The United Auto Workers' expansion Friday of its historic strike against the Detroit automakers to 38 General Motors Co. and Stellantis NV parts distribution centers nationwide promises to snarl parts deliveries to customers and dealers.
The strategy appeared to be a strategic one by the UAW to avoid further layoffs at assembly and powertrain plants while still providing another source of leverage and "inflicting difficulties for automakers," S&P Global Mobility analysts wrote in a note.
“It moves the strike to the consumer by limiting the parts that they can get to fix their cars," said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. "There have been a lot of parts that have been in short supply before this, and this is just going to exacerbate that problem.”
Fiorani expects that GM and Stellantis will do "everything they can to keep their dealers and their customers happy," including staffing parts warehouses with salaried employees — a move that Ford was prepared to employ in the run-up to the strike.
“Dealers will be hurt because they can’t fix vehicles, and that’s a large portion of their income. Consumers are going to be hurt when they can’t get their vehicles fixed," he said. "It’s going to cause bad blood among consumers, but it depends on where the consumers’ loyalties lie, who they blame, whether it’s the dealer, whether it’s the manufacturer, whether it’s the union.”
Rival Ford Motor Co., meanwhile, was spared similar strike action Friday against its parts operations because of meaningful progress at the bargaining table.
Experts say the silver lining for auto suppliers already affected by work stoppages at three Detroit automaker plants in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri is that the latest move is unlikely to have much effect on production.
"The aftermarket is the tail," said Sheldon Klein, who represents auto suppliers for law firm Butzel Long. "The production operations is the dog. The impact on the companies is not as great as 38 plants suggests. As long as it doesn’t affect auto assembly, the impact on suppliers is limited at best. Suppliers don’t have to shut down their plants because they are not able to ship replacement headlights."
Public support for strike
The UAW so far enjoys strong public support for the strike.
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