GM dealers seeing parts shortage during UAW strike

Kent County

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Good news for local General Motors dealers: While the United Auto Workers strike that has shut down the automotive giant is nearing the two-week mark, there’s still plenty of product on the lot.

GM bumped up dealer inventory in anticipation of the strike.

“We’re fine there. We’ll be fine for 40, 50, 60 days,” C.J. Romig, the general manager of Kool Chevrolet just north of Grand Rapids, said. “I look around in town and everybody else has quite a bit of inventory as well. So we’re not too worried about that right now. But like I said, another month, another two months, that would be tough.”

But the strike is causing a challenge in the back room.

“We’re looking at our special order parts bin now,” Romig said. “In the last seven, eight days we’ve received just one truck in from GM. So it’s been pretty tough.”

Shelves are empty at metro Grand Rapids GM dealerships while workers are on strike. (Sept. 25, 2019)

Romig says mechanics have had to hunt for some parts and wait on deliveries. If you need an oil change or brake job, you’ll be OK, but if your vehicle needs something a little more complicated or specialized, you may find yourself in a loaner for a while.

“Luckily, we were proactive,” Romig said. “We knew the strike was coming, so we had reached out to some other providers and, knock on wood, we’re doing a good job keeping the service flow right now.”

A GM dealership mechanic working in metro Grand Rapids. (Sept. 25, 2019)

But how long?

“Another week or so would be OK. But after that, it would be tough,” Romig said.

Help may be on the way for dealers. While GM isn’t building vehicles, there are still parts on warehouse shelves and managers in those warehouses that can slap a label on them and ship them out.

“We did receive an email from GM saying that they’re going to try to ship us the maintenance items directly from all of our suppliers, so that will help,” Romig said.

From the parts bin to the factory floor, workers who make GM components are feeling the effects as well.

Voluntary layoffs at Lacks Enterprises were set to begin this week. If the strike continues, the company may institute involuntary layoffs next week. There was no word Wednesday on how many workers at Lacks will be furloughed. GM accounts for 25% to 30% of the Kentwood-based company’s business.

The strike is also effecting the bottom line at Lacks. Revenues are expected to be off by $6 million for the month of September. But just like the layoffs, the revenue loss is expected to be temporary. Lacks officials say they expect to make up the business once the strike is settled.

IHS Markit automotive industry analyst Mike Wall told News 8 he is hearing of more targeted layoffs and downtime on lines at other GM suppliers.

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