Customers lose patience as chip crisis shows no signs of letting up

Months ago, some automakers and analysts were optimistic that the industry would normalize by year end. But today, the outlook is less rosy as coronavirus infections climb, especially at parts plants in Southeast Asia. Some chip manufacturers and forecasters say the industry may have to wait until 2022 to refill the pipeline.

Chipmaker Rohm Co., which counts Toyota, Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. among its customers, expects chips to remain scarce at least through next year, Bloomberg reported last month. Rohm Co. plants have been running at full capacity for a year, but the company doubts it can fill the backlog of orders in 2022.

Forecasting firm LMC Automotive reduced its global light-vehicle sales volume outlook by 2 million vehicles because the industry has lost so much production.

“The one-two punch of inventory shortages and the pandemic are holding back the pace of the global recovery and may lead to permanently lost recovery volume as the effect is expected to last into 2022,” Jeff Schuster, LMC’s president of the Americas operation and global vehicle forecasting, said in a statement.

Continued shift cancellations and downtime at major plants show the severity of the crisis, said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions.

“It’s not such a big deal when you’re losing Malibu or something else that is going primarily to fleet. But when our bread-and-butter vehicles — full-size pickup trucks — are being hit, then somebody is going to start noticing,” he said.

Many automakers are accustomed to a just-in-time delivery system, which works when they have a contingency plan, he said. But with so few suppliers that make semiconductors for vehicles, those backup plans are lacking.

“It shines a light on the fragility of the supply chain,” Fiorani said. “It behooves you to line up all the suppliers you need.”

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