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BMW touchscreen tech nulled by chip shortage

Two hundred local cars to be sold with iDrive and voice control systems only

10 Nov 2021

BMW Australia is feeling the effect of the ongoing microprocessor shortage announcing that up to 200 cars will be sold locally without touchscreen functionality and selected other features. 


The vehicles affected include selected 2 Series, 3 Series, and 4 Series variants, some X5, X6, and X7 SUVs, and even the sporty Z4 roadster.


While affected vehicles retain their central infotainment display, BMW Australia says owners will need to rely upon the console-mounted iDrive rotary controller or ‘Hey BMW’ voice commands to use the system’s various features. 


Removal of touch functionality also means selected models will arrive without BMW’s Reversing Assistant Feature which allows the vehicle to reverse out of tight parking spaces autonomously from a distance of 50 metres.


A BMW Australia spokesperson said the removal of touchscreen functionality and its associated technologies was temporary but necessary to keep the production line moving. Affected models would be discounted by $800.


“BMW Group Australia can confirm it has had to temporarily revise the specification of certain models in light of the global semiconductor shortage and has adjusted pricing accordingly,” a BMW Australia spokesperson said in a statement.


“Our aim is to ensure supplies continue to reach our production plants. To this end, we are in constant exchange with our suppliers and communicate our realistic requirements in good time.”


BMW faced similar semiconductor-related equipment downgrades earlier this year when its Driving Assistant Professional safety suite and passenger seat lumbar support technologies were pulled from selected vehicles. 


While similar issues face a range of vehicle manufacturers worldwide, companies including Toyota have said they will not ‘de-spec’ their vehicles in order to maintain delivery times. Last month, Toyota Australia told GoAuto that longer delivery times may result from the brand’s decision, but that de-specifying cars is not in the brand’s thinking.


“When chip shortages looked likely in 2019, Toyota deviated from the famous ‘just in time’ sourcing to give semiconductor manufacturers more demand,” Toyota Australia vice president of sales, marketing and franchise operations Sean Hanley said.


“Certainly, this enabled us to secure inventory for semiconductors months in advance, and I can assure you, we have no plans, no plans to de-spec any of our vehicles. In short, it’s not part of our thinking.”


The global semiconductor shortage continues to impact the delivery of vehicles worldwide with Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Stellantis, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, and Volkswagen all delaying new model launches.


The Semiconductor Industry Association said increased demand for laptops, tablets, and other technology items throughout the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for its product by more than 6.5 per cent at a time when shutdowns were impacting chief chip production facilities in China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. 


The industry is said to be working “at capacity” to address the shortfall in demand, but the delays mean vehicle production will not return to normal for up to 12 months.

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