If you’re thinking about buying a new car, you might be warily watching news about a possible United Auto Workers strike. And, yes, experts say, there could be some serious downside for those shopping for certain models of cars, trucks or SUVs, at least in the longer term.
There’s no single answer to what a car shopper should do, though. It depends on the vehicle you’re shopping for and on your own level of flexibility in that choice. First of all, keep in mind that only General Motors, Ford and Stellantis face strikes by the United Auto Workers, So, if you’re thinking of buying a Toyota, Honda or Hyundai, any potential strike should make little difference to you.
And if you’re thinking of buying a Ford, Chevrolet or Jeep — brands that are manufactured by Ford, GM and Stellantis, respectively — but you’re not very particular about the color or specific options, you might still have time to shop around, even if a strike happens.
But the emphasis is on “might.”
Automakers are just recovering from manufacturing disruptions caused by Covid-related parts shortages. New vehicle inventories are leaner than they’ve been before past strikes, said Pat Ryan, CEO of the car shopping site CoPilot, which closely tracks dealership inventories.
There are differences even among these three companies, though. GM has the tightest inventories of the three, while Stellantis — which makes Jeep, Dodge and Ram models, among others — has lots of vehicles on its dealer lots.
“They’ve got so much inventory, this might help them clear out some of that inventory,” Ryan said of Stellantis.
On the other hand, if you’re looking at a GMC, Chevy or Cadillac SUV or truck, there are already wait times for some of those models, he said. Ryan said that’s especially true if you want something very specific.
“The challenge for buying some of those is that, already, you would have to order or wait to get exactly what you wanted,” he said.
If you’re more flexible in your choices, there’s no need to make a panic buy right now, though, said Ivan Drury, an industry analyst with Edmunds.com. There will be a little time before the situation gets dire if the strike runs very long.
“If you’re looking at an American automaker, you’re already seeing that they’re offering low [interest rate financing], they’re offering cash back on some stuff,” he sad. “I would probably just pull the trigger sooner than later so that you don’t get caught in that potential gray zone three to four months from now, when they could start running lean if the factories are shut down.”
Beyond Stellantis, there are still some specific models that are especially plentiful right now, noted Michelle Krebs, an analyst with AutoTrader. The Ford Bronco Sport and Escape, the Chevrolet Equinox and full-size pickups are in good supply, she said in an email.
But, pickups, because of their wide variety of types and options, generally require a larger selection for customers to find just what they want on the lot, Ryan noted.
No escape over the border
You might think that models built in Mexico or Canada, where factories don’t employ UAW workers, will never be in short supply just because of a strike in the United States. Unfortunately that’s not the case, because automakers’ factories in North America, which includes Canada and Mexico, are all tied together, Thomas Goldsby, professor of supply chain management at the University of Tennessee wrote in an email.
Factories in the US make components shipped to factories across US borders, he pointed out. So vehicle production at Mexican and Canadian factories could well shut down at some point if a strike drags on.
Some models from these brands are imported from outside North America, though. For instance, the Chevrolet Trailblazer and Trax are built in South Korea, Stellantis’s Dodge Hornet is built in Italy and GM’s Buick Envision is assembled in China.
Auto plants in other continents are unlikely to be affected by these strikes since automakers rarely ship major components between factories on different continents, said Goldsby.
In some ways, you might find this all somewhat similar to car shopping during the era of post-covid vehicle shortages, said Ryan.
“It will more likely be quite specific around certain brands, and particularly certain models, where you really feel and see that,” he said. “Frankly, it might be an interesting time to reconsider the Stellantis brands if you like any of them, because you’re probably going to get a much better deal on those.”