Key component: the microchip: The auto industry is currently suffering from a lack of chips - and with it, in some cases, customers who have to wait for cars (symbol image)
Photo: Hendrik Schmidt / dpa
The chip crisis is still keeping the automotive industry firmly under control.
The Ford works in Cologne are shutting down their production because not enough of the coveted components are available.
Now there will be short-time working days from May 3 to June 18 and from June 30 to July 9, 2021.
Audi and Daimler had previously sent parts of their workforce back to short-time work due to the lack of chips.
The bottleneck is not only a problem for industry, it also puts many car buyers in a difficult position.
Here are the answers to the most important questions.
What are semiconductors and why are they so important?
Semiconductors are materials that can both conduct and isolate electrical currents. This makes them important components for electrical circuits: as microchips or microprocessors. They're in computers, washing machines, smartphones - and cars. There they ensure that the air conditioning system and airbags, assistance systems and window lifters work.
Manufacturing the chips is very time-consuming: They are manufactured from silicon wafers in hundreds of steps in months of detailed work.
Because there is more and more electronics in cars, more and more semiconductors are required, and electromobility is further increasing demand.
To operate an electric motor efficiently, you need "half a kilo of semiconductors," said Reinhard Ploss, head of the German semiconductor manufacturer Infineon, in an interview with "Bayerischer Rundfunk".
Between eight and twelve percent of global semiconductor production goes to the automotive industry.
The needs of the US company Apple alone are greater than those of the entire vehicle industry.
The global semiconductor market is growing - last year alone by four percent to $ 430 billion.
The auto industry needs more and more microchips
Photo: Matthias Balk / dpa
Why is there a sudden lack of semiconductors in car factories?
The short answer is: because they were ordered too late.
In fact, it's more complicated.
When the corona pandemic began in spring 2020 and car factories and supplier companies stood still for weeks, numerous semiconductor orders were throttled or canceled.
Manufacturers of cell phones, computers, entertainment electronics and medical technology have pushed into this demand gap.
Their sales shot up due to the pandemic.
For a few months now, the demand for new cars has also increased again.
Global semiconductor production, however, is largely outsourced, and the auto industry has to lag behind.
In addition, it takes at least four, more likely five or six, months from ordering a semiconductor to arriving at a car factory.
If you order too late, you have to wait.
Which manufacturers are affected and how do they react?
The semiconductor shortage affects all manufacturers.
However, they rarely buy microchips directly.
Instead, they purchase components such as control units, cockpits or the charging electronics for e-cars, in which semiconductors are installed, from suppliers.
So the semiconductors are primarily missing from the suppliers and their products from the automakers.
At BMW, the X1 and X2 models, but also the 1-series, are affected by the bottleneck, while the A- and B-class at Mercedes.
With the semiconductor stocks still available, Daimler initially produced those models that bring higher profit margins - that is, sedans like the S-Class.
At VW in Mexico (Tiguan, Jetta) the production lines stand still until mid-May, at the VW plant in Bratislava (Slovakia) the production of the SUV types Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7 and Q8 as well as VW Touareg is currently stopped.
US automaker Ford stopped production of the Mustang and Hyundai had to stop production of the Kona and the Ioniq 5 electric model in April.
Vehicle production also stopped at Tesla in the USA at the beginning of the year.
The reason for this was also a lack of chips - however, because Samsung's US semiconductor plant had to pause production due to a cold spell due to power outages.
Can cars be built with fewer semiconductors?
In addition to stopping production, manufacturers also react with production changes - in order to get by with fewer semiconductors.
Peugeot, for example, no longer builds the 308 model with a digital cockpit, but again with classic, analog instruments that do not require chips.
This makes the car 400 euros cheaper.
Ford currently manufactures the F-150 pick-up without a fuel management module.
The small navigation device is no longer available at BMW, but the next larger one costs up to 1200 euros extra.
How much do delivery times extend?
An exact period is difficult to name, explains car expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer from the Center Automotive Research (CAR).
The delay varies widely, "both from manufacturer to manufacturer and from model to model".
According to Dudenhöffer, manufacturers weigh up very carefully in view of the scarcity of semiconductors and give priority to models that deliver good returns - "and these are above all high-priced models for the Chinese market," explains the CAR expert.
The waiting times can hardly be broken down for individual models.
So far, there is little official information from the industry.
In the USA, Porsche has adjusted its dealerships so that customers have to wait twelve weeks more than usual for their vehicles.
There is no chip that checks the tire pressure.
How binding is information on delivery time at the moment?
That depends on whether a binding or a non-binding delivery date has been agreed in the contract, explains ADAC lawyer for consumer law, Klaus Heimgärtner. However, the dealers usually did not agree to a binding one, as they would be in default if they were exceeded, said Heimgärtner. "Therefore, only non-binding delivery dates are usually agreed" - and according to the new vehicle sales conditions, the dealer can exceed them by six weeks. According to ADAC, the customer can ask the dealer to deliver the vehicle after this period has expired, in which case the seller is in default. In the event of slight negligence on the part of the dealer, however, the customer can claim a maximum of five percent of the agreed purchase price as compensation, according to the lawyer.
If one also wants to withdraw from the contract or claim damages instead of performance, the customer must give the dealer a reasonable grace period of around two weeks for delivery after the six weeks, ideally by registered mail with acknowledgment of receipt.
Why the car cannot be delivered by the dealer on time does not matter at first, explains Heimgärtner and qualifies: “Since the seller is usually not to blame for the delivery delay due to lack of components, things usually look bad in terms of compensation . "
Does the scarcity affect discounts?
Yes, both positively and negatively.
Actually, the chip shortage reduces the discounts, as the supply becomes scarce.
At the same time, the market is very weak.
This leads to a dichotomy, explains CAR expert Dudenhöffer.
“Some manufacturers like VW and Audi hardly give discounts, probably because they prioritize China.
They make high margins there, but long delivery times in Europe are accepted. «At Opel, Ford, Fiat or Peugeot, on the other hand, discounts are increasing, for example there are discounts of 32 percent on the Fiat 500, says Dudenhöffer.
Because these brands are hardly represented in China, according to the CAR expert - and therefore continue to have "real sales pressure".
How quickly do customers get a car in any case?
There are three options here: Buy a car from the farm dealer - but you have to take what you get or you may have to search for a long time.
The fastest way to get the new car you want is currently from providers of car subscriptions, says Dudenhöffer, "the delivery times here are twelve to 15 weeks."
Because the vehicles are mostly warehouse trolleys or have been ordered in advance.
The third option is young used cars - but here too, according to Dudenhöffer, the supply is scarce.
This is due to the corona crisis.
"Business is at a standstill, which is why the landlords have radically reduced their fleets," explains Dudenhöffer.
As a result, fewer young used vehicles come onto the market and the range is manageable.
"But we are far from a car shortage," says Dudenhöffer.
How long will it take before enough semiconductors are available?
Market experts estimate that between two and four million cars cannot be built in the first half of 2021 due to a lack of semiconductors. Laith Altimime, President of the Semi Europe semiconductor association, says he sees "a relaxation in the semiconductor market for the auto industry from the fourth quarter of 2021 and then in the first half of 2022". In doing so, he cites an analysis by management consultancy McKinsey from March 2021.
In order to be able to defuse such deficiency situations more quickly in the future - or to prevent them from arising in the first place - managers, politicians and scientists favor setting up a European semiconductor production facility. The US company Globalfoundries in Dresden is currently the largest semiconductor factory in Europe. Bosch also wants to start operating a semiconductor production facility in Dresden by the end of this year. The largest German semiconductor manufacturer is Infineon, followed by Carl Zeiss SMT and Siltronic.