The times, they are a bit wild these days for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
On the one hand, the automaker seemed happy cruising along with impressive sales gains month after month - 75 in a row - while many of its competitors faltered.
It had a plan – a roadmap; some highly ambitious designs and lofty sales goals for the next few years.
But on the other hand, the Department of Justice suddenly came calling with questions into FCA's sales practices and reporting, thanks to a lawsuit filed by a Chicago-area dealership group accusing FCA of improperly inflating sales figures.
FCA, for its part, calls the allegations 'baseless' as it seeks the suit's dismissal.
And so we were all left to wonder, what exactly are in those sales numbers FCA reported each month? What did it all mean going forward?
Lucky for FCA, as its second quarter results were unveiled Wednesday, the company could rally behind a brand that – right now – is unequaled in demand, and seemingly showing no signs of slowing down.
A brand that deftly wheels through recalls, cloudy sales figures, and quality concerns like it does rocks and mud.
The Jeep brand continued to amaze in FCA’s 2Q numbers, with the seventh-largest automaker reporting Jeep sales have exceeded 83,000 so far this year – a 17 percent gain over 2015 for the same time period.
In total, behind the Jeep onslaught, FCA reported a 25 percent profit increase, and six percent sales increase for the second quarter, despite hefty recall costs for various issues and sluggish Latin American sales.
“Overall we had a good quarter,” Fiat Chrysler Chief Financial Officer Richard Palmer said during a conference call Wednesday with analysts and reporters.
That’s the good news.
The bad, for FCA, is the now-ongoing investigation by the DOJ and US Securities and Exchange Commission into its sales practices and reporting.
FCA, while acknowledged the investigation, said Tuesday that it was revising the way it reports sales figures, while stressing its quarterly revenue figures have always been accurate and were unrelated to the way sales figures were being calculated and reported.
Wednesday’s 2Q results, including Jeep’s stellar year-to-date numbers, were all compiled under FCA’s new reporting practice – as will all monthly sales results going forward.
Based off the successful first two quarters, FCA Wednesday raised its estimated net earnings for the remainder of this year to $6.09 billion (5.5 billion Euros), and estimated operating profit to $2.2 billion (2 billion Euros). And all indications are that this current sales reporting flap will have no effect on the company's future plans - including the 2017 next generation Wrangler roll out.
However, FCA also reported Tuesday – after reviewing all its sales data back through 2011 – its current 75-month sales streak would have actually ended in September 2013, at 41 straight, under the new reporting system.
The company also saw declines, it said, in August 2015 and May of this year.
FCA, under its new U.S. sales reporting methodology, said it has actually underreported sales results by an overall net of 18,996 vehicles since 2011 despite those three monthly declines. With over 7.7 million vehicles sold during the timeframe, this works out to a 0.2% error.
In a release Tuesday from the company, FCA clarified its sales reporting practices by stating the original method of recording sales mainly relied on the New Vehicle Delivery Report (NVDR).
This system allowed dealers to report new sales right at the time of sale. These figures were then used to create and report a total at the end of each month that FCA released to the industry.
But FCA’s respective dealers also had the ability to "unwind" sales, which means a dealer could cancel the sale of a car that was reported sold, in the event a customer either didn’t want, or couldn't, purchase the car. This made it possible for a dealer to return the vehicle – at a later time - to an ‘unsold’ status even though FCA had already reported it as sold.
FCA stressed in its release that there was no standard sales reporting practice in the industry, but the objective of its new reporting methodology would be "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.”
This new system retains the same reporting method, but changes how FCA counts sales.
Dealer reported numbers, in an effort for transparency, will now only include sold vehicles and will deduct sales of unwound vehicles that month. The number will also include sales of cars sold that month that had been unwound either earlier in the month or from months prior.
Fleet sales will be recorded when the vehicles are shipped, and other deliveries such as those to FCA employees, will be recorded upon receipt of shipment.
FCA US spokeswoman Shawn Morgan told the Detroit News Wednesday that the company had “no comment” on how, or if, the new sales methodology will impact the DOJ investigation.
Federal officials last week declined to comment.
Wild days, indeed.
Good thing FCA has Jeep in its corner to wheel over the turbulence.