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GM strikes starting to affect Utahns

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Local auto dealers who sell General Motors products say that if the current strikes last into the summer, the dealers may be hurting.

The effects are more immediate for 345 workers at Ogden-based air-bag manufacturer Autoliv ASP Inc., which announced it will furlough employees in its Brigham City, Ogden and Promontory operations."General Motors is one of our larger customers, so we must temporarily reduce our work force," said Kathy Whitehead, Autoliv's manager of marketing communications.

The company has instituted a furlough for four weeks. About 275 workers have volunteered for the furlough. If others don't volunteer, a mandatory furlough will be put into place. After one week workers will be eligible for unemployment benefits, Whitehead said.

If the strikes end more quickly than four weeks, workers could be called back on the job; however, the furlough could be extended if the strike lasts longer.

At Riverton Motors, a dealership that sells Oldsmobile and Chevrolet lines, business has been brisk, but delivery of cars has been slowing down to a trickle, said Ross Baldwin, general manager.

"We'll be good unless it goes past the middle of next month," he said.

Along with the delivery of cars, parts shipments have been delayed. GM has asked dealerships to not stock critical parts and request them via overnight delivery on an as-needed basis.

"That will mean a little extra time (for customers)," Baldwin said.

Al Corey, sales manager at Jerry Seiner GMC Buick in Mid-vale, said he still has plenty of inventory and is not yet feeling the effects of the strike. But the union's action did encourage him to buy 20 vehicles from another dealer that was going out of business.

"I felt I better grasp what I could," Corey said.

He said the dealership's service department will feel the pinch before its sales sector, because parts are growing more scarce. And a car ordered from the company probably will not make it to the buyer in the normal eight to 10 weeks.

"You could order the car. There's just no guarantee when you're going to get it," Corey said. "With this strike, it's a guess."

If the strikes drag into August, he said, some models may be in short supply.

"My Buicks would be in serious jeopardy, I believe," Corey said.

The strikes against General Motors Corp. may last into August, and the No. 1 automaker could face walkouts at other plants after the current strikes are settled, a top union leader said Monday in Las Vegas.

"I would hope we could find a way to settle these this week," said Richard Shoemaker, the United Autoworkers Union vice president who directs relations with GM. "If we don't find the framework to put these behind us this week, I would not be surprised if it doesn't continue into the second or third week of August."

Negotiations continued Monday at the two strike-idled parts plants in Flint, Mich., but there has been "very little progress on the key issues," Shoemaker said in an interview shortly before the start of the union's triennial convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

GM spokeswoman Mary Irby said the company was "not interested" in responding to Shoemaker's comments.

The strikes by 9,200 workers began June 5 at the Flint Metal Center stamping plant and June 11 at Delphi Flint East, which makes engine parts and dashboard instruments. The resulting lack of parts has affected 24 assembly lines and nearly 100 parts plants, virtually halting GM's North American production.

The plant closures and slowdowns had resulted in layoffs of about 122,400 workers by Monday.