The ongoing shortage of semiconductor chips is causing some new car buyers to look back.
Not on profitable deals, but on the opposite side.
Automakers trying to build cars during a supply crisis for these key components have had to remove a lot of electronic features from their cars over the past two years to keep assembly lines running smoothly.
Everything from heated seats to cylinder deactivation systems to save fuel and touch screens have been removed from time to time.
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The safety features are not immune to cuts.
Due in part to a shortage of sensors, the availability of optional features such as blind-spot monitoring systems, proximity alerts and semi-automatic driver assistance has also been suspended in some cases.
Volkswagen and Cadillac are among the brands that don’t currently offer blind spot monitors on some models, but that’s constantly changing.
“Automakers are in a quandary where materials for some safety technologies are not available,” Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), told FOX Business.
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“It really puts the burden on consumers who are already having a hard time buying a car,” she said.
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Blind-spot monitoring systems aren’t mandated by any regulations, but they’ve become more common — and for good reason.
An IIHS study found that the system could reduce injury collisions by 23%, while rear cross-traffic alert, often included, could reduce reversing crashes by 22%.
“While we don’t test them in our vehicle evaluation programs, they are useful technologies and we want to see them on as many vehicles as possible,” Cicchino also said.
Since they are not required, these systems are still not available at all on some models, making it difficult to accurately track how many cars are being built without them.
An automaker can simply move to produce more low-spec models that don’t have them, without explicitly “removing” features.
“These are useful technologies and we want to see them in as many vehicles as possible.”
“Unfortunately, a shortage of chips could prevent a new model from being released with the latest safety features that could prevent accidents and injuries,” said Jake Fisher, senior director of automotive testing at Consumer Reports.
“At the end of the day, better safety is one of the main reasons people decide to upgrade their car,” he said.
“However, most automakers have the necessary chips in place to continue building their models without removing hardware, and a sensible buyer would avoid models that have them.”
Online car marketplace Edmunds, which first reported how Volkswagen and Audi removed blind-spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alerts in exchange for price cuts, is advising car buyers to do their homework.
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“I think you can’t rely on the salesperson knowing everything that’s in the car,” said Ronald Montoya, senior editor at Edmunds Consumer Advisory.
“So I recommend looking at the sticker on the window, because this feature will be removed at the factory and marked – and this is probably the best way to do it,” he added.
“This will mean that fewer cars of tomorrow will be equipped with this important technology.”
“Today it’s really hard to buy a car,” Cicchino also said.
“Cars in general [are] hard to find but then [consumers have] take the extra step of making sure the vehicle has the technology you need in the current situation where sometimes the information you’re going to get isn’t always 100% accurate,” she said.
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Now that the average age of cars is over 12 years old, this is not just a problem in today’s limited buyer market.
“We will see the effects of the chip shortage for years to come,” Cicchino said. “These cars will remain in the fleet now that people have owned their cars for over a decade.”
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“This will mean that fewer vehicles of tomorrow will be equipped with this important technology,” she said.
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