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Dealers worry about latest UAW walkout.

UAW Strike at Major Ford Truck Plant Breeds Dealer Anxiety

Some 8,700 workers at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant joined the expanding UAW walkouts on Oct. 11, halting production of highly profitable Super Duty pickups and large SUVs.

Ford dealers “hope and pray” the UAW strike concludes soon without interrupting fullsize truck and SUV production too long at the automaker’s Kentucky Truck Plant, says Rhett Ricart, CEO of Ricart Automotive Group, Columbus, OH.

“Dealers hope and pray they can come together with a conclusion on this,” Ricart says during a conference call for media, Wall Street analysts and investors, hosted by Ford.

UAW President Shawn Fain authorized a strike at Ford's Kentucky Truck plant in Louisville last Wednesday (Oct. 11), following the Ford negotiators' failure to offer a more generous contract proposal.

It’s a big step for the union to call a strike at the Kentucky Truck Plant, Ricart tells Wards. He compares it to “punching the biggest kid in the playground in the nose.”

Ford’s conference call was in reaction to the UAW expanding the strike to include the 8,700 hourly workers at the Kentucky plant. The plant assembles the highly profitable fullsize F-Series Super Duty trucks and Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

“It is one of the biggest auto plants in America, and the largest truck plant in the world,” says Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford Blue, the automaker’s business segment for gasoline-powered vehicles and hybrids. Galhotra says the union’s action in Kentucky comes as a surprise.

Ricart says that even before the strike has an impact, the fullsize trucks and SUVs from the Kentucky Truck Plant are already in big demand and short supply.  “They’re pretty expensive,” he says, adding they sell for as much as $80,000 to $100,000 with options.

Commercial vehicles account for 20% to 25% of his sales, the dealer says.

“The Super Duties are really popular. I’m sitting on 15 or 20 of them, which will be fine, for us, for maybe 45 to 60 days,” Ricart says. The dealer says he’s hoping the strike at the Kentucky Truck Plant doesn’t last that long.

During the conference call, Ford executives declared the automaker has reached its spending threshold regarding enhanced wages and benefits for UAW workers. They also cautioned that the union's strike at the company's most lucrative plant has the potential to affect workers adversely and significantly diminish profits.

TAGS: Retail
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