Why General Motors Just Gave Its Final Monthly Sales Numbers Report

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In this segment from the MarketFoolery podcast, host Chris Hill and Motley Fool Total Income's Ron Gross consider the somewhat unusual choice by a major automaker to dial back the amount of information it's sharing with investors.

GM (NYSE: GM) will no longer supply monthly sales reports to the public. Those shorter periods are too easily influenced by little calendar shifts, weather, and the like. Looking at longer periods smooths out those blips in the sales trends, which is better for investors anyway. Should other companies and sectors follow suit?

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A full transcript follows the video.

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Chris Hill: General Motors announced its monthly sales figure for March, and take a good look, everybody, because this is the last time General Motors is going to issue monthly sales numbers. The company said they're moving to a system where they're going to be reporting sales on a quarterly basis because it better aligns with their business, and the numbers are less likely to be skewed by one-off events like a major storm or what day of the week a holiday falls on, etc. I love this move.

Ron Gross: I didn't know which way you were going to go with this. I love this move as well. It's not without consequences, because you anger a little some people a little in the short-term, mostly the investment community and analysts who have relied on these numbers, and economists who have relied on these numbers. And also, whenever you do something that is not the norm and everyone else is still doing it, there could be some downsides. But I think that's in the short-term.

It'll be really interesting to see if all the companies follow suit and say, "Thanks for the cover, thanks for thinking of this," because this makes complete sense. 30 days is not enough time to really separate, what'd they say, the real sales trends from short-term fluctuations. It's just not.

So, they might take some hits from analysts in the short-term, but good for them. I think, again, we're long-term investors here, so you shouldn't be using 30-day data to really make any investment decision. Quarterly should be plenty. That might even be too much data for the average investor, but we're used to it. So, I applaud.

Hill: There's a 100% chance in my mind -- again, just in my mind, not in reality -- that someone else is going to do this.

Gross: Sure. There are some folks. Tesla doesn't do it, but, you know, [laughs] on a monthly basis, you could imagine it's in the single digits. But, yes, I would imagine, eventually, I don't know if it'll be immediate, but other companies will jump on the bandwagon. This has happened in retail as well, with monthly same-store sales figures. I remember back in the day, 15 or 20 years ago, I was following a company and they said, "No more, we're not doing that, we're just doing it quarterly." And I actually had the opposite reaction I have now because I was an analyst and I wanted that data. But I was naive, I didn't really need that data, I was just used to it and they were taking something away from me and I was a big baby about it. I think this makes better sense.

Hill: I think this makes perfect sense for the automotive industry. Do you think it makes sense for the housing industry? Because that seems like it has more ripple effects in it. And I'm wondering if anyone in the housing Industry is looking at this and saying, "Maybe we should go to quarterly, too." I don't know, it feels like this is more cut and dry, where it's just, this is just GM sales, and yes, maybe we can discern a little bit about Ford, Toyota, other automakers, etc. But, I don't know, I feel like there would be a bigger backlash from the investment community if housing data started to go quarterly instead of monthly, then we will see a backlash on this.

Gross: I think there would be a bigger backlash from the economist community, especially those folks in the government or those folks in certain areas where they're trying to predict GDP, and they're using major indicators like real estate to help them do that.

Hill: You don't want a horde of angry economists on the loose.

Gross: No, they're vicious. Analysts would be bent out of shape, too, but I really think the ire of the economic community would be the highest.

Chris Hill has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Ron Gross has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool recommends Ford. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.