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GM Is the First Legacy Automaker to Report Sales on a Quarterly Basis—And That May Be Cause for Concern

After decades of reporting sales monthly, General Motors has announced it will move to a quarterly schedule for reporting auto sales in the U.S., effective immediately.

In a statement, Kurt McNeil, the company’s U.S. vice president of sales and operations, explained the move. “Thirty days is not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market.” The same statement cited product launches, weather, and seasonal factors as some of the elements that can affect monthly numbers without necessarily indicating anything about the underlying health of the company or the auto industry at large.

Although it was common until the mid-1990s for auto makers to report sales figures as frequently as every ten days, most auto makers now report on a monthly basis. Tesla, however, has always released its figures on a quarterly basis. It remains to be seen whether other auto makers will follow suit. While Tesla has proven that quarterly reporting neither hurts nor helps a company’s stock, GM’s announcement comes almost exactly a year after Tesla surpassed GM as America’s most-valuable auto maker (though that’s no longer the case.)

Analysts fear that less frequent reporting could hide important trends until it’s too late to fix them. For instance, CNBC pointed out that monthly sales figures helped officials and investors understand how quickly the economy was deteriorating. If that information had been delayed by three months, there may have been a bigger shock to the markets.