The global microchip shortage doesn't show any signs of easing up. It's affecting numerous industries, but the automotive realm is arguably the arena where the shortage is most visible. Empty dealership lots certainly garner attention, and it's forcing some brands to build vehicles without some notable features. The Ford Explorer is the latest victim of such strategic planning.
For the foreseeable future, Ford's popular SUV will remove climate controls for rear-seat passengers. A general announcement regarding non-safety features came during the recent National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) meeting, according to Automotive News. In short, Ford is reportedly looking at features that can be omitted during production but installed later, once more microchips are available. That would allow dealers to stock and sell vehicles, albeit with some reduced functionality.
Gallery: 2021 Ford Explorer Timberline
A Ford spokesperson later confirmed to Automotive News that rear-seat climate control functionality in the Ford Explorer was a specific feature being temporarily removed. Within a year, Ford plans to have the controls available for installation. The report also states anyone buying an Explorer with the feature removed would receive a discount on the price. Once the parts are available, installation will be offered free of charge. In the meantime, climate adjustments for rear-seat passengers can be made from the main controls in the front.
This certainly isn't the first instance of an automaker taking such steps to keep dealers stocked with new vehicles. General Motors removed numerous features from a wide range of models, including park assist on Cadillacs and heated seats in Chevrolet and GMC vehicles. Jeep cut the Quadra-Lift suspension from the Grand Cherokee, BMW removed some touchscreen functionality, and Genesis took a more drastic step by removing some safety tech.
The alternative is simply not building vehicles at all, and virtually every manufacturer continues to face that contingency. Beyond chips, the war in Ukraine has added new strain to the supply chain as many German companies source wire harnesses from suppliers in the affected region. BMW and Porsche have temporary shutdowns in place, and it's unclear how long the situation could last.