This time, it's due to a lack of semiconductors.
It's not just the US that's seen a surge of novel coronavirus cases in recent months; numerous countries around the world are all experiencing the same worrying trend as the northern hemisphere experiences its winter season. At the same time, demand for products such as consumer electronics has started to bounce back, creating a shortage of semiconductor chips that's roiling the automotive industry.
Reuters reports that Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and Toyota have all announced temporary North American plant closures or production slowdowns due to the shortage of chips, prioritizing lower-profit or lower-volume vehicles in an effort to spare their most money-making vehicle lines.
Ford, for instance, has made the decision to shutter its Louisville, Kentucky Assembly plant, where the compact Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair crossover models are built, for a week, borrowing a planned week-long shutdown originally scheduled for later in the year. Fiat Chrysler, meanwhile, is idling its Brampton, Ontario plant where the Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, and Chrysler 300 are assembled, and extending an ongoing shutdown at the Toluca, Mexico plant, which builds the Jeep Compass.
Toyota, on the other hand, won't outright shutter the San Antonio, Texas plant that assembles the full-size Toyota Tundra pickup. Instead, the automaker will simply cut back on production until the necessary semiconductor chips are more readily available.
Modern cars are increasingly reliant on semiconductors for everything from infotainment and navigation systems to advanced driver assist systems, and plenty more besides. Not helping the supply shortage is US regulators' moves to blacklist China's Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., which Reuters reports has sent automakers with US operations scrambling to find new suppliers. Further impairing chip supply was a fire at one of Japan's Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corp. plants last October.
Additional automakers like Honda and Volkswagen have said in recent weeks that they have been impacted by chip shortage. GM and BMW claim that they have not been affected, but are monitoring the situation closely.