The ability to retrofit the vehicles is good news for dealers who are about to spend the winter persuading customers paying upward of $40,000 to forego a coveted and increasingly common feature.
“Once you have them, it’s really hard to live without them,” said Howard Drake, owner of Casa Automotive Group in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
GM has made various equipment changes as the global microchip shortage has crippled production industrywide. In this case its supplier, Gentherm, is grappling with a shortage from its own semiconductor suppliers, people familiar with the issue told Automotive News.
The issue shows that the chip shortage remains volatile and affects multiple layers of the supply chain, even as most assembly plants have largely gone back to normal production schedules.
“We are working closely with our supplier partner to mitigate the chip shortage’s impact on this feature item,” GM said in a statement without identifying Gentherm. “We expect this measure to be temporary until chip supplies improve.”
GM told dealers that heated steering wheels cannot be retrofitted, so vehicles missing that feature will still be discounted by $150.
Gentherm declined a request for comment.
Ford Motor Co. CEO Jim Farley last week said he didn’t anticipate any disruption in availability of heated seats and steering wheels, though Ford has had to work through numerous other issues created by the chip shortage.
“We’re not engineered like that,” Farley said. “Our modules that make our seat controllers and heated steering wheels are in good shape.”
Gentherm CEO Phil Eyler warned of upcoming product shortages during the company’s third-quarter earnings call in October.
“Although we expect this to continue for the foreseeable future, the information we’re receiving from customers and our semiconductor suppliers would indicate that in 2022, we should return to a gradual improvement and possibly a recovery by the second half of 2022,” Eyler said.
Gentherm is working with its chip supplier on redesigns and alternative chip plans, he said.
“They’re scouring their landscape to find solutions,” he said. “There are some options that are starting to pop up, but it’s a little bit too early to tell if we’re going to be able to fill that void.”