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GM Strike May Affect Consumers

June 13, 1998

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. _ As the potentially crippling autoworkers’ strike against General Motors grinds on without resolution, Jim Church smelled a bargain.

Or at least a smart buy.

Church picked up a new Chevrolet van Friday morning in Memphis rather than watch the sticker price zoom up as supplies wither.

``I thought if this strike is going to carry on I might as well go ahead and get my vehicle before it’s too late,″ he said.

While showrooms aren’t feeling any immediate effects of the strike that began last week at a GM stamping plant in Flint, Mich., savvy consumers are thinking ahead _ and opening their wallets.

For Sam Martin, who was at the same dealership as Church, the big question was whether to get his Chevrolet Suburban in gray or green.

``I was concerned about trying to get one as soon as possible,″ Martin said. ``In a couple of weeks when they start selling out, they’re going to be able to get a higher price for what they’re sitting on. It’s the rule of supply and demand.″

Like many sales managers across the nation, Don Spangler said the GM strike wouldn’t affect his two-month stock of some 400 cars and trucks for weeks.

But he said the new strike that began Thursday night at GM’s Delphi East complex, also in Flint, could change things quickly. That plant makes parts for nearly every car in the GM fleet.

``That’s the one that will lock everybody up,″ Spangler said. ``It has not had an effect yet, but it will. It will sure make the products we’ve got a little more unique.″

That could mean shrinking supply and rising prices.

Still, some consumers wandering the car lots Friday seemed unconcerned.

``I really haven’t thought about it,″ said Carl Williams as he looked over a small pickup. ``Usually the strikes don’t last that long, anyway.″

``I didn’t even know there was a strike until my husband told me last night,″ said Ellen Zasowski as she leisurely slid into a Cavalier for a test drive in Knoxville.

In Memphis, sales manager Larry Barker said it was too soon to panic. He’s got a 75-day supply. ``It’s just too early. I’ve got inventory now.″

``We’re just cruising along as normal,″ said Michael Calorossi, sales manager at a dealership in Stamford, Conn. ``I haven’t heard any concerns from customers.″

But in suburban Milwaukee, Richard Andresen, 60, was warily looking over new cars with his 37-year-old son, Mark. Shortages could make bargaining over the price harder, they said.

``They could say, `This is what we got. Take it or leave it,‴ said Mark Andresen, who then referred to a nearby Ford dealer. ``I guess I believe there’d probably be a better selection because they’re not on strike _ and probably a better price also.″

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