THE Ford factory in Almussafes (Valencia) has revealed plans to build cars with less electronic gadgets due to the global scarcity of microchips.
Since the end of last year, the world has faced an increasing shortage of semiconductors – described as the silicon ‘brain’ of all electronic devices, from smartphones to televisions, videogame consoles… and cars.
The problem began with the closure of production lines in 2020 due to COVID, but a sudden surge in demand caused also by changing habits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic looks likely to cause price hikes for end consumers and a worldwide scarcity or delay of certain products until the system catches up.
Apple itself was forced to delay the launch of its iPhone 12 for two months last year due to the same issue.
With regards to the motoring trade, entire shifts at plants have been put on hold, including Almussafes, where new vehicle production has dropped to lower levels that during the height of the crisis last year.
However, factory managers and unions this week agreed to reinstate the night shift – which employs 700 workers – that had been put on hold in May and gradually recover a normal level of activity.
But to do this, Ford has been forced to adapt to the microchip situation and announce the launch of more basic models without so many electronic systems and gadgets in order to prioritise the use of available semiconductors.
This means whole batches of certain models will hit the market without facilities such as the parking assistant, according to spokespeople for the plant.
Far from being viewed as a tragedy, spokespeople for the Almussafes trade union believe it will help diversify the types of vehicle on offer, hopefully boosting sales and enabling the recovery of jobs.
Other firms are taking similar steps, such as Peugeot, who recently decided to swap the digital speedometer in several models for the classic analogue gauge that does not require a chip.
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