The ongoing strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union against the Detroit automakers has raised concerns about the potential impact on General Motors’ (GM) third-quarter U.S. new vehicle sales. Despite the work stoppages, GM surprised industry analysts by reporting a 21.4% increase in sales from July through September compared to the third quarter of 2022. This article critically analyzes the effects of the UAW strike on GM’s sales and highlights the potential challenges the company may face in the coming months.
Contrary to expectations, GM managed to outpace industry projections for the third quarter, which stood at 15% to 16%. Sales of all the Detroit automaker’s brands witnessed a rise compared to the previous year. GM’s impressive increase in sales can be attributed to various factors, including the recovery from supply chain issues that affected the industry in 2022. Furthermore, the introduction of new electric vehicle models, including the Chevrolet Blazer SUV and Silverado pickup, contributed to the company’s sales growth.
Despite the ongoing UAW strike, GM’s sales performance in the third quarter remained largely unaffected. The work stoppages primarily targeted the production of midsize pickups, as well as Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave SUVs. Cox Automotive chief economist Jonathan Smoke noted that the impacts of the strike on production would likely become more apparent in October, particularly for vehicles like the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups. However, the strike’s overall impact on GM’s sales was relatively muted in the third quarter.
While GM managed to mitigate the immediate effects of the UAW strike, the company may encounter sales and supply chain problems if the strike is expanded or prolonged. Currently, the work stoppages involve only 17% of UAW members covered by the expired contracts with GM, Ford Motor, and Stellantis. However, if the strike expands, especially with national walkouts, the adverse effects on GM and other automakers will be more severe. National strikes could potentially disrupt the companies’ production and supply chains more quickly, leading to lower sales and inventory shortages.
If the UAW strike continues to expand, certain GM vehicles, such as the large SUVs from Chevrolet and Cadillac, may face production and inventory challenges. Inventory levels for these models are tighter compared to their domestic rivals. According to Jonathan Smoke, the Chevrolet and Cadillac large SUVs, including models like the Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade, are more vulnerable to the impacts of work stoppages. These vehicles may experience lower availability and longer waiting times for customers if the strike escalates further.
Despite the potential challenges posed by the UAW strike, GM entered the fourth quarter with promising sales figures. The company reported a more than 19% increase in sales, with approximately 1.97 million vehicles sold in the U.S. during the third quarter. Moreover, GM witnessed a 28% increase in electric vehicle sales compared to the second quarter, boosted by the introduction of new electric models like the Chevrolet Blazer SUV and Silverado pickup. However, it is essential to note that GM’s sales in the electric vehicle segment still pale in comparison to industry leader Tesla’s deliveries.
GM’s sales performance in the third quarter was also supported by the growth of newer, entry-level models such as the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Envista. These models, imported from plants in South Korea, have resonated with customers seeking affordable and fuel-efficient options. The success of these entry-level models indicates the importance of catering to diverse customer preferences and expanding the product portfolio to attract a broader range of buyers.
Despite the ongoing UAW strike, General Motors managed to achieve exceptional sales growth in the third quarter. GM’s vehicle sales outpaced industry projections, fueled by factors such as the recovery from supply chain issues and the introduction of new electric vehicle models. While the strike’s immediate impact on sales remained relatively muted, potential challenges lie ahead if the work stoppages expand or prolong. The vulnerability of certain products, particularly large SUVs, highlights the need for GM to monitor the situation closely and work towards resolving the ongoing labor dispute to ensure a stable and sustainable future for the company.