GM Airs Attack Ads That Poke Holes in Ford’s Aluminum Pickups

  • Chevy trucks’ steel beds only scratched, dented by impacts
  • Biggest U.S. automaker denies critiquing rival with spots

The Chevrolet versus Ford rivalry just got nastier. General Motors Co. launched a series of ads showing field tests in which the steel Chevy Silverado pickup holds up better under heavy workloads than Ford Motor Co.’s aluminum-bodied model.

Chevy’s ads show the bed of the Ford F-150 cracking when heavy or sharp objects are dropped into it, while the Silverado ends up with just a few dents, scratches and, in one case, pinholes. In one video, a Chevy engineer drops a large toolbox into the bed of each truck at such an angle that it dents in the Silverado and puts a hole in the bed of the Ford. The campaign is big, too, airing online, on television during major sporting events and at 2,400 movie theaters nationwide.

The Chevy campaign is the latest example of GM taking public shots at another carmaker. Earlier this year, GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra sniped at Tesla Motors Inc. and its relatively scarce outlets by saying that buyers of the Chevrolet Bolt electric car “won’t have to drive to another state to buy, service, or support their vehicle.” This new series of ads isn’t the first time the largest U.S. automaker has disparaged Ford’s F-150.

“People hate attack ads, but they work,” said Alexander Edwards, president of San Diego-based marketing consulting firm Strategic Vision Inc. “They see that some of those ads are getting people elected so maybe they think it will do something good for them.”

Chevy has several ads which the company says are exhibiting field tests done internally by GM. In another ad, a load of 55 landscaping bricks is dropped five feet into the beds of each truck, again denting the Silverado and putting a few holes in the F-150. Truck owners usually don’t drop large bricks from such a height.

Ford said in a statement that fewer than 1 percent of customers have complained
about problems with the F-150’s aluminum bed.

Intense Competition

The pickup sales battle has always been intense. Full-size trucks are very profitable and sell in large numbers. Through the end of May, Ford sold more than 324,000 F-Series trucks, including steel-bodied models like the F-250 and F-350, to lead the 313,000 deliveries of the Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Chevy said that the ads aren’t an attack on Ford or aluminum, despite the fact that they show the Ford logo and include comments like “Ford needs to change their motto.”

It’s no small campaign. Chevy will air the ads on pricey broadcasts such as NASCAR races, Major League Baseball games and the Stanley Cup hockey finals.

“Its not a critique of Ford or on aluminum,” said Sandor Piszar, Chevrolet truck marketing director. “The bed is the heart and soul of a pickup. We would be remiss if we did not come to market with this message.”

Ford dismissed the ads.

“When you’re the market leader for 39 years, competitors sometimes try to take shots at you with marketing stunts,” Ford spokesman Mike Levine said in an e-mail. “The fact remains that F-150’s high-strength, military grade, aluminum alloy cargo box offers the best combination of strength, durability, corrosion resistance, capability, safety and fuel efficiency ever offered in a pickup.”

Levine also pointed out that Barrick Gold Corp. ordered 35 Ford trucks after testing the strength of the aluminum beds. Barrick Chairman John Thornton has been on Ford’s board for 20 years.

Watch Next: GM CEO: This Is a Transformational Time in Transportation

GM CEO: This Is a Transformational Time in Transportation

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE