April 3, 2018 / 4:05 AM / 8 months ago

GM to drop monthly U.S. vehicle sale reports

(This version of the April 3rd story corrects to delete reference to Brazil in second paragraph)

A partially assembled Chevrolet 2017 Sonic is seen on the assembly line at GM's Orion Assembly plant in Orion, Michigan, U.S., June13, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

By Joseph White

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (GM.N) said on Tuesday it will stop reporting monthly U.S. vehicle sales, saying the 30-day snapshot does not accurately reflect the market and the company will, instead, issue quarterly sales reports.

GM will also no longer report monthly sales in China, its largest market. The company will provide monthly data to the U.S. Federal Reserve, industry associations and government agencies across the globe but that data will not be made public.

Other major automakers indicated on Tuesday that they would not immediately follow GM’s lead on switching to reporting sales on a quarterly basis.

“At this time, we are maintaining our reporting of sales on a monthly basis,” said a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI) (FCAU.N).

On a conference call with analysts and reporters, Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said the automaker would assess GM’s move but a “decision is not imminent” on whether to report sales quarterly.

Jack Hollis, Toyota Motor Corp’s (7203.T) North American head of sales and marketing, said there is “no change planned on our side.”

Analysts and investors rely on monthly U.S. vehicle sales to track the performance of individual automakers, and also use the data as a barometer of the health of the world’s second-largest auto market and an indicator of consumer confidence in the U.S. economy overall.

Jeff Schuster, a senior executive at forecaster LMC Automotive, said GM’s decision to release fewer sales reports was “not that big a deal.”

“As an industry, we’ve gotten used to the monthly sound bites and have focused too much on the ‘noise,’” Schuster said. “Maybe we should focus more on the ‘why.’”

GM and its Detroit rivals have relied heavily on sales of high-margin pickup trucks and SUVs to boost profits.GM’s total U.S. sales, its second-largest market, are down 3.2 percent for the first two months of 2018, reflecting a 6.8 percent drop in retail sales to individual customers, the company reported last month.

Executives at GM have expressed frustration that comparisons of monthly U.S. sales results among rival automakers are distorted by short-term discount programs, and by differences in strategy for selling vehicles in bulk to rental car fleets.

“Thirty days is not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president for sales operations said in a statement. 

GM’s actions could prompt other automakers to also switch to quarterly U.S. sales reports. Major automakers report March U.S. new vehicle sales on Tuesday.

Until the early 1990s, most U.S. automakers released sales results every 10 days. The former Chrysler Corp, a forerunner of today’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCHA.MI), stopped reporting sales on a 10-day basis in 1990, and rivals followed suit over the next three years.

GM executives are betting that investors will quickly adapt to receiving U.S. sales data every three months, as investors in other retail sectors already have. Retailers such as Walmart Inc (WMT.N) report sales on a quarterly basis.

Additional reporting by Nick Carey and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Chizu Nomiyama

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