US auto workers' strike: What are the implications?

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 16 2023 09:55 AM

Members of the United Auto Workers picket in Wentzville, Missouri on September 16, 2023 in this handout photo from the UAW International Union Facebook page.
Members of the United Auto Workers picket in Wentzville, Missouri on September 16, 2023 in this handout photo from the UAW International Union Facebook page.

NEW YORK — Unionized auto workers in the United States have launched a strike at three factories in a historic walkout after failing to reach a deal with Detroit's "Big Three" automakers.

With the automotive sector being a major part of the world's biggest economy, here is a summary of the implications.

Millions of jobs

The automotive ecosystem drives some $1 trillion into the US economy each year, nearly five percent of gross domestic product, according to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.

The group, which represents the auto industry, said in a 2022 report that the sector supports 9.6 million jobs.

In its industry report, the alliance noted that "more than $220 billion in federal and state revenue is generated annually by the manufacture, sale and maintenance of autos."

And the sector is benefiting from the rapid growth of electric carmaker Tesla, which delivered 1.3 million EVs in 2022.

'The Big Three'

General Motors, Ford and Stellantis are dubbed the "Big Three" in US carmakers and have production facilities in the Detroit, Michigan, area.

They operate 60% of the country's assembly plants, according to the American Automotive Policy Council, which represents the three companies.

The United Auto Workers strike involves only 12,700 of 150,000 members represented by the union, but the action could broaden in the coming days.

A major risk in the event of a prolonged strike is "degradation of the supply chain and the financial health of the parts and equipment suppliers," said CFRA analyst Garrett Nelson.

Michael Pearce of Oxford Economics added in a note that "a total walkout would reduce motor vehicle output by over 30%."

Scale of operations

GM employs over 92,000 people in the United States according to its website, and delivered 2.3 million vehicles in the country last year under the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands.

In 2022, its revenue rose by 23% to $157 billion, while its net income came in at $9.9 billion.

Ford — founded 120 years ago — hires some 177,000 people including about 86,000 in the United States.

It manufactures the Ford brand including the F-150 pickup truck, which the company calls "America's truck" because it is assembled entirely in the United States and has been the country's most popular vehicle for more than four decades.

Meanwhile US-European auto giant Stellantis, whose brands include Jeep, Chrysler and Peugeot, has 264,000 staff globally.

In 2022, it posted profits of 16.8 billion euros.

Foreign automakers

Apart from US carmakers, international automakers produced 4.4 million vehicles in the United States last year, according to Autos Drive America.

Their production volume has ballooned by over 85% in more than two decades.

And this has brought their share of US production from one percent in 1979 to 45% in 2022.

Among global brands that have plants in America are BMW, Kia, Honda, Lexus, Volkswagen and Hyundai.

In 2022, international automakers directly employed 156,000 US employees.

© Agence France-Presse