Last month, General Motors announced that it will no longer report its sales results on a monthly basis. The Detroit-based automaker will share sales data on a quarterly basis instead. The move breaks an auto industry tradition that has lasted longer than similar changes in sales reporting in the technology and retailing, along with other sectors. Let’s explore what’s behind GM’s decision.
GM insists that a mere thirty days is too short a time frame to determine trends related to sales, demand, and supply in the automotive industry. Like other publicly-traded firms, the automaker already reports its financial results on a quarterly basis, rather than monthly.
“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 for sales operations, said in a statement. “Reporting sales quarterly better aligns with our business, and the quality of information will make it easier to see how the business is performing.”
As any amateur statistician will tell you, however, more (accurate) information – not less – is key to trend and pattern derivation. But we’ll save that topic for another time. For now, we’ll conclude that GM wants to control the flow of sales-related information for its own benefit.
Assuming that GM’s point of view is correct (and that’s a big and risky assumption in and of itself), then we must wonder why the company even cares about controlling the message associated with sales-related info in the first place. And, as is almost always the case, the answer comes down to money.
GM execs have explained that, by adopting quarterly sales reports, the company avoids wild swings in share prices. In other words, GM believes that swings in its monthly sales can result in unfounded speculation about where it may be headed. This is especially true following years of record auto sales that took place in 2015 and 2016.
But car sales have been plateauing and, in some cases, diminishing as of late. That’s the case for all of 2017 as well as for the first two months of 2018, meaning that year-over-year sales volume comparisons will no longer be impressive, showing green/upward-facing arrows. Instead, sales volume reports will be in the red – and that’s not a pretty picture to look at.
So there you have it: GM has switched from reporting sales monthly to doing so quarterly because it wants to prevent analysts from making erroneous conclusions about what that sales volume might mean, in turn hurting its stock price – which hasn’t exactly been an impressive performer.
Stay tuned to GM Authority as we explore this matter further, and for more GM news.