Thousands of Chipless Silverado Pickups Seen at Shuttered GM Chip Facility

Four years ago GM shuttered its 2.6 million square foot chip manufacturing plant in Kokomo, Indiana. In hindsight, that might not have been such a good idea. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, GM contracted with Ventec to use the facility to manufacture ventilators. But all of that sprawling parking lot remained mostly empty. Chipless, parked Silverado pickups are now waiting for microchips to be installed.

GM doesn’t make Silverado trucks at Kokomo, why there?

GM former microchip plant in Kokomo, Indiana
GM’s former microchip plant in Kokomo, Indiana | GM

Why Kokomo? It is a GM property within proximity of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, truck manufacturing plant. Fort Wayne Assembly needed someplace to store what GM calls “build shy” pickups, and 80 miles away sat that parking lot. So now GM is hauling pickups down to Kokomo.

Why is GM doing this? Because it allows them to keep the assembly lines cranked up pumping out highly desirable Silverado pickups. They’re GM’s best-selling and most profitable products according to GM Authority. 

Now fenced off and filling up with pickup trucks, the Kokomo chip plant’s parking lot has a purpose. There is enough area for between 5,000-7,000 trucks. But there are many other spaces being utilized for the same thing.

Kokomo isn’t the only place GM is storing “build shy” Silverado pickup trucks

Sea of parked pickup trucks
Sea of pickup trucks waiting for microchips | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

GM is stockpiling vehicles at Michigan State University, Kentucky Speedway, and various spots in central Texas. Plants in Mexico, Missouri, and Illinois have also been packing empty lots and spaces with build shy vehicles. But the irony is that the very thing that all automakers are clamoring for was once made at this plant. And it’s the reason why trucks are now being stored there. 

A 2017 GM press release says the plant was shuttered because the “technical capabilities of the current equipment set does not allow the business to compete at a global level.” Currently, there is only one company in the US manufacturing microchips. And it is not set up to manufacture the latest evolution of the microchip. So keeping up with the industry is an ongoing problem.

GM said it was  “cost prohibitive to invest in new equipment to produce semiconductors in GM Kokomo due to the available capacity and capability of existing suppliers to meet the demand for semiconductors,” at the time of the closing. Yikes! That speculation has now come back to bite GM hard. 

This plant had its semiconductor equipment removed

The 2021 Chevy Silverado Realtree Edition in the woods
2021 Chevy Silverado Realtree Edition | Chevrolet

All of the microchip manufacturing equipment was cleared out years ago according to Inside Indiana Business. So there is no way to flip back on the switch. If only GM could turn back time, would they have kept the plant running just as a backup? 

Nobody could have predicted the pandemic hitting in 2020, and the repercussions for decisions related to it. But you can bet that this symbol of what might have been is gnawing at GM executives every day.

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