And then there were none.
Last week, for the first time in decades, no U.S. automaker publicly reported their U.S. sales results for the previous month — not General Motors, not Ford, not FCA US, and not Tesla. Import brands continue to do so, for now, but how long will it be before they, too, are lured into the dark, encouraged by the collective political cover offered by their larger, domestic competitors?
This page erred in April 2018 when GM was first among the Detroit 3 to abandon the monthly sales reports it had been issuing come hell or high water since the early 1990s, when the industry switched from 10-day to monthly intervals. We should have recognized that GM's specious excuse at the time — that the "quality of information" in a quarterly report would "make it easier to see how the business is performing" — was mere post hoc rationalization. Yet, GM's decision ultimately pulled Ford and later FCA US down this shadowy road.
Tesla has never issued monthly figures. In fact, its quarterly reports don't even specify sales by country, which undermines the EV upstart's claims to an array of segment victories.
We can see the allure of nonmonthly reporting, especially when the retail market is tightening or the product cycle is ebbing. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news — more so when that news is the direct result of your own decision-making. And when the market responds to information — even what an automaker might consider an unjust one-month snapshot of its performance — the result can be ugly.
Publicly traded automakers complain that their shares are not respected by investors, that they are undervalued compared with other industries. That may be true, particularly in light of the importance of the industry and the jobs it provides to the overall economy. Yet the way to inspire investors' confidence isn't by withholding closely watched information. Instead, it comes from being transparent, from having demonstrable performance, from making wise decisions that benefit a company long term — and by being straight with them when things go wrong.
Investors certainly haven't rewarded GM, Ford and FCA US for their decisions to hide their monthly sales figures. Why should they?
It's time for these automakers to recognize a failed strategy and return to openness.