Automakers braced for turmoil when the pandemic hit. They expected supply chain disruptions and plummeting sales. But they never figured that a year later one of their biggest problems would be PlayStations.
Strong demand for gaming systems, personal computers and other electronics by a world stuck indoors has sucked up supplies of semiconductors, forcing carmakers around the world to scramble for the chips that have become as essential to mobility as gasoline or steel.
Virtually no carmaker has been spared. Toyota Motor has shut down production lines in China. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles temporarily stopped production at plants in Ontario and Mexico. Volkswagen has warned of production problems at factories in China, Europe and the United States. Ford Motor said last week that it was idling a Louisville, Ky., factory for a week because of the shortage.
When Covid-19 hit, automakers slashed orders for chips in anticipation of plunging sales. At the same time, semiconductor makers shifted their production lines to meet surging orders for chips used in products like laptop computers, webcams, tablets and 5G smartphones.
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