With supply constraints persisting within the automotive industry, the knowledge that a manufacturer has induced a production stall due to a lack of parts is hardly big news. Nobody seems able to source enough batteries and the semiconductor shortage has left automakers dealing with routine factory shutdowns. But Ford seems to be confronting one of the saddest examples we’ve yet seen and has confirmed that it’s delaying trucks – seemingly because it doesn’t have enough trim badging or Blue Ovals to go around.
Ford increased pricing on the F-150 Lightning EV substantially this week, citing “significant material cost increases and other factors.” The all-electric model now comes with an MSRP that ranges between $46,974 (for the base Pro trim) and $96,874 (for the Extended Range Platinum). All told, the decision has made the pickup anywhere from $6,000 to $8,500 more expensive than it was just a few days earlier. In exchange, Blue Oval has ever so slightly upgraded the maximum range of some of the lower trims. But some of us would probably prefer a more comprehensive explanation as to what’s causing EV prices to surge in general, because it’s not just Ford that’s been raising the sticker price of in-demand electric vehicles.
On Monday, General Motors publicly asked its suppliers to pledge themselves toward adherence to carbon neutrality. But the vow actually goes quite a bit further, incorporating numerous Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) scoring aspects we’ve seen being advanced by some of the world’s most powerful corporations, financial institutions, and world leaders.
In fact, the official name for the oath is the “Environmental, Social and Governance Partnership Pledge” and it’s already been associated with metrics defined by EcoVadis — a third-party assessor that focused on evaluating how individual companies integrate its preferred principles of sustainability, corporate responsibility, social cohesion into their business and management systems.
Toyota Motor Corp is currently having to contend with idle factories in Asia, reducing the automaker’s estimated output by over 47,000 units this month. Shockingly, it’s not alleged to have anything to do with the semiconductor shortage that’s been wreaking havoc on Western markets.
With chip production having been localized primarily in China and Taiwan, Asian suppliers have had better access to them. But Eastern markets have still been subjected to other routine plant closures due to supply chain restrictions stemming from the pandemic. Existing protocols in China, combined with renewed restrictions in Japan, have created a situation impacting numerous automakers with Toyota announcing this week that it probably won’t reach its goal of manufacturing 9 million cars this year — though it made sure to include the ongoing semiconductor issue as relevant.
McLaren has confirmed that it will be delaying the launch of its new hybrid supercar, the Artura, until the summer of 2022. Slated to commence deliveries by the end of 2021, the company has stated that the chip shortage has forced a revised timeline.
The semiconductor shortage has been a popular excuse for automakers the world over and may still be valid. Chip manufacturers have continued prioritizing the production of newer, more advanced components yielding higher margins. However, these units typically do not make their way into automobiles and are more commonly found in smaller electronic devices.
While we’re sure the vast majority of our readers think of Ponch and Jon when they hear the word ‘chips’, there’s no denying the world’s automakers would probably rather never hear the term again as it relates to car parts. After weathering a severe shortage of the things, BMW thinks it has a solution: Shacking up with a semiconductor manufacturer and a semiconductor foundry.
Despite the semiconductor shortage having encouraged the automotive sector to repeatedly idle factories, word on the ground is that things are becoming more stable. Companies are seeing less production downtime overall and workers are reporting more reliable working conditions across the board. However, several automakers have continued to express concerns (e.g. Volvo), alleging that chip shortages could stretch deep into 2022, while the U.S. government ponders how to advance chip production in-country and become less dependent on Asian suppliers.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has been touring Michigan, meeting with union members and industry heads, and plans to urge Congress to move on a $52 billion in funding bill aimed at boosting domestic production. We’ve questioned the efficacy of the CHIPS Act before, primarily in relation to how the subsidies would be allocated. But there are new concerns that the plan will mimic the Biden administration’s EV subsidies by spending heaps of taxpayer money and giving union-backed organizations a larger cut.
Following several months of news that Apple Inc. was in talks with battery suppliers to set the company up with the necessary hardware and know-how to manufacture electric vehicles, it looks like the iPhone purveyor is back to square one. Reports have emerged claiming the discussions with China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) and BYD have stalled.
While the tech giant is said to be keeping a channel open, companies informed Apple over the last two months that they would not be willing to establish teams and U.S. facilities catering exclusively to its needs. While Japan’s Panasonic is still in the mix as a potential partner, it’s looking like the other companies are bowing out. Reasons are said to vary, however, political tensions between the U.S. and China are alleged to be a contributing factor.
Despite the occasional media report claiming that the semiconductor shortage is nearly over, reality looks quite a bit different. Some manufacturers have managed to temporarily stabilize supply chains, even though others have continued announcing work stoppages as they run out of chips. Wait times for the electronic components have also increased by about 61 percent since the beginning of 2021. Meanwhile, a recent Kelly Blue Book survey had 48 percent of respondents saying they were going to postpone buying a new automobile until shortages end, prices come down, and they can actually find the vehicles they’re looking for. But even those that were willing to buy now expressed a surprising level of acceptance to abandon brand loyalty or their preferred body style just to get a fairer deal on an automobile.
With the United States fairing worse than other regions in regard to chip availability, the White House has been under pressure to solve the problem all year. Thus far, government strategy has focused on encouraging investments for new semiconductor production. But there’s a new gambit being proposed that would invoke a Cold War-era national security law that would force manufacturers to furnish information pertaining to semiconductor supply lines and chip sales.
Apple has been in the headlines all week over changes to its policy that is introducing a image detection system that effectively allows the company to scan the iCloud to see if you have any illegal photos on there. While framed primarily as a way for the company to root out pedophilia, it’s gotten the company in trouble with an increasingly privacy savvy public that’s convinced the next step is generalized surveillance. But while the technology company has been busy trying to improve optics, issuing assurances that its new security protocols won’t overlap with government action and claims that its actions are no worse than what its chief rivals are already doing, the latest on the Apple Car is going unaddressed.
The off-and-on-again vehicle program is reportedly making moves with South Korean suppliers to ensure its got a lock on components. Curious, considering we were under the impression that the automobile was nowhere near completion.
General Motors will resume full-size pickup assembly next week, leaving its crossovers will have to continue enduring production hang-ups related to the semiconductor shortage. American manufacturers have been absolutely creamed by supply shortages this year and a lack of chips really hurt pickup volumes. We’ve seen a lot of creative solutions, including automakers putting unfinished vehicles on the lot in hopes that they can install the missing hardware later.
But GM’s latest solution involves prioritizing Michigan’s Flint Assembly, Indiana’s Fort Wayne Assembly, Silao Assembly in Mexico — all of which were previously idled or operating on reduced schedules. Unfortunately, that means giving other North American facilities more downtime and, sadly, plenty of it.
The global semiconductor shortage has been particularly hard on Western automakers, though it’s not been peaches and cream for Asian brands. Following news that Nissan had run into issues resulting in additional downtime this summer, we’ve learned that Subaru is currently operating with a scant, nine-day supply of product and will be required to conduct more plant closures due to a lack of chips.
Having already stalled its Yajima plant on multiple occasions, as well enacting work stoppages at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (its U.S. facility), this is hardly where the brand wanted to find itself going into the warmer months. On Friday, Subaru announced it would be idling two plants in Japan’s Gunma prefecture this July.
Rumor has it that the semiconductor shortage is going to be leaving Nissan facilities operating in North America to contend with a difficult summer. This issue appears to have been largely unavoidable but it’s hardly the position a manufacturer hoping to launch a comeback tour wanted to find itself occupying.
But, before we make this look like some failing on the part of Nissan, let’s take a look down memory lane to see some of the other companies that were negatively impacted by the chip shortage this year.
The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) has informed a Senate Commerce subcommittee on transportation that the Biden Administration’s penchant for electric vehicles is starting to get under its skin. The union is recommending that the United States avoid setting any timeline for the proposed banning of internal combustion vehicles because it might cost a staggering number of jobs.
Ann Wilson, MEMA’s senior vice president of government affairs, said vehicle restrictions were unrealistic before 2040 and would obliterate entire segments of the auto industry without providing concrete assurances that the environment would be improved. While the latter claim can be argued endlessly, the former is pretty difficult to refute.