In a rare tip of the hat to its crosstown rival, Ford Motor Co. is considering following General Motors Co.’s lead in halting monthly vehicle sales reports, a move that will complicate analyst and investor efforts to assess the health of the auto market.
“We think it’s interesting and a pretty significant development for the industry,” Mark LaNeve, Ford’s U.S. sales chief, said Tuesday of GM’s plan to shift to quarterly releases. “Their comment that there’s a lot of volatility in month-to-month sales, I believe there is some validity to that. So we’re going to assess it and take a look.”
GM contends that the practice of monthly sales reporting -- a standard in the industry since the 1990s -- provides too narrow a view of the market and distorts actual trends. Tesla Inc. already reports its global deliveries on a quarterly basis, though it doesn’t break out U.S.-specific results like other automakers.
“Thirty days is not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. GM stopped holding a monthly conference call with analysts and media in January 2014 and discontinued releases of monthly production figures months earlier.
GM will continue to privately share sales results wit the Federal Reserve, which uses them to help calculate the U.S. gross domestic product, said Jim Cain, a GM spokesman. The company will still compile that data on a monthly basis, but won’t release it to the public, Cain said.
So long, SAAR
GM’s break from tradition will impede investors’ ability to gauge the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales, known as SAAR, a closely-watched monthly data point for the world’s second-largest auto market. Analysts widely expect industrywide deliveries in the U.S. to slump for the second year in a row after an unprecedented seven-year growth spurt.
Other automakers are also assessing the shift by GM, which will report second-quarter sales in July. March was the last month that GM provided a 31-day tally.
“While we think this has merit and makes good business sense, we haven’t made a decision yet on how we’ll report our sales results in the future,” Jim Trainor, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor Co.’s U.S. sales unit, said in an e-mail.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NA, Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz said they would still report sales monthly.
Honda Motor Co. sympathizes with GM’s concerns about monthly sales creating a distorted reality but has no plans yet to change to quarterly reporting, said Sage Marie, a spokesman.
“The monthly reporting process can be frustrating when the news media reports simple ups and downs and declares winners and losers without analysis of the levers being pulled to drive those results,” he said in an e-mail. Still, Honda’s plan is “to continue monthly sales reporting for now.”
The auto industry began reporting monthly U.S. sales in late 1990, when then-Chrysler Corp. was first to make the switch away from releasing deliveries figures every 10 days, the Detroit News reported. GM followed suit three years later, Cain said.
– With assistance from Anand Krishnamoorthy