Munich Motor Show 2021: Tiny Chips Cast Big Shadow on Automakers

As automakers gathered in Munich on Monday to launch almost exclusively zero-emission or low-emission vehicles, a continuing shortage of semiconductors cast a long shadow over the first major auto show since before the pandemic began.

Forced to close factories last year, automakers now face increasing competition from the consumer electronics industry for chip deliveries. This problem was compounded by a series of supply chain disruptions during the pandemic.

Cars are increasingly dependent on chips – for everything from computer engine management for better fuel economy to driver assistance features like emergency braking.

Speaking at the launch of a pair of electric vehicles (EVs) on Sunday night, Ola Källenius, CEO of premium German automaker Daimler AG, said that while the company hopes its own supply will improve in the fourth quarter, the demand for chips means the industry may struggle to acquire enough of them by 2023 – although shortages are likely to be less severe by then.

“Several chip suppliers have been referring to structural problems with demand,” Källenius said. “This could influence 2022 and (the situation) could be more relaxed in 2023.”

Joerg Burzer, head of supply chain at Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz automobile manufacturing unit, said he expected the situation to stabilize in the fourth quarter. “Relaxation will come later.”

The IAA Mobility Show in Munich is the first major automotive industry event worldwide since the global coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the continuing shortages, Britta Seeger, a board member at Daimler, said the carmaker does not believe its long-term goals for electric vehicles will be affected.

Automakers, from the North American group General Motors to the Indian Mahindra and the Japanese Toyota, reduced production and sales forecasts due to the scarce supply of chips, aggravated by the resurgence of COVID-19 in the main Asian semiconductor production centers.

Last week, Chinese EV maker Nio cut its third-quarter delivery forecast due to uncertain and volatile semiconductor supplies.

Renault CEO Luca De Meo said on Monday that the chip shortage has been greater than expected during the current third quarter, but said the situation should improve in the fourth quarter.

Leading car supplier Bosch said it expects the shortage to ease somewhat in the coming months, but supplies will remain limited next year.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse said the premium automaker expects supply chains to remain strong through 2022.

“I expect the general tightening of supply chains to continue in the next 6 to 12 months,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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