UAW strike could make cars harder to find and more expensive

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 10:18 PM CDT
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KCTV) - The clock is ticking for a strike against the Big Three American automakers.

United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain said if they can’t come to an agreement by 11:59 p.m. Thursday, they will strike. That could have an impact on consumers, beginning with the cost and availability of cars and trucks.

The last big UAW strike was in 2019 just with GM. It lasted 40 days and cost the manufacturer $3 billion.

At that time, it didn’t have much impact on the price of cars, but the stakes are higher now and not just because it’s all of the Big Three under the gun.

Mike Decker is the founder of Kedrec, an investment advisory firm in Overland Park. He also writes for the finance magazine Kiplinger’s. He spelled out all the differences that make this year’s looming strike more significant.

“[In 2019] the strike was short-lived, families hadn’t experienced significant inflation like today and the auto dealers had a large inventory so they could, if they wanted to, sit it out and just keep selling cars,” said Decker. “I mean, today, if you want to buy a new car, you buy it, and then you wait a couple of months just for it to show up. So, with that limited inventory, it’s a different game.”

He said if a strike lasts less than a couple of weeks, prices should stay steady, but much longer means trouble. Whether that would trickle down to the foreign car market for consumers is something he could not comfortably predict.

“The foreign companies could be opportunistic and keep their prices low and enjoy the benefit of more sales,” Decker said, “or they could rise their prices with the other people that are struggling and just enjoy the additional profits.”

The Big Three don’t just make cars. They also make parts. So, it could impact repairs on your existing car too.

As for whether you should hedge your bets on when to buy a car, Decker said that’s a risky game. His advice was simple. Buy what you can afford when you need it and be prepared to be flexible.