In the aftermath of labor negotiations between United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Detroit-Three auto manufacturers - General Motors (NYSE:GM), Ford Motor (NYSE:F), and Chrysler parent Stellantis (NYSE:STLA), the automobile industry is set for a significant shift. The new agreement is expected to increase labor costs for U.S. hourly workers, potentially disadvantaging these traditional automakers against their competitors.
Interestingly, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), known as a nonunion shop, could benefit from these labor negotiations. The electric vehicle pioneer's profitability already exceeds that of Ford and GM and matches Stellantis. However, it's important to note that foreign automakers might be the biggest beneficiaries due to their ability to reset domestic cost standards in light of the ongoing strike.
The Detroit-Three automakers had a labor cost advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the previous UAW labor contract. However, they now face challenges similar to those experienced by FedEx (NYSE:FDX) and United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS). Both companies have seen significant shifts in their cost structures due to changes in wage policies and union contracts.
The automotive market is not shielded from foreign competition like the parcel shipping industry dominated by UPS and FedEx. Therefore, both Tesla and Detroit-Three must consider foreign automakers' strategies. Toyota (NYSE:TM) might emerge as an even bigger winner than Tesla in this protracted labor dispute. Toyota, along with other foreign automakers, operates nonunion plants in the southern US and imports cars from overseas plants.
Despite wage gains by UAW, this isn't expected to pose a significant threat to these companies' existence. For instance, General Motors now employs as many salaried scientists as hourly workers. Wage increases are inevitable and could add an additional $1 billion to costs compared to Wall Street's expectations. However, this would only marginally impact the price of North American cars.
As negotiations continue, both workers and companies aim to improve their standards of living and maintain competitiveness respectively. The effects of these negotiations have already been felt in the stock market. Ford and GM shares have fallen about 19% and 15% respectively since the end of June when labor issues began to affect investor sentiment. Meanwhile, Toyota's stock has risen by about 16% over the same period.
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