Analysts Are Missing That New-Car Smell

Fiat Chrysler is the latest Detroit auto maker to move to quarterly reporting.


Photo:

stephanie lecocq/Shutterstock

I know what you drove last summer…but I didn’t know it until the fall.

Last year

General Motors


GM 0.23%

decided to break with a long-standing convention of giving the public a breakdown of what vehicles it sold in the U.S. each month. The information allowed analysts, enthusiasts and even shoppers to know how the company was doing and which vehicles were or weren’t moving off dealer lots. GM reported sales for the bulk of last summer in early October.

Now the other two legacy Detroit auto manufacturers have joined GM in moving to quarterly reporting. Fiat Chrysler is the latest to make the shift. For a while electric-car company

Tesla

had been the only company to report quarterly.

Companies argue that focusing on monthly data could be misleading. Perhaps, but the practice seems to have fallen out of favor only when sales began to falter after years of growth. Of course monthly reports hadn’t been around forever—until the early 1990s, manufacturers reported every 10 days. In 1991 Chrysler led the way in shifting to monthly reporting, according to Automotive News. Coincidentally, that was a pretty lousy year for the industry, too.

Write to Spencer Jakab at spencer.jakab@wsj.com

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