OLD Media Moves

Where are the numbers backing up SUV story?

August 13, 2008

Felix Salmon of Conde Nast Portfolio writes Wednesday that the article about SUV sales on the front page of Wednesday’s New York Times is devoid of meaningful statistics backing up its claims.

Felix SalmonSalmon writes, “It’s hardly news, of course, that few people are very interested in buying SUVs right now. But Nick Bunkley’s article concentrates almost exclusively on the metric of ‘days supply’, which is a ratio: the numerator is the number of such cars in stock, while the denominator is the number of such cars sold per day. If the pace of sales is falling, then the ratio will rise, no matter what’s happening to stocks.

“So when Bunkley writes that ‘inventory of the Chevrolet C/K Suburban nearly doubled, to 116 days from 63 days,’ he’s not talking about inventory in its normal sense of number of autos, but rather in a much more technical sense of the rate of increase of a certain ratio. And nowhere in the article does he give a clear sense of what’s happening to real, absolute inventories.

“We do get one indication of what’s happened to sales, halfway into the 1300-word piece: ‘sales of S.U.V.’s are down 32 percent so far this year,’ says Bunkley, ‘and were off 43 percent for July.’ Are those year-on-year figures? I assume so, Bunkley doesn’t say.”

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