On the surface, Tesla appeared to get through the worst of the semiconductor shortage largely unscathed; however, now it’s become clear they had to cut some corners like so many other automakers.
The EV market leader elected to remove a steering-related chip from some vehicles in order to meet its full-year delivery goals — it delivered nearly 1 million vehicles in 2021, an 87% increase compared to 2020. The chip was a redundant component, the vehicles are safe to drive.
However, they are critical to the vehicles ability to be completely self driving in the future, according to CNBC.com. In order to restore that capability, the chip is part of an electronic control unit that helps turn the wheels. To facility full self-driving, the chip would need to be retrofitted in the future.
Thousands of Model 3 and Model Y cars made in China are affected. Those vehicles were sent to customers in China and exported to other countries, including Australia, the UK, and Germany, the report noted.
Supply chain issues
When it comes to the semiconductor problem, Tesla’s been outwardly calm, although CEO Elon Musk has made a few references in calls and tweets about how difficult it’s been secure the semicondutors and other parts and materials needed.
“Oh man, this year has been such a supply chain nightmare & it’s not over!,” he tweeted Nov. 29, 2021 in response to a tweet requesting an update on the status of the Cybertruck. He later revealed in the company’s most recent earnings call the Cybertruck has been delayed again and won’t begin production until 2023.
Tesla removed the component after engineers determined it was redundant. In addition to ensuring the unit could be used on another vehicle, the move also saved Tesla money near-term, although that could change if problems do arise as a result of the change.
While some may be surprised by the move, Tesla’s performed this juggling before. Last spring, Tesla removed lumbar support from passenger seats in Model 3 and Model Y vehicles to lower costs.
Not the only one and not over
Tesla’s got plenty of company when it comes to this type of maneuver. General Motors was stockpiling full-size trucks in lots as it waited for more semiconductors to arrive, then simply retrofitted them as they did.
The Detroit-based automaker also pulled chips from vehicles, decontenting them so they may not have heated seats or some other luxury item. However, one of the moves had them building the trucks without a fuel-management module, which lowered fuel economy.
Last week, Ford warned that ongoing chip shortages would continue to impact industry production levels through at least the first quarter. But both the second-largest Detroit automaker and archrival General Motors have laid out hopes in recent weeks that the situation would improve in the second quarter.
Musk said during the company’s recent earnings call that the issue would continue well into 2022. “Supply limitations are far from over and will persist well into 2022,” Infineon CEO Reinhard Ploss told analysts and media participating in an investor call.
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