Hot consumer demand for new vehicles is not waiting for automakers and their parts suppliers to obtain adequate deliveries of the missing microchips they need. And automakers are responding by creatively steering around the shortage.
That includes altering product mixes and feature packages to permit assembly lines to keep rolling toward dealerships.
"We're in close communication with our customer on a daily basis and making necessary adjustments and even substituting product where we need to continue to supply going forward," David Dauch, CEO of American Axle & Manufacturing Inc., said last week in an Automotive News Congress Conversations webcast. "But it's certainly a challenge."
With the microchip shortage now stretching into its fifth month — and getting worse, many believe — manufacturers are varying from their own production forecasts and schedules. In some cases, that is leaving suppliers unsure of how to keep moving or how to plan, said Akshay Singh, industrial and automotive principal at PwC.
"One of the biggest issues I'm hearing from our clients is that they really don't know how long this issue is going to last," Singh said in the same webcast, "and so whether to actually believe the releases they are receiving from the OEM or not."
The situation is a global case study in how to keep operating under emergency conditions — even as automakers racked up the best April U.S. new-vehicle sales tally in history.