North American auto production is rebounding somewhat in 2022 – S&P Global Mobility said this week it expects production of about 14.7 million cars and trucks this year in North America – that’s an increase of 12.5% vs. 2021.
However, that’s not enough of an increase to reverse the trend to record high prices due to the combination of high demand and low new-vehicle supplies, analysts said.
“The important thing to put that in context, is just how bad things got in 2021,” said Mark Fulthorpe, executive director, Global Production Forecasting. By comparison, 2022 looks pretty good.
Production was a disappointment in 2021, coming off of 2020, when production fell due to COVID-19 related factory shutdowns. It then took longer than expected to ramp auto factories back up, employing social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions.
In 2019, North American production was about 16.3 million. But according to S&P Global Mobility, auto production in North America was almost exactly flat in 2021 vs. 2020, at about 13 million cars and trucks.
The year started out much more promisingly in 2021. For the first quarter, it looked as if auto sales and production in North America were on their way back to pre-pandemic levels. But in the meantime, a shortage developed of the computer chips used to control modern automotive electronics.
That was partly due to pandemic-related shutdowns, made worse by the fact that the auto industry had to compete for chips with other industries, like consumer electronics.
Other, short-term factors made the shortage worse in 2021, such as a fire at a chip manufacturing plant in Japan, and ice storms in Texas that closed additional chip manufacturing capacity. “These were clearly not normal supply constraints,” Fulthorpe said.
Then in the third quarter of 2021, “just when we started to see recovery from those external shocks,” pandemic-related shutdowns closed factories in Malaysia that are important to global computer chip manufacturing, he said.
Still, North America is enjoying a bigger increase than the projected worldwide average. S&P Global Mobility expects worldwide production of about 80.4 million cars and trucks in 2022, up about 4.1% vs. 2021.
“This plays out more positively in North America than some other regions,” Fulthorpe said.
Automakers have managed to increase production in part by producing a smaller variety of potential combinations of features and options that employ chips, he said. In some cases, they have even produced some vehicles for sale lacking certain chips, which are to be installed later.
What they haven’t done, so far, is to bring about a big increase in global chip-making capacity devoted to the auto industry, Fulthorpe said. That’s going to take years.
Article source: www.forbes.com