Building the pickups without the module is expected to be a temporary fix, only affecting the remaining 2021 models, but GM said the modules cannot be added to those vehicles later. Instead, GM plans to credit affected customers $50.
The decision could signal that GM sees an end to the shortage, said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. GM is unlikely to build the pickups without the fuel management modules for the 2022 or 2023 model years, she said.
"They might be at the point where … if they do this, they can get through" the rest of the model year, she said.
GM spokeswoman Michelle Malcho told Reuters that GM's move would not have a major effect on the automaker's U.S. corporate average fuel economy numbers.
According to the EPA, the lack of modules does not affect the pickups' emissions of nitrogen oxides or hydrocarbons. GM has promised to account for the difference in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy in compliance reporting, the agency said. The EPA also plans to conduct follow-up testing.
Ford last week said it would build some F-150 pickups and Edge crossovers without certain electronic modules because of the semiconductor shortage and February's severe winter weather. But instead of selling them to consumers that way, the automaker will hold the vehicles until the missing modules are available and can be installed.
The needed parts support basic functions such as windshield wiper motors and infotainment features, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said.
Ford's move matches the pattern of other automakers in the wake of previous supply disruptions, said Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. In the past, automakers have made vehicles with missing parts, parked them, put the parts on later and then shipped them to dealerships, as GM plans to do with some other models.
Its strategy of modifying the vehicle to permanently go without a part and altering the fuel economy, she said, is "really unusual."
"It points out how semiconductors are a strategic supply" and highlights the need for automakers to have more strategic relationships with chip suppliers, Dziczek said.
Automakers in similar situations also will make decisions to preserve profitability and meet vehicle demand, but GM's move was an extreme solution, Brinley said.
"It strikes me as a difficult decision to keep the pickup trucks moving," she said. "I don't feel like this is a harbinger of what everyone will do going forward."