UAW strike strategy targets Detroit 3 midsize pickup, SUV plants to start

UAW President Shawn Fain told reporters as he joined picketers outside Michigan Assembly on Friday that the initial plants were chosen because “we’ve got to start somewhere.”

“I’m not going to get into our strategies, but we’ve got a lot of smart people,” Fain said. “We have a strategy we’ve mapped out and we have a playbook we’re going to play by. This is up to the companies. If they come to the pump and take care of their workers, we’ll come back to work. But if they don’t, we’ll keep amping it up.”

The strike began two days after Jeep debuted the freshened 2024 Gladiator, which will be built at Toledo Assembly, at the Detroit auto show. The Toledo plant already had begun building the updated 2024 Wrangler, which Jeep unveiled at the New York auto show in April.

Chevrolet and GMC redesigned the Wentzville-built Colorado and GMC Canyon for the 2023 model year. Ford started building its redesigned 2024 Ranger at Michigan Assembly only a few weeks ago.

Across the industry, inventory levels generally have rebounded since the depths of the pandemic and chip shortage, but supplies of new vehicles still vary by brand. Cox Automotive estimated that GM dealers, particularly those selling Chevrolets and Cadillacs, have the tightest supply and are most at risk of exposure to a strike, Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke wrote Friday.

Stellantis brands entered September with some of the highest inventory levels among the Detroit 3, with Dodge at a 127-day supply, Chrysler at 120 and Ram at 100, according to Cox. GM’s brands had some of the lowest, with 44 days’ supply at Cadillac, 51 at Chevy and 61 at GMC.

“GM sales are likely more vulnerable in a strike, as GM’s sales pace is stronger and supply more limited, so any disruption will be a negative,” Smoke wrote. “Stellantis sales, on the other hand, have been weak — so with abundant supply, their sales would likely not be impacted for a much longer period of time. Ford is in between.”

The automakers likely would be able to make up lost inventory with additional overtime if the strike is short-lived, said Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at Cornell University.

“All of the automakers now know they’re not bluffing,” Wheaton said. “They will call a strike. They did call a strike. And their behavior at the table has a direct impact on which plants go out next.”

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