Will Ram, GM, or Toyota Copy Ford’s F-150 Raptor?
One of the oldest rules in marketing is “copy your competitors – it’s easy and it works.”
Ford’s F-150 Raptor is a tremendous truck. A dedicated off-road machine, the Raptor has a host of features and extras that make most off-road enthusiasts drool. Based on the interest and excitement around the Raptor – and the early sales – it would seem that the Raptor is a run-away success. PickupTrucks.com has reported twice now about Dodge’s long travel Ram, a possible test version of a Dodge version of the Raptor that could serve as the basis for a production vehicle.
PickupTrucks.com’s coverage has us wondering…will Ram – or anyone else – really try and copy the F-150 Raptor? Maybe. It’s pretty complicated – here’s why:
1. To make a special model ‘work’ you’ve got to have sales. Believe it or not, it’s likely that Ford will never make a profit on the Raptor. With about 6,000 orders so far – each at about $40k – the Raptor is definitely a solid seller…but most auto experts agree that sales of 5k-10k units per year are required just to sustain a specialty model. Despite the early success, Ford will still have to sell 5-10k Raptors a year just to break even.
Often times, new models are a big hit when they first debut, but after a while sales peter out. If Ford sees strong sales this year and next (we would call “strong” sales 10k units+), the chances of someone copying the Raptor go up. If not, you can assume the Raptor will be one-of-a-kind model.
2. You’ve got to build from a high-volume base. The Raptor was designed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team (SVT). Ford’s most successful SVT product to date is the 1993-2004 Mustang Cobra. Ford made only 78k limited-edition SVT Cobras during this period, which represented only 4.3% of total Mustang sales (shout out to The Mustang Database for pulling all these numbers together).
This ratio is important – out of 25 Mustangs that Ford sold, only 1 was a Cobra. It’s difficult to make money on a low-volume vehicle unless you’ve got a high volume vehicle behind it to provide economies of scale. If your specialty model can share the same steering wheel, lug nuts, brake lines, etc., as the standard model, it’s much more financially feasible….especially when the standard model is a strong seller.
No slight to the Cobra (an awesome vehicle as well), but that vehicle was not the radical departure from ‘normal’ that the Raptor is. With the Cobra Ford essentially changed the motor, which is a fairly simple modification job compared to the work Ford has done on the Raptor. The Raptor is is much wider than a stock F-150, radically different in terms of suspension, and it requires a lot of unique body panels. Frankly, it’s amazing that Ford can build such a specialized vehicle for only $40k. The F-150’s tremendous sales volumes are a big part of the reason Ford can make the Raptor affordable.
3. You’ve got to hope your copy doesn’t look like a cheap knock-off of the original. One of the benefits of building a special edition car like a Cobra or a Raptor is the ‘halo’ effect it has on the rest of your brand. People who might not otherwise have paid attention – hard-core enthusiasts, journalists, and young, impressionable buyers – are more likely to consider your brand if you’ve got something special to gaze at in the show room. Dodge’s Viper is a great example of a ‘halo’ car that – arguably – rescued an automaker.
The trouble with copying a competitor’s halo car is that it can backfire. Instead of becoming a ‘halo’ for GM, Ram, or Toyota, a copy of Ford’s Raptor could be perceived as nothing more than a knock-off. Consumers will give the original credit, but the copies less so. If GM, Ram, or Toyota intend to copy Ford’s Raptor, they’ve got to do something that’s better than Ford’s truck…and that’s a tall order.
Bottom Line: Will Ram, GM, or Toyota copy the F-150 Raptor? Most likely no. The Raptor’s sales figures indicate the market is too small to sustain more than one vehicle. Unless GM, Ram, or Toyota want to make a low-volume dedicated off-road truck that’s guaranteed to lose money, Ford’s Raptor is going to be all alone.
Having said all of that, we certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see some manufacturers roll-out some “Raptor Light” type packages. Ram might try and offer a half-ton version of their Power Wagon, GM could try and make a special edition of their Z-71 4×4 package, and Toyota might try and make a TRD off-road kit that’s a dealer installed option…but the chances of even these minor packages are remote.
We’re giving credit where credit is due – creating the Raptor was a master-stroke for Ford. Whether or not they continue this model past 2011 or 2012, the Raptor gives Ford a lot of credibility in the truck world and definitely has created a halo around the rest of the brand. Kudos, SVT.
Filed Under: Auto News