Take delivery of a 2022 Ford Explorer in the next few weeks and it will arrive without the rear seat climate controls. Faced with a shortage of semiconductors, the Detroit automaker had to make a difficult choice: scrap the system or stop production of the popular SUV.
Ford is not alone. Since chip shortages began to emerge in early 2021, at least a dozen auto brands have admitted to removing high-tech features such as auto stop/start, touchscreens and driver assistance systems. parking.
In some cases, removed features can be reinstalled later. And, in most cases, manufacturers offer money or credits to compensate buyers for removed features. But the approach is likely to continue for some time as there does not appear to be a clear end in sight for the semiconductor shortage, analysts warn.
The chip shortage is an unintended collateral damage of the Covid-19 pandemic. When the United States entered lockdown in March 2020, car sales all but crashed and manufacturers cut orders for parts and components. But when demand began to pick up, automakers discovered that semiconductor suppliers had found alternative markets. With millions of Americans now working from home, demand for smartphones, webcams and other consumer electronics has increased.
Since then, chips have been in short supply, forcing automakers to repeatedly slow down production. Over the past month, automakers including Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Toyota have had to reduce line speeds or even shut down operations altogether at some plants due to a lack of chips. More recently, the Russian invasion of Ukraine shut down factories producing components for European factories outside the country.
The industry collectively lost global production of around 10 million vehicles – and more than $200 billion in sales – last year, according to AlixPartners, and the consultancy now warns the crisis could drag on for as long as in 2023.
This forces manufacturers to get creative.
What these automakers released to keep production going
Ford has decided to remove rear-seat climate controls from SUVs “to get Explorers to customers faster,” spokesman Said Deep said. It took a similar approach late last year when it removed the stop-start feature – which automatically turns off a vehicle’s engine, rather than idling – from some F pickups. -150.
Among other manufacturers:
- BMW has removed touchscreen functionality and its Park Assist system from more than half a dozen models, including the 3 Series sedan, Z4 roadster and X5 SUV. The $1,700 Professional Driver Assistance Package for semi-autonomous driving has been removed from the company’s top-selling model, the BMW X3 compact SUV, but continues to be offered on the midsize X5 .
- General Motors removed heated and ventilated seats on several SUV and truck models, auto stop/start on some pickup trucks, HD Radio on other trucks, and hands-free Super Cruise from the Cadillac Escalade.
- Mercedes-Benz has removed a variety of features, including wireless smartphone charging and premium audio on some vehicles.
- Porsche has retired 18-way power seat adjustment on the Porsche Macan and power steering wheel adjustment on some vehicles.
Make sure the features you want are on the car
Forbes Wheels contacted more than a dozen manufacturers to check the status of their chip supplies and confirm if they were still removing features. Only a few have responded so far, including Ford which has indicated it will continue to produce Explorers without the rear climate controls until it can replenish its supply of the necessary chips.
GM spokesman Sabin Blake confirmed the changes listed above. “Some of the actions were very temporary and … have since been reversed,” although she could not provide specific details. “We are actively working with our suppliers to mitigate potential issues in the future,” Blake added.
If you’re shopping for a vehicle, it’s a good idea to check with the dealership to be sure you’ll be able to get all of the advertised features, suggested Sam Abuelsamid, principal automotive analyst at Guidehouse Insights.
If not, see what the automaker might be willing to do for you.
In some cases, manufacturers simply changed the specs of their models, removing chip-based features so buyers couldn’t even order them. Car manufacturers’ online build your car pages usually show available features, but not those that have been checked out. The window sticker, or Monroney, should show credits for missing features that were part of the car’s base price.
Where features have been offered and ordered, you will normally get some sort of compensation. When Mazda was forced to remove the Bose audio package on the CX-5, it gave affected buyers a $440 credit off their purchase price. Mercedes-Benz issued a $200 credit for missing wireless chargers.
Some features can be changed
On its impacted models, GM offered credits ranging from $150 to $500. And some of the removed features can be retrofitted later once there’s a supply of the necessary chips, according to the automaker.
Ford spokesman Deep said the automaker will also be able to upgrade the Explorer’s rear climate controls. Meanwhile, it offers an alternative for those who really want the functionality but don’t want to have to go back to the dealership later. They may delay delivery until chips are available and backorders are back in production.
However, how soon will this happen. As 2021 drew to a close, there were signs that things were looking up. Hyundai Motor America CEO Jose Munoz told reporters during a media roundtable that the company is finally getting the chips it needs. But things got worse over the winter, and the general consensus is that semiconductor supply could remain hit or miss until the end of this year and possibly well into 2023.
Adding to the woes, the unprovoked Russian attack forced the closure of two neon suppliers in Ukraine. This gas not only helps light up the Las Vegas Strip, but is essential for the lasers used to produce semiconductors. With almost half of the world’s gas supply now offline, this could threaten to worsen the chip shortage if alternative supplies are not found.