By on July 22, 2021


Have you heard the one about the dead cars? No, not the ones we find in junkyards, but the ones that haven’t had life yet, thanks to the chip shortage.

These so-called “dead” cars are vehicles that have rolled off the assembly line, otherwise ready for sale, sitting in fields or on lots near the factories that produced them, just waiting for chips

The New York Times even recently recounted an anecdote from a dealer principal who took a pilgrimage to a Ford factory to see all the “dead” cars for himself.

We weren’t able to pin down a reliable estimate on how many dead cars there are sitting outside of factories, but we’re going to guess the number is a lot.

And that number is set to grow, as GM announced that plants in Indiana, Michigan, and Mexico that produce the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra will halt next week, thanks to, you guessed it, the chip shortage.

GM had so far avoided chip-related shutdowns by skipping some features, and by … building some trucks and adding the chips in later. See how that “dead” car anecdote links to today’s news story?

Of course, halting production is a step beyond finishing vehicles and letting them sit until the chip cavalry arrives.

“The global semiconductor shortage remains complex and very fluid, but GM’s global purchasing and supply chain, engineering and manufacturing teams continue to find creative solutions and make strides working with the supply base to minimize the impact to our highest-demand and capacity-constrained vehicles, including full-size trucks and SUVs for our customers,” the company said in a statement.

Leaving vehicles partially finished and cutting out certain features are just two solutions for automakers struggling through an unusual time.

[Image: GM]

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29 Comments on “Chip Shortage Leads to ‘Dead’ Cars On Factory Lots, GM Halts Truck Production...”

  • avatar

    I’ve seen Chevy/GM dealers advertising trucks without “stop/start”.

    What next?

    “As is. Where is.” ?

    • 0 avatar

      Stop/start is so annoying. I would consider it a detriment, not a feature. The one on my new 2022 Outback with the turbo engine is particularly rough.

      However, I would like to see more cars and trucks offered as mild or full hybrids, which generally have a much smoother startup. I drove a V6 Ram with the eTorque system, and it was buttery-smooth.

      • 0 avatar

        @Kyree – I agree. Mild hybrids will be the evolutionary step towards full hybrids and EV’s.

      • 0 avatar

        Allow start/stop to be turned off for “good” and 99% of the complaints would go away. The 1% of people that lie about liking it can keep it.

        Electric vehicles are going to be the norm in the very near future, I’d love it if the tree huggers could just allow a smooth transition instead of attempting to make ICE vehicles as bad as possible in the meantime.

        • 0 avatar

          Don’t electric vehicles require chips too? ICE’s will get the chips first, to clear out inventory. I imagine that’s going to delay the intro of plug-in models.

          With all those ICE vehicles on lots in sun and rain, the automakers will have to market them hard once they get the chips installed.

          • 0 avatar

            “Don’t electric vehicles require chips too?”

            of course, but they’re much simpler vehicles than ICE vehicles.
            There are fewer mechanical parts that require electronic supervision.

            For instance, a fixed ratio reduction gearbox doesn’t require computerized supervision the same way a hydromechanical automatic transmission does.

            Also, companies like Tesla are probably more willing to pay top-dollar for electronics in order to get to the front of the queue. More expensive cars means they can pay more to get to higher priority for their supplier-orders.

          • 0 avatar

            Electric car manufacturers are being hit by the chip shortage too. Tesla seems to handling it better than most:

            ‘The company wrote in its shareholders letter:

            “In Q1, we were able to navigate through global chip supply shortage issues in part by pivoting extremely quickly to new microcontrollers, while simultaneously developing firmware for new chips made by new suppliers.”

            The automaker did note that the supply chain issues could still affect them through the next few quarters, but Tesla only had to close its Fremont factory for a few days last quarter, which is not as bad as the production halts that some other automakers are reporting.’


            My guess is that EVs and ICE vehicles have a similar number of integrated circuits. They control almost every aspect of the car, not just the powertrain.

        • 0 avatar

          Can’t imagine anyone “liking” stop-start. If you think it saves gas, remember the savings are measured industry-wide, not individual owners.

      • 0 avatar

        Hahah yep. My Outback XT has the WRONG engine for this tech. So rough.

  • avatar

    How are they moving all those dead vehicles around?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve wondered that myself. I’ve written here before that the Louisville area has mall parking lots, Cardinal Stadium lots, open fields, and sometimes just random places just filled with Super Duties, Escapes, Expeditions, and the Lincoln equals, all waiting for chips. The Kentucky Speedway has been totally filled – the infield, all parking lots, the RV lots – with Fords. They have moved a bunch to the Cincinnati area as well and that’s about 90 miles away.

      So, when Ford gets the chips, I wonder about the logistics of all of this. These are 2021 vehicles that will likely be ready by the time the 2022 model year starts. So, there is going to be a severe glut of 2021 trucks, and I can see that price boom going on right now turning into a full blown crash. Are they going to ship all of these vehicles back to the Louisville factories, or install the chips in the lots and fields and transport them out from there?

      Moral of the story, for the love of God, don’t overpay for a vehicle now because in a few month’s time, you’ll probably have the pick of the lot.

      • 0 avatar

        Howdy, neighbor. I also live in the Louisville area. It is amazing all the places Super Duty trucks are being stashed, and I still found a new one this week. You are absolutely correct, there is going to be a huge glut when the supply hits. I have zero reason to buy a Super Duty, but if the cash on the hood gets big enough I might have to consider one.

        I have noticed that they are packing these trucks in TIGHT. They are not doing that without driving. So whatever chips they are missing, it’s not the ones that make them run and shift out of park.

        • 0 avatar

          It seems quite a few of us here are from the Cincinnati and Louisville area, or at least were from here!

          I think these chips mainly control extras like navigation, infotainment, and as others wrote, start/stop. But if engine controls are impacted that regulate fuel economy, maybe EPA rules say they can’t sell them because it’s not what’s on the sticker and reported as CAFE.

          I commute across the river into Indiana now, and there are multiple places along 62 that are stacked with Super Duties. I wonder if the Expo Center and Kentucky Kingdom is stacked as well. I don’t head that way that often.

          Readers of TTAC – if you really want a Super Duty, just wait, or head to the Louisville area and field shop!

    • 0 avatar

      I know that at least for some if not all of the Fords they are not dead, they are driveable it is the other modules that they are missing. What exactly I don’t know. I suspect those weeks when they shut down were when they were out of stock on the mission-critical modules that would prevent them from driving off the line.

      Ford has said that they are considering shipping some of theirs to dealers, along with the missing parts to have them installed there.

      • 0 avatar

        When they say “chips,” I have to wonder what modules are missing!

        BCM? TCM? ECM?

        And it seems that the way things work, every one of those modules is always tied to the VIN! Now how in the world are they supposed to keep all that stuff together outside of the factory environment?! Ford, for example, has a tough enough time of late getting things right with new launches in normal times! I shudder to think about Broncos sitting in the parking lot of some stadium with delaminating roofs that additionally could brick when some flunkie installing that stuff in aforementioned lot just slap-dashes the thing into place in order to get back into the A/C in the idling field unit behind aforementioned Bronco and punch out!

    • 0 avatar

      This is what happens when you offshore practically everything. China has us by the plums (as James May would say), and it’s just a matter of time until they decide it’s time to start squeezing.

      • 0 avatar

        Nah, that’s what happens when you cancel orders from a limited supply chain and then find yourself at the back of the line when demand recovers and you want a lot of orders again.

    • 0 avatar

      “How are they moving all those dead vehicles around?”

      I’m a glider pilot.

      You can easily push unpowered vehicles around. We require the student pilots to push the gliders, and then we tow the gliders with a rope.

      It’s physically demanding, and requires teamwork. But it’s quite doable with a little practice.

      I imagine it’s easier to get employees to push vehicles around, on account of the fact that they get paid to put up with the annoyances. But I’d still provide drinks and pizza if my crew had to do this for some reason.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d be very shocked if they are actually pushing around thousands of vehicles.

        The chips are likely for some of the other higher-order systems and they’ve probably built ways to bypass those in some sort of a diagnostic testing override so that the vehicles can at least be driven.

      • 0 avatar

        [Duplicate post. Just discovered how this happens (maybe) – you gotta double-click superfast (wasn’t intentional).]

      • 0 avatar

        Speaking of gliders:

  • avatar

    I’d be afraid if I were a dealer to take non sellable cars…once off their lot onto mine, it’s my problem, a unit I have to store safely for a part “coming soon”. Do they want payment for these partial assemblies too ? I know “they’ll catch it at the dealer” is a timeworn Detroit tactic, but this takes it to a whole other level.

    • 0 avatar

      What I read said they wouldn’t have to start paying on the floor plan until they were completed but yeah the dealer still would be responsible to keeping them safe while stored. On the other hand the local Ford dealer has an off site lot that used to be packed with vehicles and when I went by a month or so ago there was nothing in it so it isn’t like they don’t have secure space for them.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would not want a vehicle with dealer installed chips. Many dealers don’t have enough skilled mechanics and they don’t pay enough to get good ones. Also the dealers will rush their mechanics to get these trucks ready to sell. My experience with dealer installed items has not been a good one with a dealer installed remote start that never worked and drained the battery on a Taurus to a landau top that shrunk and caused the roof on my new Monte Carlo to rust. I have learned from experience to get a factory installed item or not get it at all especially if the dealer installs it.

    • 0 avatar

      A buddy’s Jeep has had multiple issues. One was frequently blown rear shocks. He had a dealer installed lift kit. They said that if they did it they’d warranty it. Nope. He got told to pound sand. BDS was good and kept giving him warrantied shocks but weren’t impressed. He bounced around repair shops and found a tire shop with an extremely experienced suspension technician. He measured it all out based on BDS specs and factory specs and found that the dealership mechanic installed it wrong. It meant redrilling and relocating brackets or a bunch of other mods. He even had his driveshaft fail.

      I’ve had my share of problems with warranty work since dealers tend to put the least paid(least qualified) tech on the job since car companies don’t pay full rates on warranty work.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    I wonder if the semiconductor “shortage” is caused by China messing with us. Most fabs are located in Taiwan, and if the CCP wanted to, it could, by making a couple of phone calls, ensure that Chinese companies get their supply of chips while the GMs of the world sit and wait.

    • 0 avatar

      This isn’t in the realm of conspiracy.

      When people shifted from office to home or told to stay home that triggered an increase in demand for electronics. Car companies and their “just in time” business model saw demand drop so they canceled contracts. Myopic maximization of profits meant no reserve supply for the enevitable rebound. The tech industry thought that the rebound would occur at least a year later. They too got caught flat footed.

      • 0 avatar

        The main personal and business PC/laptop makers were hit just as hard. I was quoted between 5-6 months for 300 HP laptops a couple of months ago. Major refresh projects tend to be put on hold when inventory doesn’t arrive!

        Dell is quoting around the same wait for large orders.

        Even configuring your own personal desktop or laptop used to mean a 2-3 week wait pre-2020. Now it takes 6-8 weeks.

  • avatar

    In Oakville, ON, the Ford plant has probably thousands of SUVs (Edges & Escapes it looked like) sitting in local baseball fields, parking lots, everywhere around the plant. Amazing

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