GM third quarter sales jump 21% as UAW strike slowly expands

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United Auto Workers (UAW) members and supporters on a picket line outside the General Motors Co. Flint Processing Center in Swartz Creek, Michigan, US, on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023. 

Emily Elconin | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DETROIT – An ongoing strike by the United Auto Workers union against the Detroit automakers had little to no direct effect on General Motors’ third-quarter U.S. new vehicle sales.

The Detroit automaker on Tuesday reported a 21.4% increase in sales from July through September, compared to still subdued sales in the third quarter of 2022, when the industry was still recovering from supply chain issues.

GM’s increase significantly outpaced auto analyst expectations for the overall industry of 15% to 16% for the third quarter. Sales of every one of the Detroit automaker’s brands rose compared to a year earlier.

Not all automakers faired as well as GM in the quarter. But their sales largely climbed in terms of vehicles sold compared to a year ago. Third-quarter sales results reported Tuesday included: Toyota Motor up 12.2%; Hyundai Motor up roughly 9%; Kia up about 14%; Mazda up about 22%; and Honda up roughly 53%.

Stellantis was an outlier, as sales slid 1.3%. The company’s decline is notable, but not likely to be attributed to the UAW strikes. Stellantis’ sales have struggled as it attempts to retain high profits achieved in recent years by not discounting its vehicles as much as it has historically. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Though work stoppages may not have hit their results yet, GM and other companies likely will face sales and supply chain problems if the UAW’s strike, which began Sept. 15, is expanded or prolonged. Only 25,200 workers, or roughly 17% of UAW members covered by the expired contracts with GM, Ford Motor and Stellantis, are part of the work stoppages.

UAW has been gradually increasing the strikes since the work stoppages began, after the sides failed to reach tentative agreements by Sept 14. The targeted, or “stand up,” strikes are taking place instead of national walkouts in which all plants simultaneously strike.

National strikes affect the companies more quickly. The targeted walkouts aim to preserve the union’s funds and prolong the work stoppages to keep the automakers off keel.

The impacts of the strikes will likely begin showing in October for certain vehicles such as the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups, where work stoppages have affected production, according to Cox Automotive chief economist Jonathan Smoke.

2024 Chevrolet Trax (left) and 2024 Buick Envista

Michael Wayland / CNBC

“Thus far, the impact has been fairly muted,” Smoke said in a Friday blog post. “Should the strike against production sites further expand, the more vulnerable products are the large SUVs from Chevrolet and Cadillac, which have tighter inventory levels compared to their domestic rivals.”

For GM, the UAW strikes have hit production of the midsize pickups and Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave SUVs.

GM’s sales heading into the fourth quarter were up more than 19% to roughly 1.97 million vehicles sold in the U.S. That included more than 20,000 electric vehicle sales, a 28% increase compared to the second quarter.

Notably, the automaker started selling new electric versions of its Chevrolet Blazer SUV and Silverado pickup during the third quarter. The company also increased production and sales of the Cadillac Lyriq EV and Hummer models during the quarter. However, sales still pale in comparison to Tesla’s electric vehicle deliveries.

During the quarter, GM also was assisted by growth of newer, entry-level models such as the Chevrolet Trax and Buick Envista, both of which are being imported from plants in South Korea.

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