cars without chips

Automakers Preproduce Cars Without Chips

Due to the shortage of semiconductors, carmakers are currently producing unfinished vehicles in stockpiles and upgrading them later. Satellite images show the sometimes unusual places where the cars are currently parked.

“Economy from above” is a collaboration between WirtschaftsWoche and LiveEO. This is a translation of the original article written in German by “Annina Reimann and Camilla Flocke“. Access the original article here.

The shortage of semiconductors is having an ever-increasing impact on the automotive industry. To avoid short-time work, many automakers have now taken to producing unfinished models and parking them temporarily. The vehicles are then to be retrofitted and delivered to end customers as quickly as possible.

In the past, the industry used to call this “hole shoring. But they no longer like that word at Daimler. Instead, they now call it “special construction,” says a Daimler insider. After all, “hole” doesn’t sound so great.

Indeed, many carmakers are currently desperately looking for areas where they can temporarily park their vehicles with holes. Daimler seems to have found what it was looking for its plant in Bremen at the airfield in Ahlhorn. There are currently significantly more cars parked there than usual, as LiveEO’s exclusive satellite images show.

  • ahlhorn airfield
  • ahlhorn airfield new cars await delivery
  • ahlhorn airfield significantly more cars await delivery

Despite this, the Daimler plant in Bremen is repeatedly on short-time working. Among other things, all variants of the C-Class are produced there. But time and again the plant comes to a short-term standstill. Next week as well? “If only we knew,” says one insider – after all, unfortunately, they only find out at very short notice which parts are available and whether they can produce. After all, not all of the holes are in a place where something can be retrofitted. Retrofitting is already a “huge effort,” according to Daimler.

According to the Stuttgart-based company, the “temporary storage of vehicles… is a completely normal process”. There are logistics areas worldwide that are used by Mercedes-Benz for the temporary storage of vehicles. The reasons for this are manifold: Often it is a matter of temporary storage in preparation for the market launch of new models. However, it is also true that “due to the ongoing global supply bottleneck” for certain semiconductor components, there is currently “temporarily an increased volume of temporarily stored vehicles,” Daimler reports. How many are there at the moment? Changes daily!

Almost every free parking space on the plant premises
Mercedes-Benz Trucks assembly plant, Wörth am Rhein, Rhineland-Palatinate.
28.09.2020 (left photo): The Mercedes-Benz Trucks assembly plant near Wörth am Rhein is also used by Daimler as a logistics area for the temporary storage of vehicles.
08.09.2021 (right picture): Almost every free parking space on the plant premises is currently filled with trucks. One of the main reasons at present is the chip crisis.

On the Daimler Truck plant site in Wörth, almost every free parking space is currently filled with trucks, as the satellite image shows. The reasons: Unloading, driver training, vehicle delivery, vehicles leaving the assembly lines – but also: trucks still waiting for semiconductor components, Daimler Truck confirms. Due to the fluctuating supply availability of semiconductors, the company reacts to these bottlenecks “at short notice”; in addition, they are in constant contact and exchange with suppliers and drive on sight, the statement continues.

Competitor Traton has been struggling with lower sales volumes since the end of August due to the semiconductor shortage. To ensure that customers do not have to wait too long, the company is currently removing missing control units from vehicles that have been produced but not yet sold. These are then installed in ordered vehicles, Traton reveals.

German automakers are therefore currently making great efforts to minimize the negative impact of the chip shortage on production. For this reason, Volkswagen also states on request: “Of course, the brands are currently using every opportunity to produce. This also includes the possibility of initially building vehicles unfinished in order to retrofit them immediately as soon as the corresponding semiconductors and components are in stock again.” According to the automaker, these are parked at the individual production sites. However, when asked about changes in capacity utilization in the parking areas of the VW plant in Wolfsburg, the company did not want to provide any precise information on where exactly the temporarily parked vehicles are located.

mount morrismount morris
Mount Morris, north of Flint, Mich.
05.10. 2020 (left photo): General Motors has been hit particularly hard by industry-wide supply shortages in the past quarter. Due to the semiconductor shortage, GM is in some cases producing vehicles without certain components and then retrofitting them as quickly as possible.
01.10.2021 (right photo): Hundreds of unfinished Chevrolet and GMC pickup trucks are parked in a field near Interstate 75, north of General Motors Flint Assembly.

A somewhat unusual step has been taken by General Motors in Flint, Michigan. There, unfinished pickup trucks are apparently parked in a field next to Interstate 75, satellite images show. ABC TV 12 had first reported on this. Because of the semiconductor shortage, GM is also producing vehicles without certain components in some cases, he said and then retrofitting them as quickly as possible. This is better for customers, vendors, and employees than not building them at all, a spokesman let it be known.

At any rate, employees at Daimler are now fed up with short-time work. And this is despite the fact that Daimler is topping up the short-time allowance. They are afraid that the situation will continue for longer – and that at some point the option of short-time work will expire.

In fact, there is no near-term remedy in sight: He sees that the crisis will probably drag on into 2022, said Continental CEO Nikolai Setzer and one of the main suppliers of components with semiconductors recently. Many market observers assumed that there would be no significant improvement until 2023 when higher capacities would be available from chip manufacturers.

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