By on February 8, 2012

Have a quick look at this screenshot. Scan it as quickly as you scan other news from China. Now picture scanning it under as much time pressure an average news editor is under. That’s what this is for, it is GM China’s site for journalists. Wouldn’t you think that GM China’s January sales were absolutely marvelous?

Well, it’s not true. GM China has seen better months than this horrible January which in all likelihood will bring double-digit declines to China’s car industry. Is GM China simply saying: Ouch, better luck in February? No, it has the urge to spin:

Shanghai – General Motors sales in China in the first month of 2012 were up 25.3 percent from December 2011, giving GM its second-best January ever in China.

Well, it just so happened that GM’s best January ever had been January 2011, and second best means in this case that year-on-year, GM China sales are down 8 percent. Which was buried in the body of the release, likely banking on rampant attention deficit.

Will they ever stop playing people for fools? Apparently not.

What’s wrong with telling it as it is? Does every month have to be a record?

Here is the TTAC-recommended format:

Jan ’12 Jan ’11  Change
Shanghai GM
131,944 -6.0%
70,441 0.9%
67,711 -19.7%
2,530 18.1%
132,658 -9.6%
123,920 -14.0%
3,334 -27.0%
GM China total
268,071 -8.0%

P.S.: If the columns don’t add up sometimes, don’t blame me.

P.P.S.: GM, when you say “Wuling sales of 106,573 units in China  …” without giving a percentage of growth or a prior year number, the trained journalist will know you are fibbing …

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19 Comments on “How To Make A Horrible Month Look Peachy, GM Edition...”

  • avatar

    Over the years, GM has had ample opportunity to practice making horrible months look peachy. I’d call it one of their core competencies.

  • avatar

    Hey at least they have an easy way for you guys to get data from China even if it doesnt work out for them.

  • avatar

    Maybe it has something to do with the Chinese New Year??? MAYBE???? Can’t you guys sync up your writing?

  • avatar

    Wuling reminds me of the slogan for the Springfield Dog Track in the Simpsons: “Think of them as little horses”. As units sold are more important than Renminbi earned (right, right?!) Wuling is key for GM’s numbers game in China. In The Imaginarium of Me Dan Akerson turns Homer-esque as he awaits last months sales numbers from Shanghai: “Come on, you little horse!”

  • avatar

    So why is December a slow month in China? Obviously, not the best January they have had, as it was down 8%, but why is December so slow?

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “What’s wrong with telling it as it is? Does every month have to be a record?”

    –Perhaps they’ve gotten gun-shy. Will truthiness engender fair and balanced reactions from the media?

  • avatar

    So where’s the untruth in the picture posted? Reading that first paragraph as displayed on this post it notes both numbers.

    I’ve never heard of a PR guy opening with bad news.

    • 0 avatar

      There is nothing untrue AFAIK. I am talking about the attitude. They treat reporters and editors like fools. I often spend my time waiting and chatting with reporters of major newspapers and wire services, and they emit loud groans when they get these releases. That stuff is childish, unhelpful, it often does not add up. It causes extra unneeded work and distrust. The created anger sometimes seeps into the reporting, as “unbiased” the reporters may try to be.

      “Who do they think I am?” a reporter friend groaned. “A pimpled blogger?” Then he looked at me and said: “Oh, sorry.”

      I must have pimples …

      Japanese companies simply hand you a table, warts and all.

      • 0 avatar
        Rob Finfrock

        Bertel, GM has treated its customers like fools (which, arguably, they’d have to be) for close to 50 years. Why would it treat the media any differently?

      • 0 avatar

        I admit I have never been a news reporter. I understand that you don’t like the format in which the information is given to you. I understand there may be issues with the arithmetic in the press releases that you and others have to search out. I would call it a job hazard.

        Most of the post seems to be a complaint that GM didn’t make the fact that year-over-year sales numbers were worse this year, the 72 point banner headline in the press release.

        Does anyone else do that, in any business?
        Would it be better if they emphasized the negatives?

      • 0 avatar

        “Does anyone else do that, in any business?”

        Not really, no.

        It is typical in these sort of automotive press releases to compare the most recent month with the same month of the year prior, and with this current year YTD with last year YTD. That is in large part because automotive sales are seasonal, which makes comparisons to the previous month somewhat irrelevant.

        In other words, one would typically expect a press release about January 2012 to make comparisons to January 2011. Comparing it to December 2011 in the headline is a red flag that somebody didn’t want to focus on the most important content.

        For what it’s worth, I usually read GM’s monthly US press release, and the spin is noteworthy. The efforts that they make to cherry pick data are fairly obvious.

        The GM culture of being the biggest still seems to matter a great deal, at least to those in the PR department. I would say that isn’t a good thing.

  • avatar

    But never fear. GM is making plans to have the best profit margins in the industry. They are benchmarking BMW and Hyundai. They are not benchmarking the cars, just the profit margins.

    However, this will not be so easily accomplished when the company is losing ground every month. Apparently even in China.

  • avatar

    This post is a perfect example of what was missing in Mr. Kreindler’s post from a few weeks ago. 1) Pointing out the noteworthy facts that are otherwise missed by mainstream press. 2) New, interesting, worthwhile analysis. 3) A proposed change to improve the system.

    Well done, Mr. Schmitt.

  • avatar

    Their release reads just like political spin. ‘Tis the season, here in the US, anyway.

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