Ford of Canada’s decision to stop reporting national sales figures on a quarterly basis has prompted concerns that the company is becoming less transparent, even as it takes government money to help fund the retooling of its Canadian manufacturing operations to produce electric vehicles.
And there are worries that more auto companies might follow suit.
“Other manufacturers might follow Ford’s cue, just like when we moved from monthly reporting to quarterly,” said Robert Karwel, senior manager of the Canadian automotive practice at J.D. Power. “There’s going to be a little less transparency in the marketplace. Less transparency means less information.”
Parent Ford Motor Co. quietly made the reporting change March 23, saying on its website it will “report global results with a focus on three new business segments rather than by geographic regions.”
North American results will no longer be reported by country but instead by division, Ford said. That means figures will be reported as Ford Blue, the division that focuses on gas and hybrid vehicles; Ford Model e, which focuses on EVs; and Ford Pro, the automaker’s commercial products and services division.
Despite its assertion that it will no longer report sales by “regional markets,” Ford Motor continues to report U.S. sales quarterly, issuing figures in a public news release April 4. Ford Canada said it will continue to report national sales annually.
In the U.S. release, Ford noted that it was “America’s best-selling brand in Q1, with total vehicle sales of 456,972, up 10.7 per cent on the strength of icons like F-Series, Bronco and Mustang, commercial vehicles and EVs.”
LATEST IN SERIES OF CHANGES
Most automakers stopped reporting monthly sales in 2019, moving to a quarterly basis. Ford is the first major automaker to move to annual reporting.
“We’re certainly continuing to report sales, just not through a press release,” said Ford Canada Communications Manager Matt Drennan-Scace. “The only change is that through a press-release perspective, we’re announcing sales results on an annual basis, not a quarterly basis. There’s no other change to how Ford of Canada is reporting sales.”
But when asked whether Canadian quarterly sales numbers could be obtained on request, he said the news media “could ask, but we won’t provide those to any media.”
The reporting process by which dealers and federal government agencies — such as Transport Canada, which oversees the Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles (iZEV) Program — receive sales data “has not changed,” Drennan-Scace said. They still receive monthly figures.
Steve Chipman, CEO of Birchwood Automotive Group in Manitoba, confirmed that he still receives monthly sales numbers for his stores, regional market and more.
“I know how many cars we sell, and my concern often is ‘How are we doing internally?’ ” Chipman said. “Most manufacturers give us store-by-store results across the country. I still have access to that.”
Competing dealers, who might sell different brands, also “share numbers informally, just to see what’s going on in the marketplace,” he said.
However, Chipman did question the new public reporting process: “If they do it [quarterly reporting] in the States, why wouldn’t they do it in Canada? It doesn’t make any sense.”