General Motors dealers in metro Detroit face a new challenge to selling cars.
They must inform Michigan car buyers that there'll be no heated seats or heated steering wheels on many 2022 GM models, just as temperatures drop into the 40s and winter is weeks away.
“It’s not ideal. You want to have as many options available to folks as possible," said Paul Zimmermann, vice president and partner of Matick Chevrolet in Redford Township and Matick Toyota in Macomb. "I get why GM is doing it and I applaud them for finding do-arounds for the problem because 100% of zero is zero."
The problem is getting enough new cars to market amid a global shortage of semiconductor chips. The chips are used in a variety of car parts. The shortage has plagued U.S. car production since February and forced many automakers to build cars minus certain features.
On Friday, GM said it would no longer offer driver and passenger heated seats and heated steering wheels as standard or optional content on certain 2022 model year cars and trims.
GM spokesman David Barnas said the measure is temporary until the chip supplies improve. He said GM tried to limit it and the automaker is looking at ways to add the heated seats and steering wheels to a car buyer's vehicle later when the parts become available.
Here are the vehicles that will not offer heated or ventilated seats and will have a $200 to $500 discount off the MSRP as a result:
Chevy Malibu sedan: LT and Premier
Chevy Trailblazer SUV: LT, ACTIV and RS
Chevy Blazer SUV: LT, RS and Premier
Chevy Traverse SUV: 1LT, 3LT, RS, Premier, High Country (rear only)
Chevy Colorado midsize pickup: LT, Z71, and ZR2
Chevy Silverado light-duty pickup: LT, RST, LT Trailboss and LTZ
Chevy Silverado heavy-duty pickup: LT and LTZ
GMC Canyon midsize pickup: Elevation, AT4, Denali
GMC Terrain SUV: SLE, SLT, AT4, Denali
GMC Acadia SUV: SLE/SLT/AT4 and Denali (Rear Heat Only)
GMC Sierra Limited light-duty pickup: SLE, Elevation, SLT, AT4
GMC Sierra heavy-duty pickup: SLE, SLT,AT4
Buick Encore GX SUV: Preferred, Select, Essence
Buick Envision SUV: Preferred, Essence, Avenir
Buick Enclave SUV: Premium, Avenir (Rear Heat Only)
Cadillac XT4 SUV: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport
Cadillac XT5 SUV: Luxury, Premium, Sport (Rear Heat Only)
Cadillac XT6 SUV: Luxury, Premium, Sport (Rear Heat Only)
The vehicles that will forego a heated steering wheel are many of the same, but also include certain trims of the Chevy Bolt EV and EUV as well as GM's full-size SUVs such as the GMC Yukon and Chevy Tahoe. It removes about $150 off the MSRP.
While heated seats and steering are desired in cold climates, dealers say the severe shortage of new cars has customers more accepting of losing certain features.
“We haven’t heard any complaints yet, but I’m sure we will," Zimmermann said. "But the reality of where we’re at right now is folks are somewhat desensitized, whether it’s inflation or lack of product across so many industries, from furniture to food. It’s becoming somewhat normal, unfortunately.”
This is not the first feature GM has removed from vehicles because of the chips crisis. In March GM said it will build certain 2021 light-duty full-size pickups without a fuel management module through the end of the model year. In June, GM said it will build some 2021 full-size, light-duty pickups and SUVs without the Automatic Stop/Start feature.
"Customers weren’t happy, but they were OK with it," said Gordon Stewart, owner of Gordon Chevrolet in Garden City. "People are happy to get a car right now and will settle for a lot, especially if it’s not marked up ridiculously. People used to be particular about colors. Now, they come in wanting one color and leave with a different color. They’re just happy to have it."
Barnas said GM is seeing a better flow of chips and most of its North American assembly plants have run regular production in recent weeks. Production volumes are increasing in the fourth quarter.
"In fact, several of our plants are running weekend overtime shifts this month, including our midsize truck, full-size truck and full-size SUV plants," Barnas said. "We also expect to see higher volumes in 2022 compared to 2021."
GM has run a strategy this year of directing chip parts to the factories that make its most in-demand and high-profit vehicles such as pickups and big SUVs. That's meant halting production of smaller SUVs and sedans.
The chips shortage remains complex and fluid, Barnas said. That's exactly what makes dealers worry.
"I’m glad to see a little easing up in the supply chain, but we still have used cars in our new car showroom," Stewart said.
At Matick Chevrolet, used cars also have filled the new car showroom this year.
Typically, there'd be 1,000 new cars parked on Matick's lot. But Zimmermann said he has 65 new vehicles in stock and 60 on the way, which is the best inventory he has had in two months.
He knows it could be temporary given how fragile the supply chain is.
"We’re starting to see some proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. But everything seems to be tenuous," Zimmermann said. "If something shuts down in Asia for a political reason or COVID or any reason, it’s a domino effect."
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit dealers react to GM taking away heated seats, steering wheels