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Detroit Free Press: GM Scrambles to Recover from Parts Shortage Caused by UAW Strike


Source: Jamie L. LaReau, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Buick owner Ben Baby is on his third and last Buick.

Baby, 41, has been waiting since Oct. 4. for General Motors to supply a Texas body shop with the parts needed to repair his 2018 Buick Enclave.

The delay, caused by the United Auto Workers’ 40-day strike that started Sept. 16, has made Baby increasingly frustrated.

More than 20 parts are back-ordered, he said, and neither GM nor the body shop manager can estimate when Baby will be back in his car, he said.

“I’m done,” said Baby, who lives in McKinney, Texas, about 30 miles north of Dallas. “All of this happened because of the GM strike. GM should have taken care of these things and been prepared, offered rental cars or something … it is their responsibility.”

A GM spokesman said preparing for a parts shortage is difficult, given that the automaker did not expect a strike. GM is sorry, the spokesman said, for the inconvenience that strike-related parts delays have caused some customers.

“We are doing our best to recover as quickly as possible,” spokesman Jim Cain said in an email.

GM is running its parts plants in “emergency status” with maximum overtime, among other things, to return the parts operations to normal, said Cain. But it’s a massive, complicated task to get caught up and fulfill backorders for specific parts.

Exhaustive waiting

On Oct. 4, Baby was driving on the Sam Rayburn Tollway in Dallas when a driver three cars ahead of him suddenly stopped, triggering a four-car pileup. Baby was the last car in the chain reaction.

He was uninjured, but his Enclave had extensive damage to the front. His insurance company said it was repairable and refused to total the car, he said. The body shop manager told him it would be a long wait on repair parts because some 48,000 UAW workers at all of GM’s U.S. plants had been on strike since Sept. 16.

For more than two months now, Baby and his wife have shared one vehicle. She drove it to her job, while he worked from home.

Finally, on Wednesday, his insurer agreed to total the Enclave so Baby can purchase another vehicle rather than continue to wait for GM parts. Baby has not decided what new vehicle he will buy, but it will not be a GM brand, he said.

“I’m totally upset. I paid almost $55,000 for this Enclave as a new car,” said Baby. “GM should make sure parts are available if something happens. They didn’t know a strike would happen, but they should offer some customer care, provide a loaner car or something.”

Customer service

Maryland resident Benny Tucker, 41, has been without his 2016 Cadillac Escalade since Oct. 17, the day he was involved in an accident in Westminster, Maryland, that caused $18,000 in damage to his front end. It also set off the air bags, destroying the dashboard.

He had owned the Escalade for four weeks at that time.

The repair parts for the exterior damage did not arrive from GM until Dec. 5, said Tucker. But GM told his dealer it had to use an outside vendor to make the limited-production dashboard, Tucker said.

“That dealer said it’ll be at least four months,” said Tucker. “They didn’t have a production date and then it takes three to four weeks to ship it, then it has to be installed.”

He cannot drive the SUV because the dashboard will hold the air bags, so it’s a safety feature, said Tucker.

“What’s upsetting to me is my $855 a month car payment — all my payments have been made on my Escalade while it’s been in the body shop,” said Tucker. “I paid $50,000 for this, and they can’t get a part for it. I can’t even get somebody on the phone to give me a date. That’s all I want. I’m in limbo. It’s terrible customer service on their part.”

Chevrolet customer Lisa Mead had a better experience.

In early December, Mead got a notice her 2017 Chevy Trax SUV had a recall and she took it to her dealer in Lodi, California.

The dealer gave her a paid rental, telling her it could be four to six weeks before her car was repaired because of GM’s shortage of parts. But in about three weeks, the parts arrived and the dealership made her repair, she said.

GM’s emergency status

It’s been nearly eight weeks since the UAW’s 40-day nationwide strike ended. Most parts remain affected in some way, including collision and powertrain, because GM was not producing them during the strike, Cain said.

“For 40 days, we could not receive inbound inventory and we were very limited in our ability to ship from our warehouses and distribution centers, which, under normal circumstances, stock close to 400,000 unique parts numbers and ship about 325,000 order lines each day,” said Cain.

GM said it has made progress in its parts distribution since the strike ended on Oct. 26.

“We have reduced the backlog of customer orders by nearly half and we continue to run our facilities in emergency status with maximum overtime to speed the recovery,” Cain said. “We have also been providing dealers with regular updates on our recovery progress.”

Twitter rant

Still, many customers blame GM for the parts’ backlog and some are taking to social media to vent.

In a Dec. 17 Tweet, @TSquareSimpson wrote: “I am so disappointed with Cadillac and there inability to fulfill part orders. It has been 2 months since the parts have been order and GM inefficient parts distribution center.”

Another person replied to that tweet writing: “Strike has been over for a month, and GM can’t figure out how to get parts to dealerships, they had 40 days during the strike to figure it out.”

At that point, @Cadillac replied by tweeting: “We certainly understand how difficult part delays can be. Our team would like to learn more about your situation. When you have a moment, please send us a DM with further details.”

But when asked whether there was anything GM could have done differently to be better prepared for a strike-related parts delay, GM’s Cain said, “That’s not really a fair question. No one expected a 40-day strike.”

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