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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A global chip shortage has forced virtually every major automaker to halt some car production and furlough workers — just as the industry was showing signs of recovery from the pandemic-related shutdowns last spring.

Why it matters: Fewer chips, fewer cars. Semiconductors are crucial components that make computer-controlled systems in cars work — everything from engines to power windows, as well as driver-assistance and navigation features.

What's going on: Automakers needed fewer chips when the pandemic forced them to halt production. Chipmakers curbed production then ramped back up, though they still can't meet the industry's abrupt demand rebound.

  • Not helping: A tension long in the making. Chip appetite from the tech industry has been surging. But it skyrocketed when the pandemic supercharged appetite for electronics that need chips to operate.

The list of chip shortage victims keeps growing: Ford is the latest, slashing production of its top money-making F-150 pickup trucks because of the limited supply of the key auto component.

  • The company is bracing for a big hit: “Right now, estimates from [chip] suppliers could suggest losing 10% to 20% of our planned first-quarter production," Ford CFO John Lawler said yesterday. That could translate into lost profits of $1 billion to $2.5 billion for 2021, he said.

The company joins General Motors, Nissan, Volkswagen, Toyota, Mazda and Subaru in cutting production output — all citing the semiconductor shortage.

By the numbers: The problem will result in nearly 700,000 fewer vehicles produced globally this quarter alone, according to new research from IHS Markit. It also said the problem might not let up until Q3.

  • Alix Partners says the lost revenue could be as much as $61 billion this year, per Bloomberg.

Between the lines: Major semiconductor suppliers, such as Taiwan-based Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) and United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC) say they are investing to expand production, but that will take time.

  • The problem has caught Washington's attention, with more than a dozen senators calling on the White House to support additional funding to expand chip production in the U.S.

The bottom line: "Automakers cutting production now because of a chip supply bottleneck will cause a cascade of issues throughout the supply chain," Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst at Guidehouse Insights, tells Axios.

  • "Not only will the automakers be cutting production, so will all of their suppliers. This will be very costly throughout the industry."

Go deeper: Why Intel's chip troubles should concern us all

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

Driving the news: James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

4 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.