Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's longstanding streak of monthly U.S. sales increases actually ended nearly three years ago, the auto maker said Tuesday as it revised numbers to reflect a new reporting method it has adopted amid a federal investigation into allegations related to its U.S. sales numbers.
Before the disclosure, the Italian-U.S. auto maker's U.S. win streak was believed to have stood at 75 months as of June, dating back to 2010. The company now says the streak ended at 40 months in September of 2013; it also restated sales for a handful of other months.
The growth streak has been routinely touted as an important milestone by Sergio Marchionne, Fiat Chrysler's chief executive, who has been working to find a buyer for the company since at least 2014. The company's sales results have recently indicated the company is closing in on Toyota Motor Corp.'s No. 3 sales position in the U.S., further boosting investor confidence in its recovery from the 2009 bankruptcy filing by Chrysler.
Fiat Chrysler's streak had been considered the longest run of monthly sales gains in the auto industry. Fuji Heavy Industries' Subaru brand now holds that crown with 55 consecutive months through June.
The revision follows several months of scrutiny related to Fiat Chrysler's sales reporting practices. Last August, a Maserati dealer In New York sued the company for allegedly inflating sales, and a separate dealer selling multiple brands filed a suit in January regarding sales practices in Illinois. The U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the claims.
Fiat Chrysler has said the dealers' suits are without merit. It recently said it is cooperating with investigators on the federal probes.
Fiat Chrysler said it did not deliberately misstate sales numbers, but pointed to various practices that led to inaccuracies in its monthly reports. The company restated a handful of prior monthly and annual sales tallies, and said it will revise its practices to avoid further miscalculations.
The company is changing its reporting practices to better account for sales recorded one month and then unwound in the next month because a customer can't obtain financing or changes plans. The company said the inaccuracies in its reporting have inflated U.S. retail sales by a net figure of approximately 4,500 vehicles in the period spanning 2011 to 2016, a relatively small portion of the 7.7 million cars it sold during that time.
The revisions do not affect financial results. Auto makers book revenue and profits on production and shipments to dealers in the U.S., not on sales to the end user.
In the U.S., auto makers report prior-month sales based on their own counts during the month. In Europe, sales are based on new-car registrations several days after the books close.
Mr. Marchionne is also working to pivot the company's focus away from passenger cars to the higher-profit trucks and sport-utility vehicles that are popular in an era of low gasoline prices. The plan calls for a phasing out slow-selling models so the company can retool factories to build more of the Jeeps and Ram trucks that have fueled its sales increases.
The company on Tuesday announced it will spend $1.5 billion to revamp its Sterling Heights, Mich., plant to build the next-generation light-duty Ram truck. It replaces production of the Chrysler 200 sedan at that plant.
The retooling expense comes on top of a $906 million charge recorded in the fourth quarter to wind down production of the 200 and Dodge Dart compact car.
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