Chip Shortage, Covid, War Make Car Options, Safety Assists Unavailable
Take delivery of a 2022 Ford Explorer in the coming weeks and it will arrive without the rear seat climate controls. Faced with a shortage of semiconductors, the Detroit automaker had to make a hard choice: delete the system or halt production of the popular SUV.
Ford is by no means alone. Since chip shortages started popping up in early 2021, at least a dozen automotive brands have acknowledged deleting high-tech features such as automatic stop/start, touchscreens and park assist systems.
In some instances, deleted features can be retrofitted later on. And, in most cases, manufacturers are offering cash or credits to compensate buyers for the deleted features. But the approach is likely to continue for some time as there seems to be no clear end in sight for the semiconductor shortage, analysts warn.
The chip shortage is inadvertent collateral damage from the Covid-19 pandemic. When the U.S. went into lockdown in March 2020, car sales all but collapsed and manufacturers slashed orders for parts and components. But when demand started to revive, automakers discovered that semiconductor suppliers had found alternative markets. With millions of Americans now working at home, there was a surge in demand for smartphones, web cameras and other consumer electronics.
Since then, chips have been in short supply, forcing automakers to repeatedly slow production. In just the past month, manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Toyota have had to reduce line speeds, even halt operations entirely at some plants due to a lack of chips. More recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine shuttered factories producing components for European factories outside the country.
The industry collectively lost worldwide production of about 10 million vehicles – and more than $200 billion in sales – last year, according to AlixPartners, and the consultancy now warns that the crisis could extend into 2023.
That’s forced manufacturers to get creative.
What These Automakers Took Out to Keep Production Rolling
Ford decided to delete the SUVs rear seat climate controls “to get Explorers out to customers faster,” explained spokesman Said Deep. It took a similar approach late last year when it deleted the stop-start feature – which automatically shuts off a vehicle’s engine, rather than idling – from some F-150 pickups.
Among other manufacturers:
Make Sure the Desired Features Are on the Car
Forbes Wheels reached out to more than a dozen manufacturers to check on the status of their chip supplies and confirm whether they still are deleting features. Only a couple have so far responded, including Ford which noted it will continue to produce Explorers without the rear climate controls until it can replenish its supply of the necessary chips.
GM spokesperson Sabin Blake confirmed the changes noted above. “Some of the actions have been very temporary and…have since been reversed,” though she could not offer specific details. “We are actively working with our suppliers to mitigate potential issues moving forward,” Blake added.
If you’re shopping for a vehicle it’s well advised to check with the dealer to be sure you’ll be able to get all the advertised features, suggested Sam Abuelsamid, principal auto analyst with Guidehouse Insights.
If not, see what the automaker might be willing to do for you.
In some instances, manufacturers have simply changed their model specifications, removing chip-based features so shoppers can’t even order them. Automaker build-your-car pages online typically show available features but not what’s been pulled. The window sticker, or Monroney, should show credits for missing features that had been part of the car’s base price.
Where features were offered, and ordered, you’ll normally get some sort of compensation. When Mazda was forced to delete the Bose audio package on the CX-5 it gave affected buyers a $440 credit off their purchase price. Mercedes-Benz gave a $200 credit for missing wireless chargers.
Some Features Can Be Retrofitted
On its impacted models, GM has offered credits ranging from $150 to $500. And some of the deleted features can be retrofitted later on, once there’s a supply of the necessary chips, according to the automaker.
Ford spokesman Deep said the automaker will be able to retrofit the rear climate controls on the Explorer, as well. Meanwhile, it is offering an alternative for those who really want the feature but don’t want the hassle of later going back to the dealer. They can delay delivery until the chips are available and the rear controls are back in production.
How soon that will happen is anyone’s guess, however. As 2021 creaked to a close, there were signs things were getting better. Hyundai Motor America CEO Jose Munoz told reporters at a media roundtable that the company was finally getting the chips it needed. But things took a turn for the worse over the winter and the general consensus is that semiconductor supplies could remain hit-or-miss until late this year and possibly into 2023.
Adding to the woes, Russia’s unprovoked attack has forced the shutdown of two neon suppliers in Ukraine. That gas not only helps light up the Las Vegas Strip but is essential for the lasers used to produce semiconductors. With nearly half of the world’s supply of the gas now offline, that could threaten to exacerbate the chip shortage if alternative supplies aren’t found.