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What's the risk of buying a car during the UAW strike?

Though the Big Three automakers have a lot of inventory, if the strike lasts a few weeks, supply could really take a hit.
What's the risk of buying a car during the UAW strike?
Posted at 5:28 PM, Sep 14, 2023

The instant gratification that we Americans love to experience on the dealer's lot could be dealt a big blow if UAW workers go on strike.

Ambrose Conroy is the CEO and founder of Seraph, a consulting group with expertise in the supply chain and the auto industry.

"We expect to see fewer choices for consumers. So if you want to buy a car from the Big Three, the sooner you buy it, the better, knowing that there aren't going to be huge savings," said Conroy.

If auto workers strike, he says the first thing consumers will notice from domestic automakers is a decrease in incentives from dealerships to buy a car. After that, prices will continue to increase above MSRP.

While numbers from Cox Automotive show that the Big Three automakers have many weeks of inventory, if the strike lasts a few weeks, then supply is really going to take a hit and even push up prices on used cars, which soared during the pandemic.

And while foreign automakers aren't impacted by a UAW strike, they may raise their prices too.

"I think that we may see price volatility with foreign cars. I think we will likely see fewer incentives with them as well when the strike happens because you're just not going to need to discount in order to get people to buy the cars that you have," said Conroy.

SEE MORE: What impact would a UAW strike have on the US economy?

Maybe you're not buying a car but need a part for a repair — you may have to wait.

"You'll have some parts scarcity. And as the depots for the Big 3 are also staffed by union workers, we're not necessarily going to see the availability of the parts that we need for your cars," said Conroy. Tom McParland of AutoMatch has some advice for consumers.

"From a consumer perspective, it really depends on what you're targeting," said McParland. 

First: Act quickly. If you need that domestic truck, buy it sooner, not later — and by sooner, he means in the next few days.

If you can't do that, the more flexible you are with models you're OK with purchasing, the better purchase options you'll have.

"I think flexibility is key," said McParland. 

Conroy believes when the strike ends, prices won't necessarily get back down to where they are now. He warns this strike has the potential to have lasting impacts on both price and supply in the months and years ahead.

"We're going to see consumers having to deal with higher prices moving forward, less available vehicles, even after the strike, because there's kind of need to be some simplification. So you might not get all the option choices that you want, or you might have to just wait in general," he said.

The bottom line: Act quickly or prepare to exercise patience.

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