To ensure vehicles get to dealership lots on time, automakers are flying chips to their U.S. factories and even building cars without certain high-end options.
Colleran described the chip crisis as even more challenging because the shortage is occurring at the same time as a post-COVID-19 surge in demand for new vehicles.
"You have a lot of stimulus in the marketplace right now," he said. "It makes for a very interesting landscape."
For now, Nissan has managed to find the chips needed to get the high-profit Pathfinder rolling off the assembly line. Production of the three-row crossover began at Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., factory this month, with deliveries slated to begin in early summer.
Getting there took creative thinking, astute planning and constant communication with suppliers, Colleran said.
"It's required us to be on our toes on a day-to-day basis and work every day to understand what the supply chain looks like, what our suppliers can provide us," he said. "We meet daily and talk about how we allocate the chips to the components, ensuring that we're protecting our launches, that we're living up to the contractual commitments that need to be satisfied," such as rental fleets.
Nissan is doing what it can with a situation that is out of its control — including resorting to air-freighting the chips.
"The chip industry can only produce so many chips," Colleran said. "We're asking for more than our fair share, and you just work with the chip manufacturers to ensure the best supply that you can get."