When will truck makers feel the sting of semiconductor shortage?

Truck makers so far are being spared impacts of a semiconductor shortage that forced a Ford Motor Co. plant in Louisville, Kentucky, to close for a week and is affecting other automakers.

Semiconductors, microchips and silicon wafers perform control and memory functions in engine control modules, safety systems and telematics.  

Major truck manufacturers report no immediate problems because of the shortage, which started when overseas factories making the chips were forced to shut down in the pandemic’s early stages. 

U.S. regulators in December added China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., to a trade blacklist. SMIC is China’s largest contract chipmaker.  

Semiconductor companies diverted production to consumer electronics during the worst of the COVID-19 slowdown last spring.

“It’s also hyper verticals like Facebook, Amazon, Google, where spending of data center and networking expansion has boomed,” Dan Hutcheson, a semiconductor analyst at VLSI Research, told FreightWaves.

Hutcheson said the supply chain should be fixed by April or May.

Suppliers struggle

“Due to various factors, the global procurement market is currently experiencing a general shortage of certain semiconductor components,” Tier One supplier Robert Bosch said in a statement. “Despite the difficult market situation, Bosch is doing all it can to keep its customers supplied and to keep any further impact to a minimum.”

Bosch, which supplies hundreds of components to both car and truck makers, declined to name specific customers affected. The company said it was running short of integrated circuits, microcontrollers and application-specific integrated circuits.  

Engine maker Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) is working with suppliers and customers to address uncertainty surrounding the shortages. 

Truck manufacturers watchful

Commercial truck sales leader Daimler Trucks North America is closely monitoring the situation but thus far reports no issues in assembling new trucks, a spokesman said.

Volvo Group said it was unaware of any disruptions at its Volvo Trucks North America or Mack Trucks plants or an engine plant in Maryland that supplies both plants.

PACCAR Inc. (NASDAQ: PCAR) spokesman Tim Olson said there was “no mention of any kind” during a sales meeting with dealers last week.

Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) declined to comment specifically.

The potential shortage comes as near-record orders for new trucks are being booked. Preliminary orders for Class 8 trucks in December exceeded 50,000 units for the second consecutive month.

Automakers curtail production

Volkswagen, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan all are delaying production of some models in order to keep other factories running, The Associated Press reported Monday.

Fiat Chrysler temporarily closed car factories in Brampton, Ontario, and a small-SUV plant in Toluca, Mexico. Volkswagen said in December it was facing production slowdowns due to the shortage. Nissan is adjusting  production in Japan but hasn’t seen a significant impact so far in the U.S.

“Automakers slashed orders in Q2” because of COVID, Hutcheson said. “Chip companies responded by shifting manufacturing to hot areas like data centers and networking. So when the auto companies came back into the market, the pipelines were empty.”

Commerce extends Huawei export license privilege

December Class 8 orders rank fourth highest in history 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.