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Thousands of big new pickups aren't going to customers. Here's why.

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/05/2021 Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press
a car parked on the side of a building: Ford Super Duty trucks on the assembly line at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Kentucky on Sept. 30, 2016 © Michael Clevenger, Louisville Courier Journal Ford Super Duty trucks on the assembly line at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Kentucky on Sept. 30, 2016

As Kentucky Derby fans traveled along Interstate 71 to and from Churchill Downs over the weekend, it would've been hard not to notice while driving through Sparta the thousands of Super Duty pickup trucks parked in rows.

This illustrates the multibillion-dollar impact of the ongoing global semiconductor shortage on the auto industry, specifically Ford Motor Co. Super Duty trucks built at the nearby Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

These days, they're built and parked awaiting parts.

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"Ford will build and hold the vehicles for a number of weeks, then ship the vehicles to dealers once the modules are available and comprehensive quality checks are complete," Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and labor communications manager, told the Free Press in response to questions about the Kentucky stockpile on Monday.

When America's bestselling F-Series is parked, Wall Street pays attention.

John Lawler, Ford chief financial officer, told industry analysts after first-quarter earnings last Wednesday that the company had approximately 22,000 vehicles parked and awaiting parts at the end of March.

And the numbers continue to grow.

"The semiconductor shortage and the impact to production will get worse before it gets better," Ford CEO Jim Farley said after earnings posted. 

Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021. © Provided Special to the Free Press Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021.

In fact, Intel Corp. CEO Pat Gelsinger predicted the problem will plague the auto industry "for a few more years," Bloomberg reported Monday.

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Chip problem:shortages have disrupted the market for used cars. That's good for buyers.

The microchip nightmare crippling auto factories worldwide is hitting Ford Motor Co.'s global operations the hardest in terms of actual vehicles taken out of the production, according to AutoForecast Solutions in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. The company calculates factory-by-factory company announcements, shift production and work schedules in the U.S., Asia and Europe.

a flock of birds flying over a field: Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021. © Provided Special to the Free Press Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021.

So far, that lost vehicle production this year has been projected to be::

  • Ford, 362,663 fewer vehicles
  • General Motors, 326,651
  • Renault Nissan Mitsubishi, 284,948
  • Volkswagen, 207,521
  • Stellantis, 202,486
  • Toyota, 113,555
  • Honda, 82,482

Automakers impacted to a lesser extent include BMW, Hyundai, Daimler and Tesla. These figures do not include joint ventures between the Detroit Three and their partners in China, Russia, Turkey and elsewhere. The GM numbers include its subsidiary GM Korea.

While vehicle production could be made up toward the end of the year, it is less likely with every month that passes.

a woman standing in front of a window: GM CEO Mary Barra waits to greet Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, during a visit to the GM Technical Learning University located on the GM Tech Center Campus in Warren on Sept. 2, 2020. © Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press GM CEO Mary Barra waits to greet Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump, during a visit to the GM Technical Learning University located on the GM Tech Center Campus in Warren on Sept. 2, 2020.

Meanwhile, GM is the hardest hit automaker in North America based on projections for the year:

  • GM,  277,030 vehicles
  • Ford, 234,964
  • Stellantis, 162,087 
  • Subaru, 45,272 
  • Honda, 42,951
  • Renault Nissan Mitsubishi,  41,928
  • VW,  36,429
  • Toyota, 23,670
  • Tesla,  6,418 vehicles

Some reduction was seen by Mazda and Hyundai, too.

AutoForecast provided a highly detailed breakdown of company operations by individual plant, production schedules and rate of manufacturing.

GM is scheduled to release earnings Wednesday. Stellantis said it will reveal its shipments and revenues the same day. 

"This is a growing concern," said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions.

 "With the increased computerization of vehicles, these chips are the lifeblood," he said. "They operate the powertrain control unit, the infotainment."

Ford was the first of the Detroit Three to release its first-quarter earnings, which exceeded Wall Street expectations. But then the company forecast depressed the stock price almost immediately.

Ford challenged whether its situation is much different than its competitors.

“The global semiconductor shortage is affecting automakers around the world – as well as other industries, including consumer electronics companies," Jennifer Flake, Ford executive director of global product communications, told the Free Press in response to the AutoForecast data.

Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021. © Provided Special to the Free Press Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021.

Ford was hit hard by a March 19 fire at the Renesas plant northeast of Tokyo, a leading semiconductor supplier that makes about two-thirds of all chips in the auto industry, Farley said. The chipmaker isn't expecting a return to full capacity until July.

"Estimates project the full recovery of the auto chip supply will stretch into the fourth quarter of this year and possibly even into 2022, making industry volume recovery in the second half of the year even more challenging," Farley said.

a flock of birds flying over a field: Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021. © Provided Special to the Free Press Thousands of pickup trucks could be seen from Interstate 71 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday. Ford Motor Co. had approximately 22,000 vehicles at the end of March primarily in North America awaiting installation of chip-related components, Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts on April 28, 2021.

Ford expects the chip crisis to cost the company an estimated $3 billion this year, Lawler said. 

But that's not all that automakers are facing.

While commodity prices remained stable because of 2020 contracts, Ford is now expecting to see prices on aluminum, steel and precious metals increase by about $2.5 billion, Farley said. "So that's going to hit us as we go through the rest of the year."

a car parked in front of a large rock: 2021 Ford Super Duty will see a production cutback at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville because of the semiconductor shortage. © Ford Motor Co. 2021 Ford Super Duty will see a production cutback at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville because of the semiconductor shortage.

Still, analyst Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley wrote to investors on last Wednesday, "2021 is likely to go down as an ‘oddball’ time for the industry given the confluence of consumer strength, inventory tightness and extremely disruptive supply chain issues."

a group of people standing in front of a building: Ford engineering specialist Shaunise Williams, Gary Johnson, CEO Jim Farley, Dearborn Truck Plant Manager Debbie Manzano and launch team member Edana Jones discuss a machine operation on Sept. 25, 2020. Johnson, chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer, retired on Feb. 1, 2021. © Ford Motor Co. Ford engineering specialist Shaunise Williams, Gary Johnson, CEO Jim Farley, Dearborn Truck Plant Manager Debbie Manzano and launch team member Edana Jones discuss a machine operation on Sept. 25, 2020. Johnson, chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer, retired on Feb. 1, 2021.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-618-1034 or phoward@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Thousands of big new pickups aren't going to customers. Here's why.

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