This article was posted on October 25th, 2023 and a few days later the strike ended. That being said, this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last time a UAW strike happens, so I’ll leave this on our website as a future resource.
I’m resisting the urge to go on a long tangent in this article about the UAW strike, so except for this first section I’m going to stick to this topic from a standpoint of how you should work the topic into your marketing.
Coach Chris Cotton recently wrote a blog and made a short video about the strike and how he feels it will impact the industry. I’ve heard some other smart people in the industry talk about it as well. The general consensus is this will be good for the independent auto repair industry because lack of new inventory will cause both new and used car prices to rise (even among brands that are not affected by the strike) and will make people have to keep their current vehicles longer. Add in higher interest rates from a down economy and you have the perfect storm for new car sales.
So What Are The Conversations You Should Be Having?
There are 4 major points you’re going to make to your clients.
- Vehicle maintenance is more important than ever if you don’t want to buy a new/newer vehicle
- If you’ve been putting off repairs, you may want to do them while we can still get the highest quality parts
- We may have to use aftermarket or even used parts to keep your vehicle on the road
- Even car brands not directly impacted by the strike could see indirect impacts
As auto repair professionals, you always want your clients to take care of their vehicles. But many people have a 2 to 3 year habit of trading in their vehicles. Some buy new and some buy slightly used. The ones who always buy new probably aren’t your customers because those people probably have maintenance covered by the manufacturer the entire tima they own the car. The ones who buy slightly used vehicles are perfect customers for the typical independent auto repair shop.
People who are nearing the time when they would normally make a trade are going to end up stuck in their current vehicle or they’re going to take a beating if they actually trade up. The last time they bought a car they probably got a 2% interest rate. Now they’re looking at 7% even with great credit.
You need to be educating your clients on this and encouraging them to keep their cars maintained and in great condition so they avoid breakdowns and failures due to lack of maintenance, and so they get good trade value in a couple of years when things calm down.
Do The Repairs You’ve Been Putting Off
Those repairs you’ve quoted but haven’t been done yet could be about to get a lot more expensive, or even impossible to do.
The strike is impacting more than just new vehicle inventory. It’s also making parts, especially OE (original equipment) parts, harder to get or more expensive.
As of right now, most parts are still available and the prices haven’t skyrocketed yet – although I have seen where a transmission control module wasn’t available from the dealer and a salvage yard unit was multiple times the cost of a new one.
It’s coming, y’all. So get your clients to do those repairs while they still can.
Lack of OE Parts Availability
It’s October 2023 as I write this. We’ve heard of a few shops having issues buying new parts for domestic vehicles but it hasn’t become a major problem yet. So maybe you don’t talk about it right now. I would say you start talking about this at the point that it becomes a problem for your shop.
The point is, you may have to start using parts that aren’t the brands you would normally use. This could cause you to have to adjust your warranty, have longer lead times, or install used parts in some cases.
When you would normally use an OE part and you have to rely on Dorman or some other aftermarket vendor, you need to have that discussion with your customer.
Brands That Aren’t Directly Impacted By The Strike
The strike currently only directly impacts brands by GM, Stellantis, and Ford. For some of you that’s a small percentage of your customer base.
Chances are, the parts availability for brands outside of these won’t be affected.
But the prices of new cars across the board will be impacted by the strike. If there are no Chevrolets, GMCs, Caddilacs, Buicks, Chryslers, RAMs, Jeeps, Fords, and Lincolns available – that means a lot of people are going to look at other brands, making their demand go up and the prices along with it.
So even if your client has plans of buying a new Toyota or Honda, they’re less likely to get a deal and the interest rate will still be more than they want to pay.
How Should You Work This Into Your Marketing?
This is easy.
- Talk about this in your emails and on your social media channels.
- Share interesting articles and give your overall thoughts on each.
- Put signs at your front counter to open up discussions.
- Ask to be on local podcasts to talk about the topic.
- Make videos showing examples of parts issues when you run into them.
You are the expert on auto repair in your community. Just show people how they can stand to be impacted by the UAW strike and what they can do to keep it from impacting them any more than it has to.
Talking To Your Staff
Don’t just talk to your customers. Your staff needs to be experts on helping your clients navigate this as well. Make sure your team knows the best way to overcome hurdles caused by the strike.
Make sure your service advisors know how to talk to your clients about this, educating them without being pushy. It’s still the client’s decision as to how the wnt to fix their cars, and that needs to be respected.
Make sure those in your business who are procuring parts know the vendors and the brands to choose when your first choice isn’t available.
Make sure your entire team has empathy for the customer when they are having to pay more for sub-par parts to keep their vehicle on the road.
It’s one of those weird things in life where any time something is good for one group of people, it’s usually not so good for another. So yes, make hay while the sun is shining, but go out of your way to make it the least painful it can possibly be for your customers.
If you’re one of our clients at Shop Marketing Pros, we’ll be asking you if you want us to work any of this into your marketing.