With newly redesigned half-ton pickups from both GM and FCA hitting the market in full force and Ford looking to hold onto its top spot in the segment, there’s been a noticeable uptick in February sales promotions for these vehicles. Especially hot is the competition between Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 for the second-place spot in volume for pickups.

Much of the activity, however, is on the previous generation of both those trucks being sold as either 2018 or 2019 models. According to Automotive News, Ram is offering as much as $15,000 as part of Ram Truck Month on the older truck and $11,000 on the all-new 2019 Ram. Chevrolet is discounting as much as $10,000 off the previous Silverado and $7,000 for the new model.

GMC, which isn’t jockeying for position in the sales race, is offering the same $10,000 incentives on the previous generation Sierra, but only $4,500 on the new model. Ford, looking to maintain its lead, has about $6,000 in spiffs for the F-150, but no special February sales event like FCA.

The pickup truck wars may spill over into the heavy-duty and midsize segments, with GM, Ram and Ford offering significantly redesigned or facelifted versions of these large pickups during the course of the year. Meanwhile, among midsize trucks, the Toyota Tacoma, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon and Nissan Frontier will face fresh challenges from the newly introduced Ford Ranger and soon-to-be-launched Jeep Gladiator.

Low incentives, low sales

The hangover from a strong December finish to 2018 calendar year sales saw a 2 percent drop in January sales, year-over-year. Some of that drop is attributed to sales pulled forward during the holiday sales event blitz and cold weather, but another culprit may be declining incentives.

“Buyers were likely disappointed by incentives in January, which were down 8 percent from December and down 6 percent from a year ago January,” said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Cox Automotive, which is the parent company of Kelley Blue Book. “In terms of incentives, consumers had no reason to brave the polar vortex to buy a vehicle at month end. They can look for better deals ahead.” He also noted that demand for auto loans is waning, signaling a decline in retail activity.

But he also sees rising inventories and the prospects of higher incentives as manufacturers look to clear out rising stockpiles of vehicles.

Inventories rise

Almost as if on cue, January days’ supply numbers as compiled by Automotive News showed that inventory has climbed to a 5-year high at 88 days. Days’ supply is the number of days it would take to move all the cars in stock at the current sales rate.

The February 1 figure is four days higher than a year ago but 26 days higher than the January 1 number. There are just over 4 million vehicles in stock, up from 3.88 million a month earlier. The jump in days’ supply in this instance reflects more a slowdown in sales than a real-time buildup of inventory.

As evidenced by the big discounts on pickups offered by Chevrolet and Ram, inventories on light trucks have grown faster than cars, with a more than 100-day supply of the former. Only 28 percent of the vehicles in stock are cars, which is in line with the current market share for that vehicle type.

Subaru again leads the industry with the tightest supply with a reported 42-day inventory, followed by Mercedes at 48 and Genesis and Land Rover tied at 51 days each. Kia has a 56-day supply of vehicles. At the other end of the spectrum, Fiat has a 250-day supply, Ram clocks in at 141, followed by Buick at 134, Jeep at 126 and Mitsubishi with 120 days.

Contributing to the high Fiat number is the 3,000 Fiat 124 Spiders in stock with a slow selling rate that translates to a 461 days’ supply. Other vehicles in abundant supply with low sales rates include the Ford Fiesta, which stands at 146 days and the EcoSport at 175. Also, Honda’s new hybrid Insight has a 156 days’ supply followed by the Fit at 142 days.

Deals of the month

Rebates of more than $3,000 on three vehicles and a couple with lease deals under $200 per month are featured in February’s deals of the month. The incentives are being offered primarily on crossover SUVs and compact cars.

Among the SUVs on the list, the 2019 Chevrolet Equinox is being offered with a $199 per month lease for 39 months with $3,619 down. Current Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price for this vehicle is $26,512. Kia has a similar, though shorter term deal on its 2019 Sorento. The Korean automaker is offering a 2-year $199 per month lease on this slightly larger 3-row SUV. The deal requires an upfront payment of $3,657.

Two key competitors, the 2018 Honda CR-V and 2018 Mazda CX-5, have lease offers just above the $200 mark. The Honda CR-V is available on a 3-year contract for $229 per month with $1,999 due up front. The Mazda CX-5 features a monthly payment of $215 per month for 36 months with $2,499 cash.

The more premium 2019 Buick Envision crossover is being offered by the GM division on a 3-year lease for $299 per month with $2,729 due at signing.

Ford, on the other hand, has chosen to go the rebate route with its 2018 Escape compact SUV with a $5,000 offer. Jeep also has a rebate on for its 2018 Renegade, giving $3,750 back to buyers.

On the car side, Ford has a $4,000 rebate on its 2018 Ford Focus, while Hyundai is giving $2,000 cash back plus 0-percent financing on its 2018 Sonata. It is also continuing its $189 per month 3-year lease on the 2019 Veloster with $2,299 due at signing.

The rundown

BMW has given the full M treatment for a pair of its compact SUVs. Get the inside information on the 2020 BMW X3 M and X4 M in this First Look.

In addition to big rebates on the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic, FCA’s truck division is looking to add a bit of pizzazz by outfitting the previous generation truck with a retro Warlock package.

As truck popularity peaks, the time is right for Kelley Blue Book’s 2019 Full-Size Pickup Comparison Test. We pit the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500 against each other. 

In the market for a new car? Explore these useful tips on how to get the best deal: 

Top 10 deals of the month

Kelley Blue Book’s Complete Guide to Incentives

All you need to know about leasing

Which dealer services are right for you

What you need to know about conditional rebates

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