“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” Or so goes the popular, if misquoted, line from the film, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
It’s another matter entirely for Ford Motor Co. Like the rest of the industry, the second-largest Detroit automaker has been hammered by shortages of semiconductors and a variety of other parts this past year. And that’s led to production cuts and vehicles shortages at the dealer level.
Now, to add insult to injury, Ford is struggling to get the familiar “Blue Oval” emblems found on the front of all its familiar vehicles. And, yes, the automaker says, it does need those stinkin’ badges before it will put a product on the road.
Shortages continue taking a toll
Ford last week announced it had as many as 45,000 vehicles sitting in factory lots. They were virtually complete, the automaker indicated, but for some critical, albeit missing parts.
This isn’t the first time that’s happened. Ford repeatedly has cut or delayed production due to shortages over the past two years — most frequently for missing silicon chips. That’s a problem facing the industry as a whole, in fact. AlixPartners last year estimated the semiconductor problem alone cost automakers around the world more than $250 billion in lost sales. And production volumes have dropped even more in 2022.
Chips have become an essential component of the modern automobile which can use 100 or more microprocessors to operate everything from a vehicle’s infotainment screen to its advanced safety gear.
And manufacturers have faced a variety of other shortages involving rubber, plastics, magnesium and foams and other parts, components and raw materials.
But this marks the first time an automaker was known to have been impacted by a shortage of badges.
There’s no question that they’re an important part of a vehicle. Every Ford built today features the company’s name in a familiar blue and chrome emblem.
How important is that Blue Oval badge? Consider that Ford has, in some instances, let vehicles leave the factory minus some chips needed to operate functions like seat massagers in high-line products. It told F-150 Lightning customers they could take delivery of the new, all-electric pickups minus power running boards in 2022 — or wait for next year if they just had to have that optional feature.
But, according to a report first published by the Wall Street Journal, the carmaker drew the line at letting its products get to dealers with the badges missing.
Ford looked at other options, including the use of badges produced by 3D stereo printing methods. But it found they just didn’t meet the quality the company required.
So, it seems, some otherwise completed products will have to sit in factory lots until a new supply of the logos can be found.
What happened to those badges? It seems the supplier, Michigan-based Tribar Technologies, is in hot water for leaking a carcinogenic compound called hexavalent chromium into the Huron River this past summer. That led to an order restricting access to a river popular with boaters, swimmers and fishermen. Tribar only this month received conditional approval to resume operations and it isn’t clear if it has gotten back to its normal operating speed yet.
Ford sidelines thousands of vehicles
Last week, Ford announced it expected anywhere from 40,000 to 45,000 “high-demand, high-margin models of popular trucks and SUVs” to be impacted by various parts shortages.
But it left open questions about what vehicles and which missing parts.
Ford isn’t offering much detail but it appears that F-150 pickups — its most profitable product line — are among the vehicles on hold.
And it also appears likely that other shortages, including semiconductors, are contributing to the problem.
Ford isn’t alone
Along with rising costs for many of its parts and components, Ford has warned it could face a multi-billion-dollar hit to earnings this year.
But it’s by no means alone. In recent days, General Motors said it will extend shutdowns on three assembly lines while Honda plans to cut production by 40% at two key Japanese plants. And Toyota cut 100,000 vehicles out of its October production schedule because of the chip shortage. Automakers had hoped to bring the ongoing crisis under control by now. But a report by Bank of America Research released in June warned that various shortages could plague the industry well into 2023.