Cheap Components that can help to Kill Combustion Cars
According to JATO Dynamics data, gasoline cars still account for the majority of new car sales globally; EVs increased to 4 million last year but accounted for only 6% of vehicle sales.
The modest wire harness, a low-cost component that connects cables, has become an unexpected scourge of the automotive industry. Some believe it may expedite the demise of combustion engines. The war in Ukraine cut off supplies of the car part, which is home to a substantial portion of the world’s output, with wire harnesses created there fitting in hundreds of thousands of new vehicles each year.
These low-tech and low-margin elements – produced from wire, plastic, and rubber with a lot of low-cost manual labor – may not be as well-known as microchips and motors, but they are necessary for car production. According to conversations with more than a dozen industry leaders and academics, the supply constraint might hasten some traditional automakers’ plans to transition to a new generation of lighter, machine-made harnesses built for electric vehicles.
“This is just another reason for the industry to accelerate the transition to electric,” said Sam Fiorani, president of production forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions.
Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida stated that supply-chain disruptions such as the Ukraine crisis spurred his business to discuss changing away from the cheap-labor wire harness approach with suppliers. However, in the short term, automakers and suppliers have transferred harness manufacture to other lower-cost countries.
According to a person familiar with the company’s operations, Mercedes-Benz was able to fly in harnesses from Mexico to fill a small supply gap. Some Japanese suppliers are expanding capacity in Morocco, while others are looking for new production lines in Tunisia, Poland, Serbia, and Romania.
Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark stated that the British luxury carmaker initially feared losing 30-40 percent of its 2022 car output because of a harness shortage.
The Tesla Model:
Harnesses for fossil-fuel vehicles connect everything from seat heaters to windows and can span up to 5 km (3.1 miles) in the average vehicle. They are labor-intensive to produce, and practically every model is unique, making it difficult to shift production fast.
The latest generation of wire harnesses used by electric natives such as Tesla can be manufactured in portions on automated manufacturing lines and are lighter, which is important because reducing an EV’s weight is critical for extending range.
The Ukrainian supply disruptions were an unpleasant wakeup for the car industry. Carmakers and suppliers reported that early in the war, plants remained open only because of the tenacity of their employees, who kept a limited supply of parts going despite power outages, air raid alerts, and curfews.
Finding alternate production sources, according to Hallmark, was difficult by the fact that the conventional harnesses themselves included ten separate parts from ten different manufacturers in Ukraine.