Monday, 23 August 2021 22:39

GM Idles Bolt EV Plant for Lack of Chips as Semiconductor Shortage Threatens Wave of Battery Car Launches

Written by Paul A. Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau
GM is temporarily shutting down its Orion, MI, assembly plant where it produces the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV. GM is temporarily shutting down its Orion, MI, assembly plant where it produces the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV.


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Operations at the General Motors assembly plant in Orion Township, MI, ground to a halt Aug. 23 and will remained idled until at least Aug. 30.

While GM is taking downtime at a number of plants, including the truck plants in Michigan, Tennessee and Mexico, the temporary closure in Orion Township is notable---and worrisome, according to industry observers. The factory produces GM’s two battery-electric vehicles, the Bolt EV and EUV. It’s the first time the facility has been shutdown since the semiconductor shortage began.


Virtually every automaker has been impacted by the chip crisis, and few models have escaped without production cuts. But analysts note battery-electric vehicles could be particularly vulnerable going forward. And the issue could not only cause shortages of existing products but also delay the launch of the many new models scheduled to come to market in the next 12 months.


That includes eagerly awaited battery-electric vehicles such as the GMC Hummer and Ford F-150 Lightning pickups, the Nissan Ariya SUV and the Lucid Air sedan, among others.


Today’s cars, trucks and crossovers are computers on wheels. The typical gas-powered model can use as many as 100 microprocessors---or more---to operate everything from their powertrain controls to their infotainment and digital safety systems. But, by their very nature, battery-electric vehicles need even more chips, according to Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst for Guidehouse Insights.


With BEVs, that number can run into the hundreds, many of those chips required to monitor the health of the cells that make up a battery pack. Major chipmakers such as Cree, ADI and NXP were forecasting double-digit annual growth in demand for chips used in EVs in the decade ahead.


But automakers aren’t the only ones demanding more semiconductors. Since the COVID pandemic struck there has been a surge in sales of smartphones, videoconferencing gear, videogame devices and other digital devices.


Silicon chip suppliers were only too happy to provide consumer electronics manufacturers with what they needed because the auto industry slashed semiconductor orders when the pandemic struck. When the massive plunge in car sales didn’t last as long as predicted automakers tried to...

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