You wouldn’t have known, just a couple days ago, when flames started shooting out of the mouth of the mouth of United Auto Workers Union President Ron Gettelfinger. With Axle threatening to close most of the plants where workers have been striking – even after a settlement – the labor boss was visibly and, many would say, justifiably angry.
Yet, at this point, everyone involved seems to be desperate to dig out of this mess, and by late Monday, both sides were struggling to get back on track. Certainly, it helped having General Motors putting pressure on both labor and management. As of late last week, 34 of the automaker’s plants were at least partially idled due to parts shortages – GM accounts for a whopping 80 percent of American Axle’s business.
If it’s any indication that the end of the 11-week walkout is at hand, GM has just reopened five of those plants, though it’s not saying how it has apparently made an end-run around the parts shortage. The automaker did note that as of the end of April, the American Axle walkout had cost it a hefty 230,000 units of lost production, most of them large SUVs and pickups - like the Chevrolet Silverado, shown above. The only consolation is that in the current, weak economic environment, with new car sales sliding by the day, the actual impact on sales has only been marginal.