By on February 1, 2016


When is a Gregorian calendar not a calendar? When December 2015 ends on January 4, 2016.

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson brought greater attention to the subject of the unnecessarily convoluted auto sales calendar when, in a conversation with Automotive News reporter Amy Wilson, Jackson said, “It’s ridiculous that I have to get on the air and explain the industry calendar to make sense of sales.” 

AutoNation’s December sales, you’ll recall, weren’t as rosy as the figures suggested. Not only did the “calendar” produce two extra so-called “selling days” from 2016, but higher inventories and higher incentives led Jackson to tell CNBC, “I’m saying we’re in a new chapter here.”

Jackson also lamented that AutoNation’s own sales reporting, which began in 2010, has not spurred the industry to report sales with greater transparency. As a result, AutoNation’s monthly sales reporting will come to an end.

On the transparency note, and as someone who makes a living by publishing and reporting on North American auto sales figures, I am constantly urging automakers to deepen the level of detail in their sales reports. From Ford’s F-Series label, which takes into account wildly different F-150; F-250; and F-350 sales, to the combination of Genesis coupes and sedans at Hyundai USA, to the combination of Sprinter and Metris vans at Mercedes-Benz, many reporting methodologies leave something to be desired. Moreover, in terms of overall totals, the unwillingness of publicly traded companies to differentiate between fleet and retail — in detail, model-by-model, month after month — is striking.

(Granted, automakers may fear the likelihood of the following event if they did release a detailed fleet/retail report. Casual observers end up forgetting that there’s such a thing as a good fleet sale and such a thing as a bad retail sale. In throwing a bone to industry watchers who beg for fleet totals, industry watchers report faulty conclusions. Hypothetically speaking, “Toyota Is In Dire Straits, Having Sold 2 Percent Of Highlanders To Daily Rental Companies, Up From 1 Percent A Year Ago,” is a headline worth avoiding.)

Back on the calendar front, 2015’s record-setting industry-wide sales performance ended with a December in which sales jumped 9 percent. But there were 28 selling days in “December” 2015, a month which dragged on until January 4, 2016. Automakers sold 58,700 new vehicles per selling day in December 2015; up just 1.2 percent compared with the 58,000 new vehicles sold per day during the 26 selling days in December 2014.

In 2016, only four of 12 months will feature the same number of selling days as in the year before. Yes, there would be a modest measure of inconsistency in year-over-year comparisons if January was simply January each and every year. January 2013 and January 2017, for example, each have four Sundays, but January 2014 and January 2015 each had five.

But turning the U.S. auto sales calendar into, you know, the calendar, would provide an element of consistency currently missing from the schedule. Holiday weekends and weekends in general will invariably complicate the reporting schedule. If ever there was a time for the change to be made, the age in which we hail Ubers on smartphones, remotely turn on the heat in our homes with Nest, install wireless pacemakers with seven-year batteries, and allow Lane Keeping Assist to autonomously steer a Honda Civic must surely be an age in which technology exists that would turn the auto industry’s calendar into a Gregorian calendar.

Reporting Day
Selling Days
Selling Days
24 26
24 24
27 25
27 26
24 26
26 25
26 26
26 26
25 25
26 28
25 23
27 28
307 308

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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13 Comments on “It’s Time For The Auto Industry’s Calendar To Look Like Yours...”

  • avatar

    Yes it is strange to outsider that the sales reporting calendar is not strictly the calendar months, but if you look closely at it, where the sales calendar and the real calendar differ are the months when the month ends on a weekend. They typically end those months on a Monday to allow weekend sales to close on that Monday, since many banks and even some insurance companies are closed on the weekends, affecting sales numbers, and more importantly, commissions and bonuses at the dealerships.

    It’s a quirk of the business, every business has them.

  • avatar

    Since “model years” don’t follow the calendar, why the heck should we expect sales reporting to follow the calendar?

    Depending on the model the model year sometimes starts in October or so.

    If a reporter asks: “When will the 2017 model be on sale?” I’d like to hear: “The first day of business January 2017 as long as we’ve all recovered enough from our hangovers to come to work.”

    • 0 avatar

      Auto assembly plants traditionally go on vacation in summer and return in September with the new models and model years. Works out great that way, assemblers put their kids back in school and cars can hit showrooms when they’re good and ready, as opposed to scrambling or stockpiling and other chaos, meeting a Jan 1, opening/release date for fresh models/model years.

      It’s like solving a mystery of who sold what and when and to who. And they don’t specify how much of ‘what’. 30,001 (or whatever) Corvettes sold in 2015 can include ’16s, ’15s, ’14s and some odd ’13s.

    • 0 avatar

      Then there is the 2016 Mazda6, which went on sale in February of 2015.

  • avatar

    Would be interesting to know, but even with a separate break-down of F-150 and Super Duty sales, you’d still have to add them together to compare to the others, since Chevy, GMC and Ram won’t break-down the sales of 1500s, 2500s, 3500s.

    It’s simple the way it’s done, and most of the general pop care very little of the specifics of pickup sales.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. All 3 pickups are “guilty” of it. If one of them started publishing seperate half-ton and HD numbers, the other two would follow suit, but no one sees any reason to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      F150/F-Series is just an example. There are many egregious offenders. Most of the general population may care very little, but I suspect the people who take the time to look up F-150 sales stats may care somewhat more than the person who doesn’t know the difference between an F-150 and an F-250.

  • avatar

    Or, maybe it’s time for the world to adopt an equal-quarter/almost-equal-month calendar like the World calendar!

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