Why the UAW Strike Isn’t the Biggest Problem for Ford and GM

A strike is only the most immediate issue facing the two biggest U.S. auto makers. The existential threat posed by electric vehicles is the bigger problem.

EVs are finally taking off in the U.S., but EV-related losses are growing for Ford Motor (ticker: F) and General Motors (GM). Now, the companies have some hard decisions to make about how they will spend billions of dollars, decisions sure to have serious consequences for their stocks.

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The numbers are huge. Ford is planning to spend roughly $7 billion over the next few years to build brand-new battery plants and EV manufacturing facilities in Kentucky and Tennessee, while GM has committed to spend $35 billion from 2020 to 2025. All told, EV development will probably eat up roughly half of the companies’ spending on new models, plants, and equipment over the next three to four years.

It’s an enormous bet on the growth of electric vehicles—one that should be paying off. Sales of U.S.-made battery-powered EVs rose 47% in the first half of 2023, compared with the same period of 2022, while first- and second-quarter sales for EVs were both record highs. EVs now account for about 7% of new-vehicle sales in the U.S. and 22% in California, showing what’s possible for the rest of the nation.

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