A looming strike deadline set by the United Auto Workers is on a lot of minds as the North American International Auto Show gets underway this week in Detroit, but few people on the show floor are talking about it.
(Bloomberg) — A looming strike deadline set by the United Auto Workers is on a lot of minds as the North American International Auto Show gets underway this week in Detroit, but few people on the show floor are talking about it.
Facing a Thursday night deadline, the UAW and Detroit’s three legacy carmakers are staring at possible labor action just as the eyes of the industry are focused on the Motor City’s annual car party. That’s cast an undeniable pall on the displays of sheet metal and the visitors who’ve flocked to the trade show, which opens to the public on Sept. 16.
While the modest-sized event in downtown Detroit pales in comparison to pre-Covid days, hometown favorites General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Stellantis NV, which owns the Jeep and Ram brands, are all well-represented with flashy exhibits and dozens of vehicles on display.
“It’s definitely something that’s on people’s minds,” Jacob Cordle, an engineer with Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based TS Tech Americas Inc., said in an interview as he toured the Ram stand. “But I think a lot of the people here are mostly just interested in the new technologies.”
Company executives unveiling new products in front of global media wanted no part of discussions about the contentious labor negotiations.
Read more: What’s at Stake as US Auto Workers Prepare to Strike: QuickTake
“We’re not really going to talk about the strike today,” Duncan Aldred, GM’s vice president of Global Buick and GMC, said Wednesday after unveiling the new 2024 GMC Acadia. “Obviously we’ve got a great team working to try to get an amicable solution. We’re just here just looking at the amazing products GMC’s got.”
Jim Morrison, head of Stellantis’ Jeep brand, was similarly disinterested in discussing a labor walkout at a press briefing for the debut of the 2024 Gladiator model.
“I just want to say thanks to everybody in Toledo that are working very hard,” Morrison said of the workers at the factory where the mid-sized pickup is built. “We’ll keep the focus of our conversation here on the new Gladiator.”
National politicians appeared to be staying away from the show this year with the potential strike looming. Neither President Joe Biden and US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg planned to attend, though both attended last year’s show. The offices of US Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both Democrats, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on their plans about attending the Detroit Auto Show. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, also both Democrats, plan to attend the show Thursday afternoon.
Read More: Biden Has Few Options to Avert Strike Against Big 3 Carmakers
Despite the respite provided by the shiny vehicles on the show floor, there was no denying the tension in the air with the contract expiration just 24 hours away.
Jyrgen Bekurti, a buyer at Ford specializing in vehicle personalization, said he has been thinking about the possibility of a UAW strike “all week.”
“It’s a difficult situation to talk about,” he said as he toured Ford’s stand. But the bright displays provided some respite from the gloomy mood outside. “Actually being able to maybe forget about it for a brief moment in time and look at all the new and exciting things” made it worthwhile to attend.
(Adds details on politicians who will and won’t visit the show in ninth paragraph.)
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