for the redesigned pickup.

As GM and FCA battle for second place, Ford is being more measured for now. As of last week, it was advertising up to $6,000 in incentives but had no special promotions for its F-series pickups in February, even though the F-150 is comparatively late in its life cycle, having last been overhauled for the 2015 model year.

Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book, attributes that conservatism to the F series’ healthy sales lead over its rivals and the fact that GM and Ram are launching redesigned pickups alongside previous generations.

“If Ford has been able to manage their inventory better, plus not have to worry about a sell-down, that would explain their ability to not compete in this kind of price war,” Brauer said.