The supply chain crisis that has crippled American production and distribution is now causing some automakers to remove amenities and safety features that were recently considered standard modern equipment.
The shortage of semiconductor chips is making it necessary to remove luxuries like touchscreens and heated seats as well as important safety features like proximity alerts and blind-spot monitors.
Industry experts point to the lockdowns that were mandated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 as a primary cause for the supply shortages.
TechRepublic reported that the chip shortage is traceable to the first half of 2020 as consumer demand cratered. The journal said that manufacturers responded by shifting their focus from automotive microchips to other production lines, including computer equipment and mobile devices. Those types of products saw a spike in demand at the time, largely due to the increase in remote working.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesperson Jessica Cicchino told Fox Business that car manufacturers are in a “tight spot” because of the unavailability of essential safety technology. She noted the impact is being felt by consumers who are already having difficulty finding available cars on the market.
Even though there are no current federal regulations requiring blind-spot monitors, Cicchino said they are becoming extremely useful for drivers. She said that even though her organization does not include tests for the monitors in vehicle ratings, they do want to see them installed on as many vehicles as possible.
A study by her organization found that the monitors could reduce injury collisions by up to 23%. They are also likely to reduce back-up collisions due to lack of visibility by 22%.
Consumer Reports director of automotive testing Jake Fisher said the loss of the safety tech features would be a negative development even though they can still comply with federal regulations. He noted that better safety is a leading reason for consumers to purchase a new vehicle.
Fox Business reported that Volkswagen and Cadillac have already discontinued blind-spot monitors on some models, with more modifications possible in the near future.
Fisher said that most manufacturers are believed to still have the chips needed to continue installing commonplace safety features. He added that “smart shoppers will avoid the models” that have cut the accessories.