General Motors announced Friday it is idling its Fort Wayne assembly plant for two weeks due to the continuing semiconductor chip shortage. The plant, which builds the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 will halt assembly operations for two weeks beginning April 4, the first time it’s done so since August, when lines came to a halt for the same reason.
“There is still uncertainty and unpredictability in the semiconductor supply base, and we are actively working with our suppliers to mitigate potential issues moving forward,” GM said told Reuters on Friday.
An improving situation
Despite the shutdown, GM stated the supply of semiconductors is getting better when compared to last year. “This has translated into improvement in our production and deliveries during the first three months of the year,” the company said in a statement.
Their sentiments match those of the Volkswagen Group, whose CEO, Herbert Diess, said that while VW expects the chip shortage to continue, it’s expected the supply of chips will improve enough later this year to ramp up production.
“The supply situation is getting better, but even in 2022 we will not be able to build all the cars we could sell. But we see opportunities for further production increases, especially in the second half of the year,” Diess said in a February speech.
An ongoing industry problem
Semiconductor shortages has cause slowdowns and shutdowns across the auto industry, such as in February. That’s when Toyota cut production at its San Antonio truck plant in Texas just as it is rolling out its redesigned Tundra full-size pickup. Other automakers, such as Ford and GM, have been building vehicles without some of their digital components, or parked them outside plants until their missing modules or parts come in.
Today’s vehicles are computers on wheels, with some models requiring 100 or more semiconductors to operate the plethora of new digital features, such as semi-autonomous driving systems, onboard Wi-Fi and smartphone-style over-the-air update technology. The chips also control conventional mechanical systems, such as engine and transmission devices that improve performance and fuel economy while reducing emissions.
This is why GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra is in Washington, D.C. this week. There, she’s meeting with Republican Senator Todd Young of Indiana and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill to show the company’s support a Congressional bill that would deliver $52 billion in government funds to increase U.S. semiconductor production.
GM said that legislation could help ease the semiconductor ongoing shortage.