Ford to sell unfinished Explorers as chip shortage bites

Why pay more when you can get less?

Good news for those kept out of the seat of a new Ford Explorer by the chip shortage: you can get one now, with a slight catch. 

Speaking at a meeting of the National Automotive Dealers Association, Ford VP of sales Andrew Frick said his automaker was planning to ship Ford Explorers without rear seat HVAC controls. Luckily for children and pets, heat and air conditioning for the rear of the vehicle can still be controlled from the front.

Buyers who decide to skip the wait will get an unspecified price break on a new Explorer, where they'll find a flat panel installed in place of the regular rear seat heating and cooling knobs. 

This isn't the first time that Ford has been hit by the chip shortage. The sight of unfinished Ford Broncos collecting dust have been a sore spot for the Detroit company, leading it to hand out $1,000 per pending purchaser to dealerships to spend on appeasing them. 

Ford also chose to keep its F-150 pickup trucks available for sale by cutting the chips required for the start/stop feature that turns the engine off when at a standstill and back on when the brake is released. Like Explorer buyers, F-150 purchasers have been told they can get the parts installed later. They were also offered a credit as well: $50.

The automotive industry as a whole has been hit hard by the chip shortage, and the end of those troubles aren't quite in clear view yet. Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Sam Fiorani, VP of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, said that multiple manufacturers have cut corners in order to get vehicles to dealers.

"General Motors did this previously with heated seats, and Nissan did it with navigation systems," he said. Other manufacturers have made similar decisions. 

Automotive manufacturers have typically had a simple time getting chip orders filled due to the long-term, stable nature of their semiconductor needs. Dutch chip manufacturer NXP said that it's seeing more customers opt for multi-year, non-cancellable contracts, which in turn is leading to NXP's recent stronger-than-predicted growth.

Steady contracts doesn't mean any recovery will be instant, though: Semiconductor manufacturing is a slow process, and more fabs are needed to produce the 40nm chips required for automotive and other non-bleeding edge applications. Gartner's latest predictions put "a return to normal inventory" at Q3 or Q4 of this year, and even that may only apply to some manufacturers ordering certain types of chips. 

Ford announced a partnership with California-based chip maker GlobalFoundaries in late 2021 that it said was designed to address the shortage of the current automotive chip supply and meet growing demand. The deal between GlobalFoundaries and Ford is a nonbinding one, though, so don't hold your breath for that backseat heating chip. ® 

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