High-Tech Features Some Cars Won’t Get during the Chip Shortage

Effects of the ongoing semiconductor-chip shortage on the new-car market can be seen in headlines across the world, but the problem encompasses more than just a reduction in the amount of new vehicles. When the chip supply tightened, some companies paused entire production lines for some vehicles, and decided to keep building others while removing some of the less-vital high-tech features that require chips. It kept production lines moving and people working. Not every automaker wanted to replicate the scenes of all of those new Ford and GM trucks that were built earlier this year and then had to be parked as they waited to be run through the factories a second time to get the various chip components installed. So, we decided to collect a list of models and technologies that will not (or did not) match the original spec sheet because certain components have been removed to reduce the number of chips needed per vehicle. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does show the breadth and depth of how the chip shortage is affecting the auto industry, even as new cars are built and sold.

BMW: Touchscreen

In late October, BMW announced that it would remove touchscreen functionality from the Central Information Display in several models: the 3-series, 4-series coupe and convertible, 4-series Gran Coupe (excluding i4), Z4, and all variants of the X5, X6, and X7 (pictured). There’s more bad news, in that any model that loses its touchscreen and was also ordered with the Parking Assistant package will now lose BMW’s Backup Assistant technology.

Luckily, buyers of these BMW vehicles will still be able to use alternate input methods—the iDrive controller and voice control—and, for what it’s worth, anyone who can’t get a touchscreen will get a credit of $500 to spend on other options. BMW said that this change will even affect people who have already ordered their vehicles, and said buyers should contact their dealer for confirmation and with other questions. “We are actively managing the situation and are working closely with our suppliers,” BMW spokesperson Phil DiIanni told Car and Driver. A software update should be available soon, if not already, for affected vehicles.

Cadillac: Super Cruise (Now Resumed)

In September, Cadillac announced it would still build its flagship Escalade SUV, only without one of the vehicle’s flagship features: the Super Cruise hands-free driver assistance technology. The company issued a statement to CNET at the time, saying Super Cruise is “an important feature for the Cadillac Escalade program. Although it’s temporarily unavailable at the start of regular production due to the industry-wide shortage of semiconductors, we’re confident in our team’s ability to find creative solutions to mitigate the supply chain situation and resume offering the feature for our customers as soon as possible.” the company said. Barnas confirmed to C/D that Super Cruise is once again available in new Escalades.

Two other models, the CT4 and CT5, which were supposed to be the next to get Super Cruise, were limited in getting technology, at least at first. While some of these sedans were built with Super Cruise, GM said the technology won’t be widespread until the company starts building more 2022 model years vehicles in the first half of next year.

Chevrolet/GMC: HD Radio

Over the summer, GM said it would eliminate the HD radio option from its audio systems because it couldn’t get the chip-dependent hardware it needed to offer this feature. Multiple trims of model year 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500s and GMC Sierra 1500s, as well as 2022 model year 2500 and 3500 heavy-duty pickups were affected by this change, according to The Drive. The affected trims include the Silverado LS, RST, LT, Trail Boss, LTZ, and High Country and the SLE, SLT, Elevation, AT4 and Denali Sierras. As with other deleted options, GM will offer buyers of affected trucks a $50 credit.

Chevrolet/GMC: Heated Seats and Steering Wheels

Starting the week of November 15, most GM SUVs and pickups will lose their heated and ventilated seats. This includes the Chevrolet Silverado (pictured), Traverse (except the High Country model), Blazer, and Equinox, and the GMC Sierra, Acadia (except the Denali), Canyon, and Terrain. Automotive News reported, relying on a GM letter to dealers, that this change is going to last throughout the 2022 model year. Heated steering wheels are on their way out, too, starting later in November, the paper reported. Customers will get a credit of $150 to $500 to help make up for the loss.

Ford: Satellite Navigation

The chip shortage is obviously a global problem, so it’s no surprise that Ford is dealing with problems in Europe. Details are hard to find, but Autocar said last month that Ford was building some models at its plant in Turkey without certain features, including satellite navigation.

The good news, though, is that this option can be added back in later. “I think the issue will be around for a while—probably until Q1 next year,” Ford fleet director Neil Wilson told Fleet News. “It will ease, but there will be challenges going forward and we have to be good at reacting to those challenges.” Ford did not respond to C/D’s request for more information.

GM: Wireless Charging

Wireless charging spots for your mobile phone are becoming common in new cars, but don’t tell that to General Motors, which announced this summer that the convenience technology would not be available in some versions of many of its vehicles. The list of affected models includes 2021 Chevy Tahoe (pictured), Suburban, and GMC Yukon SUVs as well as the 2022 Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse, and Cadillac XT5 and XT6.

Anyone who buys one of these vehicles without the charging pad will get a $75 credit. When the change in features was announced, the expectation was that wireless charging would be missing for the rest of production of these model years.

GM appears on this list a few times, but spokesperson David Barnas told C/D that the complexity and fluidity of the global semiconductor shortages over the last nine months means the company is not providing a detailed list of affected models or features, but that the items listed here are accurate. Also, whatever changes needed to be made are temporary, he said, adding: “A critical piece in managing this process has been the transparency and communication we have had with our dealer body, which has allowed our dealers to keep our customers informed of the changes.”

Mercedes-Benz: Premium Audio, LED Lights, and More

FleetNews reported in October that Mercedes-Benz had to eliminate some features from various models earlier in the year. The list includes wireless smartphone charging pads, hands-free rear access systems, some LED headlights and some audio systems. FleetNews said AMG models were hit particularly hard.

“Regardless of the model, we take into account how long a customer has been waiting for their vehicle and try to prioritize accordingly,” Mercedes said in a statement to FleetNews. “Nevertheless, handovers to customers are strongly dependent on the individual equipment and the short-term availability of parts.”The changes started in late June and will continue “until further notice” the company told FleetNews. And Mercedes-Benz spokesperson Michael Minielly told C/D the company “continue[s] to work closely with suppliers and hope[s] to be able to stabilize the supply shortage situation in the fourth quarter and take that to the next level in 2022.”

Nissan: Navigation Systems

In May, a source familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that Nissan would not install a navigation system in thousands of new vehicles, around a third of those that would otherwise have them. The plan was to save chips for use in the two bestselling vehicles in each market, and the automaker even flew supplies of chips from India to the U.S. in order to keep production lines here moving.

That kind of adjustment meant that Nissan has not had to make any “adjustments in equipment to vehicles sold here in the U.S. due to the chip shortage,” spokesperson Dan Passe told Car and Driver.

But that doesn’t mean Nissan has been completely unaffected in the U.S. Due to supply issues with other, non-chip components, Nissan stopped applying the spray-in bedliner on model year 2022 Frontier and Titan trucks on October 28. This will continue until further notice, Passe said, adding that any customer who ordered or buys one of these trucks will get a $400 credit on the Monroney sticker price.

Short component supply is also responsible for a Tow Delete package on two-wheel-drive Platinum, SL Premium, and SV Premium Pathfinder models beginning in October 2021. The Tow Delete package eliminates the tow hitch receiver and wiring harness and provides a $270 credit on the vehicle’s MSRP. The tow hitch receiver and wiring harness remain available on other Pathfinder models.

Porsche: 18-Way Adjustable Seat, Electric Steering Column Adjustment

In April, Porsche told its U.S. dealers that a popular option for the Macan SUV, the 18-way adjustable seat, would not be available for several months because the automaker couldn’t get the chips. This $2090 upgrade allows the front occupants to adjust things like height and positions, of course, as well as squab inclination and depth, as well as lumbar support level and the side bolsters. The good news for Porsche fans is that this option is once again available to add to new Macan orders on Porsche’s website.

Another temporary feature missing from some new Porsches is electric steering column adjustment. This week, Porsche spokesperson Christian Weiss told C/D the company has been in communication with people who have ordered cars with this feature and said it will deliver vehicles with a manual steering column adjustment for a while. The electric version will be retrofitted as soon as the components are available again. Weiss said Porsche expects there to be an improvement in the semiconductor supply by the end of the year, “although a lack ofcapacity means that the issue is likely to cause production bottlenecks even beyond 2021.”

Tesla: USB Ports, Passenger-Seat Lumbar

Despite constant media pressure, electric-car icon Tesla still operates under cover of darkness in a lot of ways. In May, Tesla quietly removed lumbar support from the front passenger seat in the Model 3 and Model Y EVs. Once word got out that the feature was simply removed (and Tesla didn’t offer any discount or advance warning), CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter that company logs showed there was very little usage of this feature, and that it wasn’t worth the cost to keep installing it. “Prices increasing due to major supply chain price pressure industry-wide. Raw materials especially,” he tweeted.

Recently, another feature was silently deleted from the spec sheet: USB-C ports in the rear of the center console of the Model 3 and Model Y (pictured). Once again, Tesla didn’t warn every customer getting a new vehicledelivered that it wouldn’t arrive as promised, which led to expected social media freakouts. Even the EV-friendly site Electrek was critical of the move, calling it “another case of Tesla’s poor communication offering a worse customer experience than it should.”

GM: V-8 Cylinder Deactivation

In March, GM announced that some 2021 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra models would use more gas because of the chip shortage. Some models with the 5.3-liter V-8 engine, either the six- or eight-speed automatic transmission, and either Active Fuel Management or Dynamic Fuel Management would not have their cylinder-deactivation systems. The change means the trucks would increase their fuel usage by one mile per gallon.

Not every powertrain in these vehicles would have to make do without cylinder deactivation, as the LT Trail Boss and High Country trims, which use the 5.3-liter V-8 and a 10-speed automatic transmission, as well as models with other engine options, would still come with Dynamic Fuel Management. “Due to the micro controller shortage, the components that control AFM/DFM in the engine control module (ECM) have been removed,” GM spokesperson Michelle Malcho told Autoblog at the time. The elimination of cylinder activation was planned to affect all remaining 2021 model year production for these vehicles.

GM: Auto Stop-Start

It’s not just cylinder deactivation that is causing some of GM’s full-size pickups to become more fuel hungry during the pandemic. In June, GM said that a small number of trucks—the 2021 Silverado 1500 and the GMC Sierra 1500—would not come with fuel-saving stop-start technology if they have the 10-speed automatic transmission with either the 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V-8 engines. GM’s customer service for losing this feature is, once again, a $50 credit.

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By Tara