Ford Motor Co and General Motors will be individually suspending production in Michigan next week due to supply chain constraints. However, it’s difficult not to notice that the chosen facilities are responsible for lower-volume models they could probably afford to idle.
GM is stalling Lansing Grand River Assembly and Stamping, citing a parts shortage it said had nothing to do with the ongoing deficit of semiconductor chips. The company later stated that the Russo-Ukrainian war had not played a factor, abandoning the two most popular excuses for why something isn’t being done in 2022. Meanwhile, Ford has said the chip shortage has everything to do with its temporary closure of Flat Rock Assembly.
The global shortage of semiconductor chips has really done a number on the industry and it’s just one of several major supplier issues created by our response to the pandemic. Years from now, people will look back and use the benefit of hindsight to come up with the perfect solution to a problem that has since evaporated. But all we can manage in the present is an up-to-date tally on how much product is being lost and wait for better news.
AutoForecast Solutions (AFS) has been keeping tabs on the situation and recently updated its numbers through the week of April 30th. Production schedules in North America are now reportedly 121,000 vehicles shy of where they’re supposed to be. Though we need to pull back and take a gander at what the whole industry was facing ahead of the latest figures to have a more complete understanding of this particularly dire automotive quagmire.
The Alliance for Auto Innovation (AAI) is hard at work begging the federal government for help while the world continues coping with the semiconductor chip shortage, though it’s hardly the first time the industry has asked for or received administrative assistance. With pandemic lockdowns throwing global supply chains into a tailspin, U.S President Joe Biden said his administration would be seeking $37 billion and new legislation to address the chip shortage while federal agencies were directed to see what could be done in the interim.
But there’s little to be done with the brunt of the relevant manufacturing taking place in Asia, hence the AAI lobby requesting U.S. Commerce Department set aside some cash for domestic chip production in a new bill.
While the global semiconductor shortage is often reported as this out-of-nowhere surprise that has totally rattled smartphone and automotive manufacturers, 2020 was rich with signals that trouble was afoot. Global lockdowns forced factories to shut down, creating a lapse in demand in damn-near everything. By the time lines started firing back up, supply chains had become a disorganized mess. Nobody knew quite where to focus their efforts. But it was clear that everyone was going to be spending a lot more time indoors, resulting in an elevated need for the sort of components that go into mobile devices, television sets, personal computers, and other electronic gizmos.
Automobiles saw demand suppressed by around 15 percent (year-over-year) in 2020. However, the year ended with increased demand the industry figured would carry over into 2021. That, in conjunction with vehicles needing more semiconductor chips than ever to make sure they’re equipped with the latest features and perpetually connected to the internet, has automakers sweating. Practically every name in the industry has announced production shortfalls. But just exactly how many vehicles are we expected to lose from this?
Thanks to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China, the Beijing auto show has reportedly been postponed. While the event was supposed to take place at the end of April, making its yearly trade with the similarly biannual Shanghai trade show, organizers have decided it’s not worth the risk.
Over 70,000 people have reportedly contracted the virus thus far, with the death toll estimated to be somewhere around 1,700. The White House recently said it did not have “high confidence in the information coming out of China,” estimating higher figures. Travel and shipping bans further complicate the matter. Germany’s Automobilwoche said exhibitors wouldn’t be able to ship displays into the country anyway, referencing health notices sent to global logistics organization CIETC.
Not that there’s ever a good time for a global pandemic threat, but the coronavirus currently sweeping through Asia really could have scheduled itself more conveniently. China was already in the midst of an economic downturn when the virus reared its ugly head, with the country’s automotive sector having just moved backward for the second year in a row. The outbreak, centered in the Hubei province’s capital of Wuhan, is guaranteed to worsen the issue.
Responsible for about a tenth of China’s automotive manufacturing power, the region has basically gone dark since the outbreak picked up steam late last month. Over 50 million people are now presumed to be under house arrest due to the Chinese quarantine. Forbidden from going outside, they’re hardly likely to risk infection and government ire just to put for a few hours at their local factory. They also aren’t going to run out to their nearest dealership to support the ailing economy — but that’d be the first place to go after the sequestration ends.
If I were in their shoes, I certainly wouldn’t be taking the bus for a while.
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