Global chip woes: GM to halts more production

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — Automakers are continuing to battle a shortage of semiconductors that has kept some plants closed for months as popular products like profit-rich pick-up trucks are prioritized for the lean chip supply.

General Motors Co. is halting production the weeks of March 29 and April 5 at its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize truck plant in Missouri due to a global semiconductor supply constraint, but the Detroit automaker has not had to pause production at its full-size truck or SUV plants.

GM also extended downtime another two weeks through the week of April 12 at its Lansing Grand River plant where the Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac CT4 and CT5 are built. Production has been down there since March 15. 

Automakers have been battling the semiconductor supply constraint since the start of 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic sent tech orders surging, creating a higher demand and limiting supply for these parts that are also used in vehicles from heated seats to steering wheels. 

Now there's concern about what a recent fire at a Japanese chip supplier could mean for an already tight supply that has cost automakers and their suppliers valuable production time, revenue and profits.  

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is even mobilizing to help Renesas Electronics Corp. find equipment after the fire. And the nation’s automakers sent workers to the site to help with the recovery, Bloomberg reported.

Since chips are sourced deep in the supply chain, automakers are still evaluating what, if any, impact the fire could have on production. “We are aware of the incident and are working to assess the situation," GM said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Like other automakers, GM has said it will prioritize building its most popular products, like trucks — even if that means holding some and adding in the chips later to quickly meet consumer demand. The shortage has caused GM to make its fuel-saving technology unavailable on certain 2021 model year full-size trucks.

After about two months of down time, GM said two-shift production will resume April 5 at its San Luis Potosi plant in Mexico, which builds the Chevrolet Equinox and Trax and GMC Terrain SUVs. The Mexico plant was shut down Feb. 8. 

GM's plants in Kansas, where the Cadillac XT4 SUV and Chevrolet Malibu are built, and in Ontario, where the Equinox is built, will be down until at least mid-April. They were also shut down Feb. 8. 

A GM plant in Brazil also will have downtime in April and May. A plant in Korea has been operating at half capacity since February. The automaker intends to make up as much lost production as possible. 

Ford Motor Co.'s Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, Ohio, will be down this week because of the chip shortage. Medium-duty trucks, E-Series vans and Super Duty trucks are all built at that plant. Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant — which builds Super Duty trucks, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator — canceled a weekend overtime shift and will cut one out of three shifts this week. 

The Dearborn automaker shortened shifts Wednesday, canceled the night shift Thursday and all Friday shifts were called off at Kansas City Assembly Plant. Only Transit production will be affected.

Meanwhile, Stellantis NV is building and holding Ram 1500 Classics built at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan and Saltillo Truck Assembly Plant in Mexico. 

A chip shortage isn't the only supply chain battle for automakers right now. A severe winter storm caused a shortage of petrochemicals. The shortage caused Toyota Motor Corp. to see some disruption in its production. 

Honda Motor Co. said it is managing "a number of supply chain issues related to a number of factors including the impact from COVID-19, congestion at various ports, the microchip shortage and severe winter weather."

Most of Honda's production at North American auto plants has been impacted this week and some of the plants also will temporarily suspend production during the week of March 29.

Twitter: @bykaleahall