Can GM beat Ford with pickup offerings?

U.S. automaker General Motors is betting big on pickup trucks in 2019, amid an overall decline in sales last year.

“We are very bullish on pickups heading into 2019,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement on Thursday.

Demand for pickup trucks was strong in 2018 – which saw declining sales of passenger cars -- a trend U.S. automakers are keen to profit from.

Looking ahead, GM has a lot riding on continued strength in pickup sales, Ivan Drury, senior manager of industry at Edmunds, told FOX Business.

“Similar to Ford, the company made the decision to reduce its car lineup, which leaves no alternative other than to invest heavily in pickups and SUVs.”

On Thursday, GM announced it sold almost 974,000 pickups in 2018 – part of a total of more than 2.9 million total vehicles delivered.

GM faces a tough rival in Ford where pickup trucks are concerned. Ford’s F-series truck has been America’s best-selling pickup model for 42 consecutive years. In 2018 alone, the company said it sold more than 900,000 F-series trucks.

However, GM could have the advantage this year, according to Drury, because Ford isn’t expected to unveil any major overhauls to the iconic F-150 over the near-term. So GM’s redesigned trucks could be more marketable to customers who want “the latest and greatest,” while also preventing GM customers from switching to Ford.

Drury does see some major obstacles for General Motors, including the all-new Ford Ranger – a mid-sized pickup truck that will challenge the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

Earlier this year, GM announced it would shutter a handful of U.S. plants, lay off 15 percent of its workforce and discontinue production of six sedans – including the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Volt and Cadillac CTS – as it attempts to cut costs.

GM is also concentrating on its lineup of electric vehicles, after it reportedly hit a sales threshold last year that will trigger a phase-out of a $7,500 federal tax credit in the spring.

President Trump, who has been sharply critical of GM’s decision to cut U.S. production, has also said its focus on electric vehicles is “not going to work.”

GM sales fell 1.6 percent in 2018 – and nearly 3 percent in the fourth quarter.

Ford reported U.S. sales of more than 2.49 million vehicles in 2018 – a 3.5 percent decline from 2017. Full-year sales of the F-Series were up 1.4 percent.