Ford (F) is taking an unusual approach to battle the ongoing semiconductor crunch afflicting global automakers — doing without them, for the time being.
“We are working as hard as we can and offering ways for our customers to get their vehicles sooner during the global semiconductor shortage … Beginning soon, we will offer customers a way to get their Explorer more quickly, too, thanks to a specification change that will keep rear seat heating/air conditioning auxiliary controls up front with the driver,” Ford told Yahoo Finance in a statement.
Buyers will be able to control the rear climate controls from the front seat console, and the company will restore rear-seat passenger control of heating/air conditioning at no cost at a later date, Ford said. In the meantime, customers will receive a price reduction for the issue.
In the past when dealing with shortages, Ford and other carmakers, including GM, would build vehicles that were otherwise complete except for a few missing components and have to wait for the parts to come in before shipping the finished products to dealers. This could sometimes take months, causing frustration for not only Ford, but also dealers and buyers. Case in point: The red-hot Ford Bronco, hundreds of which were parked at a Michigan assembly plant, while thousands of reservation holders fumed online while the company waited for chips to arrive.
Ford’s new tactic could change the modus operandi for traditional automakers by shipping incomplete, though drive-able, vehicles to customers, and retrofitting them down the road. Ford notes in the same statement released today that it has been shipping F-150 pickups without auto stop/start functionality so customers (especially fleet and commercial clients) could receive their trucks sooner.
GM has had to ship some of its popular full-size Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups with missing chips used for cylinder de-activation and auto stop start, as well as omitting features like HD radio. The difference here with Ford is GM is not going to retrofit these modules like the auto-start functionality into the Sierra and Silverado.
Not surprisingly for some industry watchers, Tesla (TSLA) has been doing this for some time, delivering some models without USB charging ports (and not telling customers in the process), and also shipping some models without power lumbar support in the passenger seat, claiming buyers barely used that feature:
Ford’s move with these Explorer SUVs comes along the backdrop as the company itself is predicting a shortfall in U.S. vehicle deliveries this year. According to Automotive News, Ford executives told dealers it now see deliveries for the year sliding to 1.66 million vehicles, down from 1.9 million delivered last year.
Ford shares were trading lower today, and are down around 24% year to date.