Barra says GM plans 'substantial shifts' in its supply chain

Yueqi Yang

General Motors Co. is planning to revamp its supply chain as the pandemic-triggered chip shortage and rising demand for chip-intensive vehicles have demonstrated the need for an overhaul.

The Detroit-based carmaker will make “substantial shifts” in its supply chain, chief executive officer Mary Barra said Friday in a live-streamed discussion with Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Ed Bastian. While GM generally doesn’t buy chips directly, the company is now “building direct relationships” with manufacturers. 

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra

“It’s a solvable problem, but it’s going to be here a little longer,” Barra said.

The semiconductor shortage reflects idiosyncrasies of the global economy in the pandemic and planning decisions made by automakers in the early days of the crisis. But, she said, the challenge is also demand-based, with a shift in consumer preferences for vehicles that are becoming more of a software platform. 

“We didn’t estimate demand right at the beginning — we’re long past that now even with the long lead time with chips,” Barra said. Demand for vehicles would be higher if the company had enough chips right now, she said. 

GM has been working deeper into the tiered supply chain as it seeks a longer-term solution to shortages, Barra said. As the semiconductor crunch persists, automakers are building closer ties with chip companies such as Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp. to monitor supply. 

U.S. production of new vehicles this fall will continue to be constrained by the chip shortage and the spread of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia.