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GM increases pickup truck deals to work down inventory

December 18, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • GM is offering big cash incentives to lure buyers into 2012 models of its trucks. The company will put on sale an all-new model in 2013.
GM is offering big cash incentives to lure buyers into 2012 models of its… (Daniel Acker )

Stuck with too many trucks, General Motors Co. is offering discounts of as much as $9,000 to drain its supply of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups as it gets ready to launch a new generation of the vehicles next year.

GM's truck inventory has ballooned to 139 days despite previous sales incentives designed to move the vehicles off dealer lots.  Automakers like to keep supplies of an individual model at about 90 days.

“This is more inventory than any car manufacturer would like to have,” said Thilo Koslowski, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

Now the automaker will offer as much as $9,000 off remaining 2012 models and about $4,500 off 2013 model year trucks. The new-generation trucks will be labeled 2014s and go on sale in the second quarter of 2013.

Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group, the other big players in the U.S. truck market, are offering incentives of $4,500 to about $5,000 that like GM vary with model year and option packages.

GM is recognizing that the competition is doing pretty well and is trying to regain market share, Koslowski said. 

Combined, the Chevrolet Silverado and its sister GMC Sierra made up 34.7% of the full-size truck market through the first 11 months of this year, according to the website MotorIntelligence. That's down from a 40.3% share in 2008, before the company's bankruptcy reorganization.

Meanwhile, Ford's F-series has captured 39.6% of the market this year, up from 32.8% in 2008. Chrysler's Dodge Ram is at 18.1%, up from 15.6% in 2008.

Truck sales are a crucial part of GM's North American strategy, even as it works to build market share with a new lineup of passenger cars and crossovers. That's largely because GM makes $9,000 to $11,000 from each pickup sale, compared with about $5,000 for a passenger car, said Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Research.

But the recession and slow recovery have upended some assumptions about the market for trucks, especially the theory that it will take a big jump as the housing market improves, Johnson said.

Previously the consensus thinking was that construction workers, crafts people and building companies would buy trucks as they get more business building homes.

However, “rising housing starts do not necessarily equate to immediate strength in pickups,” Johnson told investors in an emailed note Tuesday.

“We believe the statistics linking housing starts to pickup mix are weak. Moreover, rising gas prices bode an unfavorable environment for pickup sales in (the first half of 2013) with full recovery of large pickup share unlikely given structurally higher gas prices,” he wrote.

(This post has been updated to reflect GM's latest truck inventory number of 139 days as of Dec. 19.)

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