Dealerships for General Motors Co. brands are "starting to feel the pinch" as trim pieces and other parts for their body shops become harder to find because of the United Auto Workers strike.

"When the strike first started, the first 10 days or so, there were no problems," said Walt Tutak, general manager of Matthews-Hargreaves Chevrolet in Royal Oak, on Friday afternoon. "Now we're starting to feel the pinch in the body shop. We're starting to have to turn down jobs in the body shop. That started three or four days ago." 

United Auto Workers members have been striking against GM since Sept. 16, after the contract expired the previous day.

Tutak said he is not worried about facing any vehicle shortages in the near future because he has four months worth of inventory at his dealership. But he said he has noticed that sales have started to slow.

"Sales have started to dip a little bit because people who may have been thinking about buying a new car are apprehensive because they don't know how long this is going to last," said Tutak, noting his dealership is dependent on sales to GM workers in Metro Detroit.

"It's getting to be a little of a snowball effect," he said. "If this strike keeps going and they stopping making and delivering cars, we're definitely going to be in a lot of trouble. ... Nobody has a crystal ball, it could go on for three more days, or three months or three years. I hope they settle it as soon as possible." 

Mark Montante, general manager of Taylor Chevrolet in Taylor, also said the biggest impact his dealership has felt so far is the limited availability of trim pieces and body parts. 

"As far as engine parts and things of that nature, we're OK so far," he said. "We're able to get parts overnighted to us, and we have a network of other dealers out there, so we're utilizing all those resources."

Acknowledging the uncertainty of the strike environment, he added quickly: "Call me in two weeks, it might be different."

Montante said GM appeared to be "well prepared" with vehicle inventory ahead of the walkout.

"We have close to 800 vehicles," he said Friday. "Three truckloads of vehicles were dropped off today." 

GM spokesman Jim Cain said the company's dealers "maintain a limited supply of parts, however, we are supplementing customer needs with inventories from a group of more than 300 wholesale dealers and ACDelco distributors.  

"In support of our customers, we have also made arrangements to have many high-volume maintenance and repair service parts shipped directly from our suppliers to dealers," Cain said in an email. 

"If critical recall or warranty repairs are delayed because of parts availability, our dealers are pleased to offer complimentary courtesy transportation." 

Kristin Dziczek, vice president of the Center for Automotive Research, said the parts shortage is likely to get worse the longer the work stoppage lasts, noting workers in GM's Customer Care and Aftersales division, which ships automotive replacement parts worldwide for current and past GM-branded vehicles, are also striking. 

"People that own GM vehicles that need a replacement something won't be able to get it," she said. "Inventories of service parts are usually pretty light."

Meanwhile, Dziczek noted at least some versions of several of GM's most popular models— including the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra — are built in Mexico, meaning the company will likely be able to continue providing at least some new inventory. GM workers in Mexico are not represented by the UAW and are not striking.

"As the strike draws on, it doesn't mean a customer will be able to go into a dealership and get exactly what they want, because it already has to exist," she said. "Colors and configurations might be difficult to get."

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

Read or Share this story: