2021 in review: spare a chip?


Illustration by Dominic BugattoCar and driver

Extract from the January 2022 issue of Car and driver.

In March, an unsuspecting tourist in Hawaii may have wandered into one of the most illustrative stories of 2021. As Hawaii News Now reports, a pandemic-linked rental car shortage meant interested visitors to Maui by a Toyota Camry would be forced to pay over $ 700 a day. In Honolulu, vans cost $ 500 a day and convertibles up to $ 1,000. U-Haul, however, stuck to its standard prices for vans and pickup trucks, so moving trucks started showing up at the beach, surprising no one more than U-Haul itself.

Kaleo Alau, president of U-Haul Company of Hawaii, told KHON2 TV station that during the usual pre-rental interview, customers would admit they weren’t moving anything, saying instead, “Oh, we’ll just use it to drive around. “

In 2021, Stellantis officially became a company. In an April Fool’s Day joke, Volkswagen tried to convince people that it was changing its name to Voltswagen, a step that was at least slightly believable because “Stellantis” is, in fact, real. Showing Us All What to Name, the people of Minnesota have named a snow plow F. Salt Fitzgerald.

The US Postal Service presented a new mail truck which our own Ezra Dyer described as resembling a “beluga robot built by the East German government”. The roads that these trucks will take are the subject of a favorable opinion, because the American Society of Civil Engineers gave American infrastructure a C rating, the best performance in the country in 20 years. Speaking of improvement (or not, depending on your preferences), a lot of promises have been made regarding future emissions and electrification.

year in review

Illustration by Dominic BugattoCar and driver

The biggest story of the year, the common thread through so much that has happened, can be summed up by anyone who has ever taken Econ 101. Demand has exceeded supply. What happened in Hawaii is one example. Here’s another: In May, a cyberattack crippled the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45% of the east coast’s fuel. The pumps ran dry and people did crazy things like stuffing their trunks with plastic bags full of fuel. The shortage did not last long, and CNN reported that Colonial responded to ransom demands from hackers, giving them nearly $ 5 million.

The auto industry would gladly have paid more than that to solve the toughest supply chain problem of the year. There simply aren’t enough silicon semiconductors for everyone, especially since corporate panic over the pandemic has led automakers to cancel orders, and the modern vehicle has more than just that. never need. What started as a pinch of bad news in early January – just as Mercedes-Benz introduced a new 56-inch semiconductor-rich infotainment display dubbed the Hyperscreen – turned into a flood in late March. By that time, Audi, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo had all experienced production delays in North America. In April, Ford estimated a production reduction of up to 50 percent in the second quarter.

Used car prices jumped 10% from March to April, the largest increase in a month since at least 1953. In May, a Cox Automotive survey found that 40% of new car buyers were ready to move. pay 12% more than the sticker price. Back then, a new car cost on average close to $ 42,000, a number that has continued to climb.

Until June, analysts like Henner Lehne, vice president of global vehicle forecasting for IHS Markit, believed the industry’s problems would be resolved by the end of the year. But the chip shortage situation never improved. In early November, according to Lehne, automakers announced the loss of 9.2 million units due to the problem. He notes that various accounting practices make this a little spongy number, but nonetheless, these are a lot of goddamn vehicles that can’t get from dealerships to aisles.

So, as Tesla’s valuation hit $ 1,000 billion at the end of October and Ford’s share price peaked in 20 years at $ 19.72 in early November (after starting the year below $ 9 per share), much of the good news was based on hope. For Ford, that sentiment ties in with the Bronco, F-150 Lightning, and Maverick, all of which co-starred in 2021. Not that Ford was alone under the lights. Chevrolet has unveiled a new Corvette Z06 and GMC has released a Hummer EV that weighs over 9,000 pounds and is expected to hit 100 km / h in three seconds. Jeep brought back the Grand Wagoneer, designing something like a C suite on wheels. Great place to have a meeting, this Grand Wagoneer.

There is a lot to look forward to in 2022, but there are also a lot of things that won’t change. Lehne says the supply chain remains stretched at full capacity. Demand continues for phones and video game systems, and contactless payments are more popular than ever, and all of those things require semiconductors, and all it takes is a fire in a factory. in Japan or a huge storm in Texas to throw the supply into chaos. “Real relief will only come with greater capacity,” he says.

It’s for when ? See you in 2023.

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