GM Takes Aim at Ford’s Commercial Truck Dominance
GM is getting back in the medium-duty commercial truck business. But is the new Silverado HD lineup any threat to Ford’s market dominance?
For years, Ford has quite simply dominated the commercial truck market. To the point where GM hasn’t even tried to compete. Quite literally. In fact, a medium-duty offering hasn’t existed in Chevrolet’s lineup for almost a decade. But now, as commercial truck sales begin to grow, GM is reentering the market with a brand-new lineup of HD Silverados – the 4500, 5500, and 6500.
The battle for truck dominance between these two iconic American automakers is nothing new, of course. But for years, commercial truck sales weren’t a terribly profitable venture. GM essentially gave up on the category following its 2009 bankruptcy filing. In the meantime, Ford took over a whopping 45% of the segment’s market share. Now, with a strong economy and recent tax system overhaul, commercial vehicle sales are beginning to lift.
Thus, the time appears right for GM (and other automakers) to get back into the commercial truck business. And they intend to do just that with a brand new lineup of Silverado HD pickups. These new medium-duty trucks are designed specifically for commercial users, with a variety of atypical user-friendly options.
“Chevy’s designers and engineers were obsessed with making this Silverado the most customer-focused medium-duty truck of any major competitor,” said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president, GM Fleet. “By customer-focused, I mean work-ready trucks that are easy to upfit, easy to drive, easy to service and easy to own.” At the same time, Peper also admitted GM is well aware that it has work to do convincing customers who defected to come back. “We’ve been losing customers because we don’t have this,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ford holds a distinct advantage in the medium-duty commercial truck business. Partly because they never left. For GM, it’s been almost a decade of sitting on the sidelines, watching their biggest rival take over the profitable market. Ford has used that time to build strong business relationships with its customers and foster a burgeoning aftermarket full of companies able to convert these trucks to fit customer needs.
Compared to the full-size truck market, however, the medium-duty market is rather small. Total sales equaled only 150,000 units in 2017. But the vast majority of the time, buyers spend tens of thousands of dollars converting these trucks after the purchase. And fleet owners typically buy them in large quantities, often 50-100 or more.