Ford Motor Co and General Motors will be individually suspending production in Michigan next week due to supply chain constraints. However, it’s difficult not to notice that the chosen facilities are responsible for lower-volume models they could probably afford to idle.
GM is stalling Lansing Grand River Assembly and Stamping, citing a parts shortage it said had nothing to do with the ongoing deficit of semiconductor chips. The company later stated that the Russo-Ukrainian war had not played a factor, abandoning the two most popular excuses for why something isn’t being done in 2022. Meanwhile, Ford has said the chip shortage has everything to do with its temporary closure of Flat Rock Assembly.
“The global semiconductor shortage continues to affect Ford’s North American plants – along with automakers and other industries around the world,” the Blue Oval explained. “Behind the scenes, we have teams working on how to maximize production, with a continued commitment to building every high-demand vehicle for our customers with the quality they expect. All of our North American plants will run the week of April 4, except Flat Rock Assembly Plant.”
Ford’s latest closures will only affect the Mustang, which has become a lot less popular since 2015. North American deliveries currently represent about half of what they would have six years ago, suggesting that the company may have opted to let the Mustang take the hit in lieu of having to suspend truck production yet again. The manufacturer even issued a warning last month that the semiconductor shortage would continue to be an issue for the brand, followed by an announcement that it could lead to a decline in quarterly output.
General Motors suspending activities in Lansing will also have its production hit landing on the chin of some of its least-popular models – including the Cadillac CT4, CT5, and Chevrolet Camaro.
The CT5 sedan has failed to be a hit with Americans thus far, garnering only 14,711 U.S. deliveries in 2020 (it’s first full year on sale) and a paltry 9,446 in 2021. But the Cadillac CT4 is the model that really made me lose faith in the brand (along with the XT4) and has attained even fewer orders than its larger counterpart.
Meanwhile, the Camaro has suffered a fate similar to the Mustang with sales volume declining consistently since 2014. Despite both being solid performance automobiles, tastes have shifted and there’s less room for fun-focused coupes in an era where the wealth gap has broadened and there are fewer members of the middle class willing to purchase what are frequently secondary rides. This may also explain why the more-practical Dodge Challenger has managed to retain its volume better than Ford or Chevy’s pony cars.
Speculative to be sure. But both Ford and GM have recently hinted at plans to rejigger their production efforts to prioritize models with superior margins and reliable sales – basically, vehicles that cost less to produce, move reliably, and can be sold for juicier profits. This is especially important now that pandemic-induced sales conditions have mostly ended and there’s less willingness from the public to be gouged by dealerships devoid of product. As a result, companies have continued deprioritizing sedan and coupe sales in favor of more financially robust crossovers, pickups, and SUVs.
Analysts are expecting elevated vehicle pricing to persist regardless, citing rising material costs, ongoing supply constraints, and various industries’ say-so. However, they’ve also begun discussing manufacturers evolving their priorities in a bid to run lean and dealerships that will want to continue enjoying enhanced profitability per transaction for as long as possible.
Unless these are components unique to the above models that have gone absent, my guess is that GM and Ford are tired of having to press pause on their highly lucrative pickup trucks and needed to choose which products would take the hit. Assembly of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 went down in Indiana last week due to absent semiconductors. Ford stalled production of the F-Series in Kansas City last February for the same reason. But it was hardly the first time either manufacturer idled truck assembly and probably won’t be the last until supply chains return to normal or manufacturers start building more of their own components.
Both plant closures are scheduled to commence on April 4th. GM said it expects Lansing Grand River to remain down until the 11th, adding that employees will still get paid at least 75 percent of their compensation from unemployment. Ford was less clear on when it expects Flat Rock to be back in action, though it likewise stated that it’ll do everything in its power to make up for product shortfalls – assuming there’s a need.
[Image: Ford Motor Co.]
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