GM delays truck plant restarts due to Mexico

Detroit’s automakers saw inventory of full-size pickups shrink despite the pandemic slowdown in sales; however, GM rebounded well.

General Motors and Ford are experiencing their own version of the election madness: each are claiming to be the top choice of buyers after all of the counting of full-size pickup trucks sold in 2020 has been completed.

The rivalry between the two Detroit makers when it comes to pickups extends well beyond which company sells more. Hundreds of thousands of truck owners are loyal to one brand or the other for reasons that may seem insignificant to many, but govern the repeated purchasing decisions of others.

To be clear, each company claims to have ended 2020 as the sales leader of full-size pickups. In GM’s case, if true, it would be the first time since 2015. How that’s measured isn’t always so cut and dry. Before delving into that, looking at the final numbers for the pandemic-plagued 2020 is necessary.

(Ford sales drop sharply in fourth quarter and full year.)

For 2020, the GMC Sierra got a slew of new technology as well as a new engine offering, resulting in strong demand from buyers.

GM delivered 839,691 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, representing a 3.9% increase compared with 2019 results. One ancillary note, even its midsize pickups fared ok with total 2020 pickup sales matching 2019 results; retail deliveries were up 2 percent.

Ford’s F-Series line, which includes its F-150 truck as well as the larger Super Duty, fell 12%, to 787,422, the company said Wednesday. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker was hit hard by the pandemic and its vaunted F-150 saw a massive sales drop in the final quarter of the year, dipping 32.7% due to a lack of inventory.

And looking at the numbers: 839,691 (GM) v. 787,422 (Ford) the answer seems pretty clear which company is the top dawg. However, that didn’t stop Ford from proclaiming in a press release, “F-Series sales totaled 787,422 in 2020, making it America’s best-selling pickup for the 44th straight year.” Naturally, this was a day after GM offered this, “GM is the 2020 full-size pickup sales leader ….” In its own sales release.

(End of year auto sales pick up due to pickups.)

In short, the numbers boil down to a simple distinction: GM counts all of its full-size pickups, meaning both brands: Chevy and GMC. Ford only has one brand of full-size trucks: Ford. So the Ford brand is the top selling brand, still. However, when combined, GM’s got Ford’s number for the first time in five years — and the pandemic is to blame.

Ford reveals F-150 on June 25

Ford pickup sales were hit particularly hard during the fourth quarter of this year.

However, the back and forth between the two isn’t just limited to sells more of what. The two companies have a long history of, ahem, spirited competition, including very recently. This fall, GM claimed it revamped heavy-duty pickup truck had “best in class” towing capability. Ford quickly – and very publicly – disputed the claim.

When Ford began touting its new “military grade” aluminum body panels on the F-150 a few years back, GM quickly developed a series of ads casting aspersions on the durability of those panels, even in everyday use. Towing capabilities, fuel economy and sales results are just some of the areas the two sides have clashed throughout the years.

(First Drive: 2021 Ford F-150.)

And while numbers are certainly reasonable motivation for dispute, it has gone a little more to the silly side in the past. In a commercial during the Super Bowl in 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal, GM suggested its pickup trucks would survive an apocalypse — and Ford’s would not. Ford threated legal action.

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