By on July 27, 2016

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Exterior Front 3/4. Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

As recently as March 1, 2016 — on behalf of February 2016’s sales results — Fiat Chrysler US LLC touted a 71-month streak of year-over-year U.S. new vehicle sales improvements. Although FCA US stopped communicating the length of that streak by the beginning of the second-quarter, the company’s sales reports suggested that the streak through the end of June 2016 measured 75 months.

Figures released by FCA yesterday reveal that the streak of year-over-year improvements actually ended at 40 months in September 2013, when an originally reported 1-percent increase, it turns out, was actually a 3-percent decrease. On two other occasions during this 75-month span, FCA claimed sales had improved, year-over-year. August 2015’s 2-percent increase was actually a 1-percent decrease. Then, only two months ago, while FCA originally claimed a 1-percent increase, sales actually fell 7 percent.

The abbreviated streak, however, is only one side of the equation. (And it increasingly appears to be the least of FCA’s worries, as a grand jury has now been empaneled.) FCA’s sales reporting methods, highly questionable on both the retail and fleet side, frequently resulted in significant overstatements and, FCA claims, understatements, as well.

As a result, despite overstating sales by 8,991 units in 2012, by 731 units in 2013, and by 7,450 units in the first-half of this year, FCA says its restated, corrected sales figures released yesterday (displayed below) show that the automaker under-reported by 18,996 sales over the last 66 months.

The most significant overstatement? FCA originally reported 213,187 new vehicle sales in March 2016 but now claims only 199,764, a 13,423-unit difference.

On the other hand, only two months prior in January 2016, FCA’s original report of 155,037 new vehicle sales was apparently understated by 16,254 vehicles. FCA now reports 171,291 new vehicle sales in January 2016.

How did this happen, and what’s being done to fix it? When it comes to the former, this is being “looked into,” FCA said in a press release yesterday.

Jalopnik’s David Tracy: “But retail sales do affect Fiat Chrysler’s monthly sales reports, and what’s throwing them off is a process called “unwinding.” That’s what happens when a dealer sells a car, and then—because the customer backed out, or for another reason—puts the car back in its “unsold” inventory. Fiat Chrysler then gets its incentive back, and the warranty period is canceled until someone else buys the car. The problem is that Fiat Chrysler says it doesn’t consider these “unwindings” in its sales figures, because the company has assumed “that most unwinds are recorded shortly following the time the initial sale is registered in the NVDR system.” Typically, these factors resulted in FCA overstating sales.

As for the months of understated sales — the majority of the last 66 reports were, in fact, understated FCA claims — fleet reporting seems to be the issue.

2014 Dodge Avenger

“The other issue with Fiat Chrysler’s sales reporting process,” writes Tracy, “is their method of maintaining a “reserve” of fleet and “other retail sales.” This “reserve” means cars have been shipped, but not yet reported as “sold” in the monthly sales report. The company seems genuinely baffled by this process, saying keeping cars on “reserve” is “a matter of historical practice (going back many years before 2009 bankruptcy),” but that “the origin of this practice is unclear and is being looked into.” Fiat Chrysler goes on, saying the “not-in-use reserve” ranges in size each month, and results from a “subjective assessment at the month-end.”

The end result of FCA’s efforts to revise their tabulations do not lend great confidence to the proceedings. In FCA’s own words: “The objective of this new methodology is to provide in FCA US’s judgment the best available estimate of the number of FCA US vehicles sold to end users through the end of a particular month applying a consistent and transparent methodology.”

A European-style registration reporting system appears untenable given different practices across 50 states. FCA also seems to recognize that there are some in the automotive press, including yours truly, who require sales data “to opine about the state of the industry.” FCA understands, “that our decision to suspend monthly reporting would impact those constituencies and possibly may impair their perception, and in turn the public perception, of FCA US.” Indeed.

Impossible to judge amidst this new system are many of the sub-claims FCA made over the course of the last number of years, including a bevy of declarations based on the last six months alone which we explored last week. These new figures don’t break down FCA figures by brand or model. Thus, for example, we cannot conclude whether Jeep truly has set sales records in every month dating back to November 2013, or whether May truly was the highest-volume month in the history of Jeep, or whether February was the Ram brand’s best February since 2002.

Here’s hoping we can trust the figures FCA delivers in the future.

Month/Year Retail Total Fleet Total New Total YOY % Change Previous Total Volume Difference
January 2011 53,006 18,666 71,672 25% 70,118 1,554
February 2011 63,947 28,951 92,898 10% 95,102 -2,204
March 2011 79,589 51,124 130,713 41% 121,730 8,983
April 2011 76,684 36,786 113,470 19% 117,225 -3,755
May 2011 79,188 34,012 113,200 8% 115,363 -2,163
June 2011 84,269 30,920 115,189 25% 120,394 -5,205
July 2011 93,452 24,476 117,928 26% 112,026 5,902
August 2011 89,826 38,098 127,924 28% 130,119 -2,195
September 2011 90,520 35,168 125,688 26% 127,334 -1,646
October 2011 84,431 31,344 115,775 28% 114,512 1,263
November 2011 84,651 33,338 117,989 59% 107,172 10,817
December 2011 110,070 24,066 134,136 33% 138,019 -3,883
2011 Calendar Year 989,633 386,949 1,376,582 27% 1,369,114 7,468
January 2012 71,753 32,900 104,653 46% 101,149 3,504
February 2012 89,558 47,053 136,611 47% 133,521 3,090
March 2012 114,345 51,100 165,445 27% 163,381 2,064
April 2012 98,063 37,910 135,973 20% 141,165 -5,192
May 2012 110,399 47,258 157,657 39% 150,041 7,616
June 2012 108,540 34,823 143,363 24% 144,811 -1,448
July 2012 103,553 15,829 119,382 1% 126,089 -6,707
August 2012 109,231 34,056 143,287 12% 148,472 -5,185
September 2012 104,768 32,905 137,673 10% 142,041 -4,368
October 2012 95,492 33,341 128,833 11% 126,185 2,648
November 2012 98,983 27,521 126,504 7% 122,565 3,939
December 2012 116,413 27,002 143,415 7% 152,367 -8,952
2012 Calendar Year 1,221,098 421,698 1,642,796 19% 1,651,787 -8,991
January 2013 88,337 29,823 118,160 13% 117,731 429
February 2013 95,054 47,209 142,263 4% 139,015 3,248
March 2013 126,428 49,226 175,654 6% 171,606 4,048
April 2013 118,560 40,010 158,570 17% 156,698 1,872
May 2013 131,798 39,155 170,953 8% 166,596 4,357
June 2013 124,641 28,486 153,127 7% 156,686 -3,559
July 2013 126,461 10,108 136,569 14% 140,102 -3,533
August 2013 136,211 30,393 166,604 16% 165,552 1,052
September 2013 101,669 32,071 133,740 -3% 143,017 -9,277
October 2013 107,315 33,713 141,028 9% 140,083 945
November 2013 114,545 33,109 147,654 17% 142,275 5,379
December 2013 125,941 29,374 155,315 8% 161,007 -5,692
2013 Calendar Year 1,396,960 402,677 1,799,637 10% 1,800,368 -731
January 2014 100,948 35,175 136,123 15% 127,183 8,940
February 2014 117,371 44,234 161,605 14% 154,866 6,739
March 2014 150,706 42,570 193,276 10% 193,915 -639
April 2014 135,843 34,481 170,324 7% 178,652 -8,328
May 2014 158,378 45,674 204,052 19% 194,421 9,631
June 2014 137,890 36,082 173,972 14% 171,086 2,886
July 2014 149,983 26,998 176,981 30% 167,667 9,314
August 2014 167,024 25,204 192,228 15% 198,379 -6,151
September 2014 124,736 41,486 166,222 24% 169,890 -3,668
October 2014 129,491 41,017 170,508 21% 170,480 28
November 2014 133,852 36,653 170,505 15% 170,839 -334
December 2014 142,908 46,901 189,809 22% 193,261 -3,452
2014 Calendar Year 1,649,130 456,475 2,105,605 17% 2,090,639 14,966
January 2015 111,722 34,426 146,148 7% 145,007 1,141
February 2015 122,546 43,972 166,518 3% 163,586 2,932
March 2015 151,090 45,639 196,729 2% 197,261 -532
April 2015 147,261 36,560 183,821 8% 189,027 -5,206
May 2015 165,259 42,244 207,503 2% 202,227 5,276
June 2015 144,228 44,206 188,434 8% 185,035 3,399
July 2015 159,803 20,321 180,124 2% 178,027 2,097
August 2015 163,209 27,678 190,887 -1% 201,672 -10,785
September 2015 146,620 48,484 195,104 17% 193,019 2,085
October 2015 144,515 54,870 199,385 17% 195,545 3,840
November 2015 129,484 56,424 185,908 9% 175,974 9,934
December 2015 158,963 58,117 217,080 14% 217,527 -447
2015 Calendar Year 1,744,700 512,941 2,257,641 7% 2,243,907 13,734
January 2016 109,364 61,927 171,291 17% 155,037 16,254
February 2016 126,705 58,302 185,007 11% 182,879 2,128
March 2016 148,008 51,756 199,764 2% 213,187 -13,423
April 2016 150,220 41,339 191,559 4% 199,631 -8,072
May 2016 150,824 42,295 193,119 -7% 204,452 -11,333
June 2016 147,036 57,033 204,069 8% 197,073 6,996
June 2016 YTD 832,157 312,652 1,144,809 5% 1,152,259 -7,450
Total 7,833,678 2,493,392 10,327,070 9% * 10,308,074 18,996

Data source: FCA
* assumes correct figures between January 2005 and June 2010
[Image: FCA]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, 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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21 Comments on “66 Months Of FCA’s Restated, Corrected Sales Figures: Some Much Higher Now Than Before...”


  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    I don’t know where the gov’t get their information but I think they’re dead wrong. FCA is selling millions of Hellcats out there so the growth rate they’ve been quoting has got to be true. Personally, I have seen at least 2 Hellcats over the last 3 months, well, I think they’re Hellcats anyway because they were so fast they were kind of blurry.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I think what’s going to end up happening is that the dealerships that brought on the lawsuit in the first place are griping sour grapes because they’re not selling as many as they feel they should while other dealerships are selling higher than their “fair share”. My own experience with FCA dealerships shows many to be very abusive to the customer–one in particular just this past week trying to charge me $900 for a $120 job done at a tire store. I got a better job out of the tire store too, as all four brakes where adjusted where the dealership wanted to replace two complete assemblies (pads and rotors) while the pads still had over 50% of their material left and the rotors just needed a minor polishing. Brakes haven’t felt smoother since I bought the car.

    Point is; people are wising up to which dealerships are screwing them and are proving willing to travel miles out of their way to avoid the bad ones.

  • avatar
    SlowMyke

    And here’s just another reason for investors to be really pissed off and extremely wary of keeping their money on the FCA train…

    Combine this with the never ending plea for a merger and the never starting alfa brand, and that’s all I’d need to avoid FCA for good. I really like Chrysler as a brand family (yeah I know reality should dissuade me) but all these issues are really adding up to another bankruptcy. Before this sales bs, I was really wondering how FCA could be so utterly dire right now, but it makes a lot more sense now.

    • 0 avatar
      seanx37

      IF these investors haven’t ran like hell already, then they deserve whatever happens.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        First we have to assume Alfa is a non-starter. That statement in itself is false as Alfa Romero cars ARE available in the US right now. Maybe not the ones you want, but that’s not my problem. Go ahead and hate FCA if you wish. Your words alone will have no effect on their stock prices.

        • 0 avatar
          SlowMyke

          Alfa has got to be more than 30 4c’s a month in order for most people to consider it an actual brand over here. Let’s see what all that jeep money has created and maybe all the other models we’re supposed to get.

          And I don’t hate FCA, I merely mistrust the F part…

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Honestly, I trust the F part more than the C part; America’s FCA dealership network was built on the C and I find the vast majority of them willing to do anything to drag an extra thousand bucks out of an owner, even when their car goes in for a warranty repair. That’s almost how much I saved by having my brake rotors resurfaced at a tire shop while keeping pistons and pads where a dealership wanted to replace all three components on my rear axle because of a little rust on the rotors. Pads should be good for another 10K miles at least.

          • 0 avatar
            SlowMyke

            Fair enough Vulpine, my experience with CDJR dealerships has been same- brought our jeep in for repairs, and ended up taking it elsewhere to save several hundred. To be fair though, I’ve had the same experience with Cadillac and Lincoln dealerships. In general, most brands earn the “stealership” reputation.

            My mistrust of Fiat comes from the never ending delays and changes in product plans, blatantly leaving brands out to die, and directing huge portions of their cash from all brands into Alfa with nothing yet to show for it. On top of all that, Fiat can’t even take care of Fiat. Riding your hopes on a subcompact, a hideous hatchback, and (their only smart product thus far) a compact CUV that had to compete with a jeep sibling is a recipe for losing. The 124 could help, but suffers the same issue the 500x does, battling the sweetheart of the segment and being obviously related to it.

            Regarding Alfa, I could change my mind if they can ever get the Giulia on sale and NOT botch the launch. If the Giulia launches well, they have that new platform and better utilize it better than they have the Dart platform.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I would note that the 500x is reported as very popular in both Europe and Asia, even if not here in the US. On the other hand, the Renegade is doing quite well around the world, including the US, despite riding on essentially the same platform. The problem in the US is that the Average American simply won’t let go of Fiat’s old reputation despite the obvious improvements they’ve made. I had to drive a Fiat 500 myself before I realized just how good that little car is–to the point that I now own it and it’s the wife’s primary driver.

  • avatar

    FCA restates their sales figures from dealers to customers/end users and there is a difference of 0.7% from the previous figures…not a big deal.

    Everyone in the business is aware that there is a level of “creativity” that is applied to monthly sales figures reported by manufacturers. You can also call it “sales management” on the part of dealers and manufacturers.

    If there would be a common template for every manufacturer to report sales from dealers to end users and fleets and one manufacturer was way off on the template/guidelines then its an issue.

    There is no template, guidelines, a sales by a dealer is counted when a “retail delivery” is reported by the dealer to the manufacturer.

    Lets not forget the various programs that all manufacturers have for their dealers, and “retail deliveries” are always a strong component.

    “Unwinding sales” its not in a dealer’s best interest to unwind sales on a regular basis.

    Does the customer really care about any kind of sales streak? Or is it the “deal” that any customer can make that counts.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Thank goodness ( BTSR Hellcat ban)
    It might have been funny the first 10-20 times. After 50, times it’s childish and annoying to most adults.

    • 0 avatar
      wolfinator

      Yeah, but now half of the threads are people talking about BTSR talking about Hellcats.

      Not much of an improvement. Actually a downgrade, because I had trained my brain to just scroll past BTSR.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    In the name the name of all that is holy, how soon until we get he Alfa Giulia? Some Fiat Stradas or Toros for the cheap guys too. Other than that, let the Japanese, Koreans, and Ford fight it out for small cars

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