DETROIT -- IHS Automotive raised its 2015 production forecast for General Motors' full-sized pickups by 6 percent over previous estimates -- betting that tamer gasoline prices will juice demand for GM's biggest money-maker and help blunt the threat from Ford’s new aluminum-bodied truck.
The research firm's most recent forecast, released Monday, calls for GM to produce 836,572 Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras next year, up from a previous estimate of 787,266. The firm still expects GM to reduce its overall production from 2014 levels.
IHS boosted to its production forecast for Ford's pickups more modestly. It now expects Ford to make 938,615 F-150 and Super Duty pickups, up less than 2 percent from an earlier forecast. Its estimate for Ram pickup production remained at 577,380.
Mike Jackson, IHS's director of North American vehicle production forecasting, said the outlook for stable gasoline prices will help to insulate GM from the competitive threat of Ford's redesigned 2015 pickups, which went into production last week.
"The expectation was that under a high fuel price environment, F-150 has a stronger story and stronger competitive advantage," Jackson said in an interview. "With the oil price environment turning, we see some relief for GM from that increased competitive pressure."
Ford has not yet disclosed EPA fuel economy ratings for the redesigned truck. Analysts expect the lighter weight aluminum construction will allow it to leapfrog the ratings of GM's trucks, creating a marketing claim for Ford.
GM Jim Cain spokesman declined to comment on its production plans but said the automaker is encouraged by continued signs of an improving economy.
"We think we're poised for a strong 2015, especially with the stronger job market, higher consumer lower fuel prices.”
Through October, Ford sold 620,447 F-series pickups, down 1 percent from a year earlier. GM sold 594,972 Silverados and Sierras, up 7 percent. Ram sold 359,702 units, up 23 percent.
The IHS lift to GM's pickup production forecast was the largest increase for any of the eight "key platforms" for which IHS had previously assigned estimates.
It also increased its forecast by 2 percent for the Ford Escape, Focus and C-Max, which ride on the same platform. It cut by 4 percent its forecast for GM's Epsilon platform, which underpins the Chevrolet Malibu, Buick LaCrosse and other sedans.
Even with the bump in the revised forecast, IHS still predicts GM full-sized pickup production will drop 4 percent in 2015 from its forecast of 871,290 for this year. Jackson said the decline reflects the natural sales cycle following the first full year on the market for GM's redesigned pickups, which were launched in mid-2013.