- Porsche Cars North America will no longer report monthly US sales figures, announcing this week that it’ll move to quarterly reports.
- The change follows General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, all of whom have recently moved to reporting US sales quarterly instead of monthly – a change begun by GM in 2018, marking the first major shift since automakers went from reporting every 10 days to every month in the 1990s.
- An analyst has described the move to quarterly reports as potentially creating “less transparency” and “an information gap,” but thinks all automakers will follow the trend eventually.
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For the new sales year, Porsche’s North American branch is taking a new approach to how it talks about those sales: only publishing a new report every quarter rather than by the month.
The German luxury carmaker said monthly sales figures “rarely capture the overall picture of how the business is developing.”
The thing is, both approaches capture how the business is developing – monthly sales figures just do so in a way that’s more prone to fluctuation.
Porsche Cars North America announcedthe change on Thursday, shortly before reports for the first month of the year would begin to trickle out at the start of February, saying that the change would take effect immediately. The move follows the Big Three American automakers – General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler – all of which have announced over the past two years they would move from monthly to quarterly sales reports in the US.
In addition to saying that monthly figures rarely capture the overall picture, Klaus Zellmer, the president and CEO of Porsche’s North American arm, said upon the company’s announcement that despite 10 years of annual growth in the US, quarterly reporting “better aligns” with where Porsche wants to take its brand.
GM led the charge in 2018 when it announcedit would move to quarterly reports, marking the first major change in how automakers report sales since they largely moved from 10-day reportsto monthly ones in the 1990s.
The move got other automakers talking, with Ford’s head of US sales, Mark LaNeve, saying at the time of the GM switch that Ford found the move to be “interesting and a pretty significant development for the industry.”
“Their comment that there’s a lot of volatility in month-to-month sales, I believe there is some validity to that,” he said, as quoted by Automotive News. (The auto industry in general is volatile right now, as evidenced by the talk of reaching “peak car” in the US.) “So, we’re going to assess it and take a look.”
Still, the movement is just beginning. Major names like Kia, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Toyota, Subaru, Infiniti, Volkswagen, Nissan, Hyundai and more still reported monthly US sales as of December.
The move to quarterly reporting is inherently less transparent than monthly, just like monthly was less transparent than every 10 days when that move was made a few decades ago. When GM started the movement in 2018, the Automotive News story on the switch quoted an Autotrader executive analyst, Michelle Krebs, as saying that the quarterly reports could result in “less transparency” and “an information gap” that could lead to more speculation errors.
Going quarterly also makes automakers’ forward-facing performances less prone to showing fluctuation, as automakers themselves have said. When GM announced its move in 2018, its vice president of US sales operations, Kurt McNeil, said 30 days was “not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market.” Basically, showing the bigger picture – positive or not – is better for public perception in companies’ eyes, because at least it’s coming at less-frequent intervals.
At the time GM made the switch, Krebs believed everyone else in the industry would eventually follow its lead, just like when automakers made the switch from 10-day reports to monthly ones a few decades ago. If Porsche’s decision is any indication of the future, that prediction may not be too far off.