Operating Profits and Semi-Fixed Expenses

Operating Profits and Semi-Fixed Expenses

Step 1

First, using Tables 2–4, note the pattern of operating profits (or losses) over the five-year period. Then focus only on the semi-fixed expenses contained in Table 2. Do any amounts appear to be odd? (Think about whether the figures are right or wrong. What is it about the individual numbers that is not “right”?) Next, briefly comment on the five-year pattern or trend for operating profit/loss measures. You should be able to respond to this step in a few well-written sentences.

Step 2

Focus only on the detailed semi-fixed expense contained in Table 3. Are there any unusual or odd patterns you might note in this detailed financial data? There are 5 expenses that have an oddity about them which doesn’t make sense. Similar to Step 1, what is it about the individual numbers that are not “right”? There are 4 expenses that “stick out” as not being correct and one that has an unusual pattern. attention. You should be able to respond to this requirement in a few well-written sentences. Briefly comment on only the most obvious or apparent measures or patterns, by expense item.

Step 3

Identify the high and low measures in each column, just as you would in preparation for the application of the high-low method or technique. For example, in Table 3 the high measure for the cost driver (NRVS) is 280 NRVS in month 13 and the low measure is 31 NRVS in month 12. Repeat this process for each of the eight separate semi-fixed expense columns and also for the total expense column. Insert a table for Step 3 to present your findings. The table should have three columns;

1. Expense

2. High Figure

3. Low Figure

After the high and low measures have been identified in each column, try to match each expense column’s high and low measure, separately, to the highs and lows identified in the NRVS column. They won’t match. Don’t try to correct the data, but comment on the potential for application of the high-low technique. What happens when the high and low activity level doesn’t match the high and low expense measure? Does this prevent you from correctly applying the high-low technique?

Don’t overanalyze this data, because there’s a problem with it and you don’t have sufficient information to correct it. Merely summarize your observations and unsuccessful attempts to match the high and low NRVS months (identified above), separately, with each of the high and low expense measure months. You should be able to do this in a very few well-written sentences.

Step 4

Using the Excel file “Exam 500896 – Motomart Excel Spreadsheet” as per the instructions found above under the “Project Requirements”, reproduce and complete the following Table 5 and answer the four questions. The Excel file provides an example of how to arrive at the figures that need to be entered into the Table. You will create new worksheets for each of the remaining expenses. Do the work to arrive at the figures for each expense. Be sure to include the Excel file as part of your submission to “backup” the data presented in the Table in the Word document being submitted.

The Excel spreadsheet, while it will be included in your submission for the project, will not be graded. It is supporting documentation for what is being presented in the Word document. Only the information that is in the Word document will be graded.

The FC and VC should be rounded to the nearest dollar. The R-sq is a percentage figure carried out to 2 decimal places.

Table 5
Column Expense FC VC R-sq
1 Salaries $106,866 –$110 4.10%
2 Vacation
3 Advertising and training
4 Supplies/tools/laundry
5 Freight
6 Vehicles
7 Demonstrators
8 Floor planning
Computed total
9 Total

Complete the cost equations for the table. Use the R-squared as the single measure of “goodness of fit.” Don’t attempt to improve your results with the elimination of “outliers” or “influential outliers.” As you complete Table 5, answer the following questions:

1. What problems did you encounter?

2. Are the R-squared measures high or low?

3. Are the slopes negative or positive?

4. Are your conclusions consistent with those from the high-low effort?

Step 5

Summarize your findings by answering the following questions:

1. Can the Motomart data be used to prepare a reliable financial forecast? Why or why not?

2. If Motomart is included in the very large database used to prepare the financial forecast that supports the relocation of Motomart closer to Existing Dealer, what concerns might present themselves with respect to the remainder of the database used for this forecast?

3. Would you rely on this forecast?

 

 

Case Information

This case is based on real financial data provided by a retail automobile dealership (Motomart) seeking to relocate closer to an existing retail dealership. You’ll examine the mixed cost data from Motomart and apply both high-low and regression to attempt to separate mixed costs into their fixed and variable components for break-even and contribution margin computations. You’ll find that the data is flawed because Motomart was a single observation in a larger database. Don’t attempt to correct the data (e.g., remove outliers or influential outliers). You’ll be producing a scatterplot and apply high-low and regression methods to the extent practicable and writing a summary report of the findings.

Motomart operates a retail automobile dealership. The manufacturer of Motomart products, like all automobile manufacturers, produces forecasts. It has long been an industry practice to use variable costing-based/break-even analyses as the foundation for these forecasts, to examine their cost behavior as it relates to the new retail vehicles sold (NRVS) cost driver. In preparing this financial information, a common financial statement format and accounting procedures manual are provided to each retail auto dealership. The dealership is required to produce monthly financial statements using the guidelines provided by this common accounting procedures manual, and then furnish these financial statements to the manufacturer. General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and all other automobile manufacturers employ similar procedures manuals.

The use of a common format facilitates the development of composite financial statements that can be used to estimate costs and produce financial forecasts for future or proposed retail dealership sites (Cataldo and Kruck 1998). Zimmerman (2003) suggests that as many as 77 percents of manufacturers divide costs into variable and fixed components and that managers arrive at these estimates by classifying individual accounts as being primarily fixed or primarily variable (67).

For this case, you’ll examine mixed costs as defined by the manufacturer. Using the scatterplot, high-low, and regression methods, separate these mixed costs into their fixed and variable components. The data is problematic, and a clear solution won’t exist. Don’t attempt to correct the data by removing outliers, but make observations based on any patterns you observe. The case will expose you to actual data and require you to summarize your findings, including any conclusions you’re able to reach and why the financial data makes it impossible to separate the mixed costs into their fixed and variable components.

Motomart: A Litigation Support Engagement

The Motomart case evolved from a litigation support engagement. The lead author of this case was hired to analyze the data and provide expert testimony. His report and testimony was made available to the public (for a fee to cover reproduction costs). A broad description of the relevant points for the Motomart case follows.

Motomart wanted to move their retail automobile dealership, blaming their location for declining profits and increasing losses. They provided financial projections, using variable costing, to show that after the relocation both Motomart and the existing dealership would be profitable. They created these financial projections using a database provided by the manufacturer, which included all North American retail automobile dealerships. Motomart was one of the observations or retail automobile dealerships included in the database used to create these financial projections. You’ll be examining portions of Motomart’s historical financial data.

The relocation site was quite close to the existing dealership (which we’ll refer to as Existing Dealer), and Existing Dealer felt that, if the relocation was permitted, one or both of the dealerships would fail to break even and eventually go bankrupt, leading to poor service, or what the industry refers to as “orphaned” owners of these automobiles.

Antitrust laws provided Existing Dealer with the means to block the relocation requested by Motomart, but only if it could prove that the relocation wasn’t in the best interest of the consuming public. Generally, the only way to prove this is to prove that there’s simply not enough business for both retail automobile dealerships to break even (or generate a reasonable return on investment, given the risks associated with the industry). Again, the manufacturer, in support of the proposed Motomart relocation, supplied financial projections showing that both retail automobile dealerships would be profitable after the relocation.

The expert witness hired to investigate the merits of the relocation was given the Motomart data, but not the entire database that included the Motomart data. The Motomart data was in such poor form that it wasn’t possible to produce a financial forecast. An alternative forecast, not included in this case, was produced. This alternative forecast did not support the relocation of Motomart to a site closer to Existing Dealer. The alternative forecast showed that the market simply couldn’t support two retail automobile dealerships. The implication was that, as the weaker of the two dealerships, Motomart was losing business to Existing Dealer. In conclusion, the relocation request by Motomart was denied.

Income and Expense Data

The following tables give you information such as income statements, semi-fixed expenses, and salaries for Motomart. Look for unusual entries or discrepancies in their records and, where you can, note the cause of the problems.

Table 3 summarizes financial and cost driver information produced by Motomart, where new retail vehicles sold (NRVS) is the cost driver. The account classification method has resulted in three cost behavior classifications: variable, semi-fixed, and fixed costs. Semi-fixed is the automobile industry-specific term used for mixed costs. We’ll assume that Motomart’s classifications of variable costs (VCs) and fixed costs (FCs) are correct, and focus our analysis on Motomart’s semi-fixed or mixed costs.

Table 2
SElECTED HISTORICAl INCOME STATEMENT AND RElATED MEASURES
1984 1985 1986 1987 1988
Net Variable Revenues* 2,885,969 3,828,255 4,086,667 3,940,799 4,298,748
Semi-Fixed (S-F) Expenses:
Salaries  613,006    968,789 1,211,464 1,289,758 1,360,489
Vacation        600      26,705      19,468      19,059     18,268
Advertising & Training 210,226    288,347    281,219    309,608   371,314
Supplies/Tools/Laundry    31,473     46,141      75,468      65,935     81,252
Freight     5,719      5,987         6,528        5,731       4,663
Vehicle    22,913     23,718       23,664      20,370     19,483
Demonstrators    10,465      4,969         -1,513        4,192         707
Floor-Planning  278,531   301,113     276,201     156,129   305,044
Total S-F Expenses 1,172,933 1,665,769  1,892,499 1,870,782 2,161,220
Fixed Expenses:
Total Fixed Expenses 1,449,208 2,050,172 2,290,867 2,164,362 2,653,620
Operating Profit/(Loss)**    263,828     112,314    -96,699    -94,345  -516,092
New Retail Vehicles Sold        1,798         1,977        1,674       1,450       1,897
Notes: * Revenues less variable costs equal Net Variable Revenues (or Contribution Margin, in aggregate). ** Net Variable Revenue less Total S-F Expenses less Total Fixed Expenses equals Operating Profit/(Loss).

Table 3 provides five years of monthly data (N=60) for NRVS and the related semi-fixed or mixed cost measures. Semifixed costs were significant. Recall that they ranged from nearly $1.2 million for calendar and fiscal year (FY) 1984 to almost $2.2 million for FY 1988 (see Table 2).

Table 3 SEMI-FIXED (MIXED) EXPENSES FOR THE 60-MONTH PERIOD (FY 1984 THROUGH 1988)
Mo NRVS Salary Vacation Adv/Trng SplyTls/Lndry
  1 197 $  52,951 $           – $   22,561 $    1,118
  2 133 $  47,054 $           – $   19,040 $    3,573
  3  132 $ 55,372 $           – $   14,373 $    1,388
  4  141 $ 46,114 $           – $   15,022 $    2,894
  5  182 $ 48,309 $           – $   19,966 $    1,896
  6  156 $ 49,643 $           – $   12,019 $    1,188
  7   196 $ 55,784 $      300 $   13,217 $    3,912
  8  178 $ 47,957 $           – $   17,303 $    2,012
  9   159 $ 53,743 $           – $   16,535 $    2,717
10 141 $ 53,109 $           – $   23,821 $    1,102
11  152 $ 45,491 $      300 $   14,146 $    2,630
12  31 $ 57,479 $           – $   22,223 $    7,043
13  280 $ 49,049 $           – $   19,992 $    1,999
14  136 $ 46,698 $      300 $   20,251 $    1,192
15  174 $ 59,790 $      200 $   20,082 $    1,336
16   171 $ 80,773 $      600 $   26,716 $    3,873
17  167 $ 71,130 $   9,212 $   25,223 $    5,560
18 161 $ 82,490 $   6,007 $   21,106 $    1,737
19 173 $ 98,172 $      500 $   17,799 $    1,847
 20 161 $ 90,685 $   2,690 $   28,038 $    4,415
21  167 $ 97,771 $      600 $   37,284 $    2,827
22 153 $ 87,129 $   1,740 $   24,236 $    5,836
23 201 $ 95,910 $   2,074 $   27,244 $    3,387
24 33 $ 09,192 $   2,782 $   20,376 $  12,132
25  227 $ 89,041 $   1,880 $   26,719 $    4,383
26  150 $ 92,165 $   3,602 $   14,727 $  10,231
27 142 $ 88,981 $      744 $   27,880 $    7,734
28  104 $ 95,898 $      960 $   21,872 $    (684)
29 121 $ 96,245 $           – $   18,705 $    8,329
30 99 $ 106,364 $           – $   23,835 $    2,540
 31 150 $ 90,564 $   1,950 $   25,605 $    5,862
32 144 $ 98,418 $   1,540 $   17,763 $    6,998
33 154 $ 110,436 $   2,693  32,379 $    8,131
34 130 $ 102,042 $   1,060 $   19,324 $    6,026
35 202 $ 124,413 $   3,519 $   22,412 $    9,120
36 51 $ 116,897 $   1,520 $   29,998 $    6,798
37 148 $ 97,083 $   1,080 $   9,112 $    6,627
38 153 $ 104,727 $   3,230 $   38,616 $    5,892
39  83 $ 95,622 $      953 $   22,690 $    3,450
40 101 $ 96,438 $   1,244 $   14,703 $    5,259
41 140 $ 114,995 $           – $   28,764 $    2,294
42 132 $ 105,337 $      160 $   27,253 $    8,155
43 112 $ 98,989 $   2,480 $   24,419 $    1,621
 44 127 $ 124,352 $   1,800 $   26,011 $       902
45 139 $ 115,875 $   1,417 $   24,492 $    5,158
46 156 $ 113,035 $   1,820 $   31,158 $    2,901
47 126 $ 119,106 $   3,338 $   32,213 $  14,426
48  33 $ 104,199

$   1,537 $   30,177 $    9,250
49 209 $ 98,938 $   1,866 $   26,737 $    1,694
50 124 $ 108,606 $   3,676 $   31,084 $    9,040
51 131 $ 106,396 $   1,197 $   33,278 $    2,099
52 144 $ 106,778 $      241 $   32,657 $    9,328
53  93 $ 124,805 $      500 $   29,794 $    4,268
54 199 $ 110,153 $   1,910 $   38,431 $    5,407
55 170 $ 117,276 $      800 $   27,640 $    9,305
56 186 $ 112,055 $      980 $   28,657 $    1,803
57 200 $ 114,765 $   1,695 $   36,425 $    8,839
58  146 $ 128,007 $   1,560 $   27,720 $  10,944
59 222 $ 116,811 $   2,249 $   27,941 $    5,775
60 73 $ 115,899 $   1,594 $   30,950 $  30,950

 

Table 3 Continued SEMI-FIXED (MIXED) EXPENSES FOR THE 60-MONTH PERIOD (FY 1984 THROUGH 1988)
Mo Freight Vehicles Demo’s Floor-Plan Total
  1 $     382 $   2,052 $     1,881 $   (78,173) $     2,772
  2 $     409 $   1,405 $        695 $     28,456 $ 100,632
  3 $     742 $   1,380 $        469 $     34,423 $ 108,147
  4 $     675 $   2,057 $        125 $       5,697 $   72,584
  5 $     572 $   1,603 $        131 $     34,599 $ 107,076
  6 $     407 $   2,524 $     1,229 $     53,737 $ 120,747
  7 $     643 $   2,348 $     1,206 $       5,507 $   82,917
  8 $     605 $   1,208 $        436 $     32,436 $ 101,957
  9 $     209 $   2,400 $     1,476 $     28,950 $ 106,030
10 $     184 $   2,076 $     1,168 $     20,876 $ 102,336
11 $     331 $   1,677 $        635 $     45,278 $ 110,488
12 $     560 $   2,183 $     1,014 $     66,745 $ 157,247
13 $     582 $   1,927 $     (477) $   (30,104) $   42,968
14 $     603 $   1,156 $     1,839 $     50,583 $ 122,622
15 $     492 $   1,898 $     1,260 $     18,803 $ 103,861
16 $     559 $   1,808 $        510 $     23,080 $ 137,919
17 $     356 $   1,816 $     2,350 $     18,774 $ 134,421
18 $     439 $   1,384 $     (288) $     23,802 $ 136,677
19 $   1,628 $   1,962 $     1,591 $     33,848 $ 157,347
 20 $     (12) $   2,446 $  (3,308) $     13,480 $ 138,434
21 $     480 $   2,296 $     1,709 $     22,965 $ 165,932
22 $       79 $   3,175 $        798 $     18,898 $ 141,891
23 $     188 $   1,287 $   (2,025) $     38,699 $ 166,764
24 $     593 $   2,563 $     1,010 $     68,285 $ 216,933
25 $     769 $   2,205 $     2,493 $   (44,140) $ 83,350
26 $     593 $   2,289 $   (2,051) $     36,311 $ 157,867
27 $     414 $   1,891 $        386 $     19,865 $ 147,895
28 $     425 $   2,288 $        178 $     19,013 $ 139,950
29 $     483 $   2,223 $      (262) $     16,228 $ 141,951
30 $     417 $   1,683 $   (1,356) $     37,637 $ 171,120
 31 $     222 $   1,586 $        486 $     (1,121) $ 125,154
32 $       49 $   1,751 $   (1,924) $     34,757 $ 159,352
33 $     818 $   2,082 $     1,547 $     26,419 $ 184,505
34 $  1,015 $   1,714 $        132 $     21,134 $   52,447
35 $  1,255 $   2,173 $   (2,337) $     18,578 $ 179,133
36 $       68 $   1,779 $     1,195 $     91,520 $ 249,775
37 $     565 $   1,324 $     1,164 $   (73,753) $   43,202
38 $     369 $   1,523 $   (1,839) $     30,443 $ 182,961
39 $  (182) $   2,087 $        454 $     17,725 $ 142,799
40 $     709 $   2,095 $        868 $     26,402 $ 147,718
41 $  1,006 $   1,304 $   (1,990) $      (3,789 $ 142,584
42 $     521 $   1,667 $     1,869 $     15,090 $ 160,052
43 $     514 $   1,040 $        329 $       (945) $ 128,447
 44 $     917 $   2,880 $   (1,897) $     30,405 $ 185,370
45 $     (77 $   1,281 $     2,959 $     14,781 $ 165,886
46 $     450 $   2,259 $        417 $     15,613 $ 167,653
47 $     120 $   1,394 $   (2,659) $     40,968 $ 208,906
48 $     819 $   1,516 $     4,517 $     43,189 $ 195,204
49 $     853 $   1,657 $        601 $   (20,127) $ 112,219
50 $     498 $   2,266 $      (284) $     18,236 $ 173,122
51 $     605 $   1,952 $        668 $     15,176 $ 161,371
52 $     483 $   1,852 $     1,409 $     25,245 $ 177,993
53 $     788 $   1,704 $   (1,771) $       6,493 $ 166,581
54 $     529 $   1,882 $        453 $     21,851 $ 180,616
55 $   (180) $   977 $     1,310 $              7 $ 157,135
56 $    242) $   846 $   (2,844) $     17,192 $ 158,447
57 $     859 $   2,856 $     1,532 $     14,864 $ 181,835
58 $  (492) $   1,864 $     1,400 $     10,121 $ 181,124
59 $    245 $   1,141 $   (3,513) $       7,946 $ 158,595
60 $    717 $   486 $     1,746 $   188,040 $ 352,182

 

Recall the cost function applying to the high-low and regression methods, which are provided in a variety of forms, depending on the texts you used in your previous math, economics, or accounting courses. Below is a brief outline of the high-low and regression methods.

IMG_256For the high-low method to work, the $H and #H and the $L and #L measures must be from the same accounting period.

Preparing Graphs

The single cost driver and nonfinancial measure in Table 3 is new retail vehicles sold (NRVS or X in the above cost function). There are eight financial measures (salary; vacation; advertising and training; supplies, tools, and laundry; freight; vehicles; demonstrators; and floor-planning [also known in the automobile retail industry as interest expense relating to new car inventory]), as well as a total (aggregate measure) provided for all eight financial measures (or the Y in the above cost function).

Using NRVS, the only available cost-driver, use Excel to prepare nine separate scatter plots and cost function-based trend lines and nine separate line graphs for each of the financial measures provided in Table 3. The images below are an example of completed graphs for salaries.

IMG_257A Scatterplot Graph for Motomart SalariesIMG_258A Line Graph for Motomart Salaries

Now examine, on a preliminary basis, the pattern or trend (or lack thereof) for each of the “X” (NRVS) and “Y” (financial measure) data pairs and consider the following questions:

· You’re observing these data pairs for a 60-month period (i.e., five years); are any annual or other seasonal patterns or trends immediately apparent?

· Do the slopes of the trend lines (i.e., variable costs) make sense?

In the case of salaries (see the graphs above), there’s no apparent trend or pattern. It’s odd that salaries decrease as NRVS increases—in fact, this doesn’t make any sense. However, it’s consistent with the high-low results, which also didn’t make sense. But remember, since this data came from Motomart, the firm attempting to relocate, it’s real and from an actual litigation support engagement (not a textbook problem), so it won’t necessarily work out perfectly.

The cost equation in Table 4 shows fixed costs (FC) at $106,866.00 and variable costs to be used to “reduce” total costs (TC) by $110.10 per NRVS. Compare the salary figures and coefficients (in bold type) to the scatterplot graph for Motomart Salaries. Notice that if you extended the trend line in Figure 4, it would hit the y-axis intercept at $106,866.00 (the fixed cost). Also, notice that the R-squared (R-sq) measure in Table 4 equals 4.1 percent.

Table 4
SALARY = $106,866.00 – $110.10 NRVS
Predictor Coefficient Std Deviation t-statistic p-value
Constant 106,866.00 10,793.00 9.90 0.000
NRVS 110.10 70.17 –1.57 0.122
s = 25300        r-sq = 4.1%
Analysis of Variance
SOURCE DF SS MS F-statistic p-value
Regression 1 261,795 261,795 0.10 0.754
Error 58 152,801,120 2,634,502
Total 59 153,062,912

Your math and statistics courses probably reviewed the use of the t-statistic, overall F-statistic, and related p-values, as well as some of the other measures presented here. Our application is a very simple one, so we’ll focus on only the R-squared measure. The other measures are provided in this example only for completeness.

Because the high-low technique didn’t work, it makes sense that the regression technique wouldn’t work well, either. Therefore, the results for high-low and regression are consistent. The advantage of the regression technique is that it mathematically quantifies the level of the problem or difficulty with the data. In this case, one of simple regression, the R-squared measure tells the story. Still focusing on the salaries example in Figure 5, the R-squared measure tells us that only 4.1 percent of the total or mixed or semi-fixed cost is explained by NRVS. This means that that cost equation developed from this historical data isn’t helpful in predicting future costs, as nearly 96 percent of the cost behavior, through use of this equation, remains unexplained.

Requirements

The project requires five steps to be presented.

Step 1 – Provide comments on a 5-year Income Statement.

Step 2 – Discuss patterns in expense items.

Step 3 – Identify High/Low activity levels.

Step 4 – Compute cost equations.

Step 5 – Summarize your findings.

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