Howls of protests ensued when GM stopped disclosing monthly production numbers, touching off, says Automotive News [sub], “concern among industry analysts and economists, as well as suppliers that rely on the data for their production plans.“ The industry paper explains what is wrong with this move:
“For decades, GM and nearly all other major automakers have reported the number of cars and trucks produced at their North American plants each month, broken out by nameplate. The data get folded into numerous economic indicators, including ones published by the Federal Reserve, and are a benchmark for industry insiders to forecast GM’s future production.
But this month GM notified several research providers that publish production data — including IHS Automotive, the Automotive News Data Center and Autodata Corp. — that it will no longer give them those figures, providing instead only the number of wholesale deliveries.”
GM said this move is related to accounting changes. From now on, the profit or loss on a specific vehicle is recognized in the country where the vehicle is sold, not where it’s made, says Automotive News, and continues: “For example, a Cadillac ATS made in Michigan but sold in China will be reflected in the financial results of GM’s Chinese operations, rather than in its North American results.”
Strange that GM wants to expatriate profits while it still sits on a – some say ill-begotten – $30 billion tax loss. Meanwhile, the lack of data is felt as a much bigger loss elsewhere, like in Washington.
Production data are needed all the way from suppliers of parts to the Federal Reserve. The Fed uses production data to get a picture of economic activity. It will fly blind as far as this important part of the economy is concerned. Many in the industry expect other makers to follow GM’s bad example – after all, why should I show mine if GM doesn’t show me theirs?
Automotive News’s Jesse Snyder, a man who usually can’t find anything at GM he does not like, says:
“Any withheld info is bad news, And here’s the worst part. GM knows every bit of this — and chose this path anyhow. Good golly, just how bad is the situation? GM just shot itself in the foot. “
At TTAC, we are not surprised. For many years, we have been a critic of GM’s data policy. The company has a culture of spin and obfuscation. Many times, data did not add up. To the trained eye, the obfuscation usually is transparent. Many untrained writers, and this business is full of them, do swallow the spin, and they regurgitate the undigested spin straight into their keyboards.
Among the world’s top three automakers, GM is the only one that does not publish global data on a monthly basis. It is very scary that the world has to wait for sales and production numbers until they are reconciled with the quarterly report. GM is a public company. The taxpayer, whether we like it or not, has bailed-out the company and still holds a sizable chunk in GM. Shareholders are entitled to key performance data.
GM, and the rest of the world, would be well advised to study and implement the Japanese model of data reporting. Each month, all Japanese makers send out a spin-free standardized spreadsheet that tabulates worldwide production, along with domestic sales and exports. The Japanese automaker association JAMA then plugs it into a big database, accessible to all. If the supposedly inscrutable Japanese can be open, why does GM close up?