Car shoppers are heading for a new round of sticker shock if the strike by the United Auto Workers doesn’t end soon, particularly for popular vehicles that are already in short supply.
The number of vehicles on dealer lots will shrink the longer the walkout goes on. Dealers are likely to lose incentives that the manufacturers pay them to boost sales by cutting prices.
And consumers might make things worse with panic-buying.
Many analysts think it will take several weeks before dealer lots start to look a bit empty. Ford, General Motors and Stellantis built up inventories of vehicles ahead of Thursday night’s strike, and the UAW decided to limit the walkout to just three plants – at least for now.
“Guys at the dealerships are going to tell you, ‘The UAW this and that,’ but their lots are full of cars now,” says Ivan Drury, the director of insights at Edmunds, a provider of information about the auto industry. He estimates that at current inventory levels and the pace of vehicle sales, most car shoppers shouldn’t notice much change for a couple of months.
Vehicles from the Detroit Three sat in inventory an average 52 days before being sold in August, up from 31 days at the start of last year, according to Edmunds data.
The UAW began striking at factories that make only a few vehicles – Ford Broncos and Rangers, Jeep Wranglers, Chevrolet mid-size pickups and GMC vans. Dealers have good inventories of those.
The union said it had “reasonably productive conversations” with Ford on Saturday, while Stellantis gave details about its most recent offer to the union.
Mark Stewart, chief operating officer for North America at Stellantis, also said his company has contingency plans to limit the impact on consumers, though he declined to give details about them.
“We really want to encourage customers: Don’t be afraid,” Stewart said, while suggesting they see the deals available at dealerships.
If the strike isn’t…