Dave Zuchowski remembers when sales reporting switched to monthly from every 10 days. He was out in the field for Ford back then, and folks used to joke — gallows humor during a recession — that if you were going to miss your forecast, it would be better to just get yelled at once at the end of each month instead of two or three times during the month and again at the end.
Pulling together the numbers every week and a half was a grind, he said, and with so many sales coming at the end of the month, the interim reports weren't terribly useful. So switching to monthly reporting — in addition to avoiding bad headlines during a downturn — just made better sense.
That's how incentives are lined up. It's how bonuses are earned. It's how marketing promotions run. And it's how seasonal adjustments are defined. The business, by and large, operates on a monthly basis.
That reporting standard held for almost three decades before General Motors started a trend toward quarterly reporting two years ago. The largest U.S. automaker said quarterly reporting would smooth out monthly fluctuations to give a truer — if less precise — picture of the sales performance.
"Hogwash," I said then and say now (when polite ears are within range). Yes, it crossed a few items off of the corporate to-do list. But mostly it appeared to be an effort to avoid reporting sales declines after the 2017 peak. And — perhaps not coincidentally — GM stopped reporting monthly numbers right when Ram pickups started outselling the Chevrolet Silverado for the first time in history.
If you can't beat 'em, play fewer games.