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How a Potential Autoworker Strike May Affect Car Prices

If it goes into November, forget about year-end sales for big US automakers
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2023 10:35 AM CDT
Another Massive Strike May Start This Week
United Auto Workers members march near a Stellantis factory Aug. 23, 2023, in Detroit.   (AP Photo/Mike Householder, File)

The nation is on the brink of another massive strike, with about 150,000 US autoworkers threatening to walk off the job when their current contract expires at 11:59pm Thursday. By all accounts, the United Auto Workers union is far from a deal with Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis (parent company of Jeep and Chrysler) on a number of key issues. If no deal is struck and all the workers walked off at once, it would be the second biggest US work stoppage in the last 25 years, behind only the ongoing Hollywood actors strike, reports the Washington Post. Coverage:

  • Raises: CNN breaks down the key issues, including pay raises. The UAW is pushing for a 46% raise for workers over four years, while the automakers are proposing substantially smaller increases. Top-scale UAW workers now make $32 an hour, and their pay would jump to $47 if the union gets its way, per the AP. What's seen as a thornier issue is that the union wants better pension and health benefits after making concessions amid the financial crisis that began around 2007.

  • Electric: The advent of electric vehicles also is a big factor. Big automakers are increasingly shifting to EVs, and the UAW wants to see a "just transition," per CNN. Meaning, it wants to represent workers at EV plants and have workers who lose their jobs at traditional plants be able to shift over to making batteries and such. "Our union isn't going to stand by while they replace oil barons with battery barons," says UAW chief Shawn Fain, per the AP.
  • Car prices: Would a strike drive up already high car prices? Generally, it depends on the make and model. For one thing, the strike wouldn't affect automakers such as Honda and Toyota. And the big three US automakers that would be affected have been beefing up stockpiles in anticipation of a strike. Still, models such as the GM Tahoe and Yukon SUVs have been in short supply for a while already, and a strike would surely make them even scarcer, notes the Post. "Selection is going to get worse, prices are going to get higher if there is a strike, but it's going to be focused on the most popular brands and models. It's not going to be everywhere," says Pat Ryan of the car-shopping app CoPilot.
  • Car prices, II: Insider takes a specific look at the issue of prices and notes the worry of industry observers. "For the first few weeks of a strike, automakers would have adequate supplies for their dealers, [but] knowing that the chances of a short strike are slim, dealers won't be quick to turn over vehicles cheaply," says Sam Fiorani of the global vehicle forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions. If the strike reaches into November, consumers can probably forget about year-end sales for UAW-made models, he adds. Even if a deal is reached to avert a strike, don't expect deals on the built-up inventory—because that inventory is still low by historical standards.
(More UAW stories.)

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