SIERRA VISTA — A worldwide shortage of computer chips sparked by a demand for laptops and play stations by a society trying to stay entertained during COVID-19, has left car manufacturers scrambling for the semiconductors, which are used for engine management systems.
The lack of these computer chips has dashed the plans of the Sierra Vista Police Department to purchase 14 new patrol vehicles.
Sierra Vista Finance Director David Felix and Police Chief Adam Thrasher told the City Council at a work session Tuesday that car manufacturers are having a tough time getting the chips. Felix explained that the computer chips are used for “running their [police cars] engine management systems.”
Thrasher said the department had requested 14 new vehicles to replace some older ones in the fleet that have high mileage. But because the chips are in short supply, the new cars they ordered aren’t available.
Articles in both Business Insider and CNBC earlier this month, highlighted the situation, saying that “demand for these chips, or semiconductors, has soared during the coronavirus pandemic as people snapped up games consoles, laptops and TVs to help get through lockdowns. Now, many of these products — including certain Chromebook laptops and next-generation consoles like the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 — are sold out, or subject to lengthy shipping times.”
“Carmakers uses semiconductors in everything from power steering and brake sensors, to entertainment systems and parking cameras. The smarter cars get, the more chips they use,” the CNBC article stated. “It’s just one of a number of factors that has driven demand for semiconductors, but as supply struggles to keep up, it’s the chip-reliant car industry that has been hit especially hard.”
The Business Insider story echoed that: “Automakers rely on chips for tech in their cars, and the likes of Apple need them to power gadgets. With only so many chips to go around, industries are suffering as they struggle to meet demand.”
Thrasher said the agency has 78 vehicles for patrol, detective, administrative, and back-up. Of those, 20 are 2007 and 2008 Crown Victorias that Thrasher said have plenty of miles.
“The chips that were referred to are chips used in the manufacturing of the vehicles,” the chief said. “As I understand, Chevrolet is having difficulty obtaining the chips. As a result, Chevrolet did not produce enough of the police package Tahoe this fiscal year (FY 20-21). In addition, due to COVID we did not receive the vehicles last fiscal year (FY 19-20) either due to manufacturing issues and had to carry over budget funds.
“We ordered seven vehicles last fiscal year and seven this fiscal year to replace older vehicles in the fleet that need replacement due to mileage and/or increased maintenance issues,” Thrasher added.
Mayor Rick Mueller asked Thrasher if officers could continue doing their job with the older cars.
“We’re limping along but we’re making do,” Thrasher said. “If they have to cut holes in their floorboards and run their vehicles, they’ll [officers] get there.”