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GM drops monthly sales reports, paving the way for others to follow

Key Points
  • General Motors has decided to report U.S. sales at the end of each quarter instead of at the end of each month.
  • The automaker says dropping monthly sales reports was driven by a number of factors, including the desire to stop the volatility that sometimes exaggerates monthly sales.
  • The question is whether other automakers will do the same thing.
Workers walk past parked General Motors Co. (GM) Chevrolet automobiles bound for export at the Port of Incheon in Incheon, South Korea.
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Motors will begin reporting U.S. sales at the end of each quarter instead of at the end of each month. March will be the last monthly sales report from GM.

"Reporting sales quarterly better aligns with our business, and the quality of information will make it easier to see how the business is performing," said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president, Sales Operations for General Motors.

The automaker says dropping monthly sales reports was driven by a number of factors, including the desire to stop the volatility that sometimes exaggerates monthly sales. GM says unusual weather, product launches or incentive campaigns can skew monthly numbers up or down.

"Thirty days is not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market," said McNeil.

The move paves the way for other automakers to do the same thing. In the early 1990's, many automakers reported sales every ten days, while Chrysler posted its numbers on a monthly basis. By the mid-90's all of the major automakers were on a monthly sales schedule.

Will Wall Street and investors care? Maybe not.

Tesla has never reported sales on a monthly basis and there's no indication reporting deliveries on a quarterly basis has hurt or helped Tesla's stock. Still, when auto sales were plunging in 2008, the monthly sales reports helped investors, analysts and lawmakers in Washington understand how quickly the auto industry and economy were deteriorating. If that scenario repeats itself at some point in the future, and we learn the severity of slower sales just once every three months, that could cause more alarm among investors.

Even without GM's report, other sources including dealers, suppliers and analysts will continue to give us insight into how auto sales are progressing throughout a quarter. So investors won't be completely in the dark about the state of business at GM.